Chicago Fire midfielder and 2010 first-round draft pick Corben Bone spent all of last season waiting for a moment to prove his worth.
Bone saw his fellow draft teammates getting significant playing time, as goalkeeper Sean Johnson and defenders Steven Kinney and Kwame Watson-Siriboe each logged 10 or more games last season. Bone, however, logged only 114 minutes in five league games.
But last year's 13th overall selection out of Wake Forest is finally getting his chance this year, and he is coming off his most impressive performance during the Fire's recent 2-2 draw against Toronto FC.
"I haven't had too much success in the past year, but I'm starting to get some games now, and it's been the best game for me so far," said Bone, who assisted Orr Barouch's game-tying goal on Saturday. "I was pleased with my performance and I was pretty good in spots, got to go 1-on-1 a couple times when I got the ball in the box and was able to make some good passes. Overall, I found the ball a lot."
Bone has made three straight starts, and the Toronto match was his first game from start to finish. Central midfield play has been an ongoing topic for the Fire (1-3-5), and Bone was brought into the mix when midfielders Michael Videira (concussion) and Logan Pause (hamstring) went on the injury list.
Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos looked to Bone and Daniel Paladini to step in.
"I wanted to start helping the team right away, but that didn't happen. I had to settle in," Bone said. "The big thing for me is the mental challenge, and it has helped me out now, growing as a person. I'm more mature, more stable, and I understand that things don't happen your way all the time. It was a tough time, but I don't regret it though. It helped me as a player, and things have come together."
The Fire got off on the wrong footing against Toronto, but Bone had a strong second half to coincide with Chicago's eventual offensive push to overcome a two-goal deficit.
Bone's passing and movement were strong. He had a knack for getting to the ball, and if not for Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei, he would have assisted a Paladini game-winner.
"I think so far the new look that Carlos is trying has worked well," Bone said. "Danny and I are similar players and we connect with each other. What we're doing seems to get better with each game, and we complement with each other."
There were moments last year when De los Cobos could have given Bone some additional minutes. The Fire had plenty of non-league matches with SuperLiga, the Sister Cities Cup and a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match. And during the final matches of the regular season, Chicago already was out of the playoff picture.
Yet Bone was seeing little of the pitch last year. He was surprisingly taken out of a match against Kansas City in the 38th minute, when the season did not matter. And he had a long line of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.
Circumstances have changed quite a bit since then.
"It's the coach's decision, and it was hard," Bone said. "I think it was a team last year that had a lot of superstars on it, and those guys get to play before me. Last year, it didn't work. I tried, but that's all in the past."