After long wait, Sarkodie grabs opportunity with Houston

HOUSTON – It’s taken longer than expected, but Kofi Sarkodie is starting to make headway in MLS.

The former seventh overall pick by the Houston Dynamo had high expectations placed on him coming out of the University of Akron in 2011, but a stacked defense meant few minutes in the 21-year-old’s first two seasons.

That has all changed in the last month, as absences and a congested schedule yielded opportunities that Sarkodie, who has appeared in the past six matches with four starts, has taken advantage of in order to prove himself.

“He’s defended well and is winning a majority of his battles and is getting into the attack. I think he’s stepped in and done well,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear.  “Before, the defense was just playing well and the guys that were playing well were playing. Now he’s gotten a chance … and he prepared himself well and has stepped on the field and looked good.”

The opportunity has been a long time coming for Sarkodie, who has worked behind Canadian international and 2011 Dynamo defender of the year Andre Hainault at right back since coming into the league. Despite being the youngest player to start a match for Houston at the age of 20, a 1-1 draw in March 2011 against the Seattle Sounders, Reserve League games and sparse Cup action have comprised his main opportunities.

With time on his hands, Sarkodie had to work on a skill that wasn‘t required much before in his playing career: patience.

“It’s been a long road and really I’ve just tried to do my best and stay focused and train as hard as I can and keep pushing,” Sarkodie said. “It’s been long, but that’s part of life and I’m glad I’m able to stay focused and healthy and now make an impact.

“The more I’m on the pitch and more I’m getting minutes, the more I’ll be effective for the team. It’s just keeping it going and being dangerous going forward and doing my job defensively.”

Having capitalized on this latest round of action, which could continue this week with Houston returning to CONCACAF Champions League action Thursday when they host CD FAS (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), Sarkodie has made his mark as a young player ready to do the job when his number is called.

“I think his mentality’s been excellent and I think it’s great for a young guy to get an opportunity and take advantage of it,” captain Brad Davis said. “He’s a guy that hadn’t played in a very long time. For him I think it’s been great and he’s done a great job and that’s why he’s still on the field.

“It’s very important for other young guys to see that and realize there’s always an opportunity and you have to ready when your number’s called and he was. He got his opportunity and has done well with it.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.