VANCOUVER, B.C. – There aren’t many first-choice central midfielders in Major League Soccer at age 20. But Gershon Koffie has done more than earn a starting spot for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season.
Koffie has kept a stranglehold on his position in the heart of midfield despite interim head coach Tom Soehn tinkering in a big way in recent weeks – and he's even up for the club's Player of the Year honor.
“There’s a reason why most of the time center midfielders are the oldest guys on the field, because experience in that position is vital,” captain Jay DeMerit told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. “For him to play next to Pete [Vagenas] and next to John [Thorrington], those older guys hopefully will be invaluable for [Koffie] because everyone can see his talent, the way he can pass, the way that he can break things up defensively.
“When you look at guys who are 19, 20, around that age in those positions, they still have a lot of work to do. More power to him – he can be as good as he wants to be.”
Koffie is nominated for the Whitecaps’ Player of the Year alongside Eric Hassli, Camilo and Alain Rochat, making him the only midfielder on the team up for the award.
Thorrington has played the last three matches alongside Koffie, and has seen what the Ghanaian can do alongside him in midfield.
“Gershon is a fantastic talent,” Thorrington said. “I’ve thought that from Day 1. He’s very gifted. He’s done well for us. He’s been fairly consistent, played a lot of minutes and been fairly reliable.
“He’s done a great job and can be proud of the season he’s had. I enjoy playing alongside him. We have quite a few good central midfielders that are good guys to play alongside, and he’s one of them.”
Played a lot of minutes is right. Koffie has been on the field for 2,377 minutes this season over 28 games, and whenever a change is made in midfield, the question seems to be, “Who’s the coach going to play alongside Gershon?”
Koffie’s seen Terry Dunfield (now at Toronto FC), Vagenas and now Thorrington claim the spot alongside him, but he’s been the almost ever-present pitbull in the middle, breaking up plays and winning the ball back for his side time after time.
“He’s one of those guys that lots of times goes unnoticed by the fans, but when you talk within the core of coaches throughout the league, they always respect the job he does, all the little things that win you games,” Soehn said. “He’s still had a couple of inconsistencies through the year, but it’s probably because we’ve played him so much.
“But from my point of view, it’s been nothing but positive. You look at how he’s developed and how strong he is, and how he impacts the game – there’s still a world of upside with him.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon