VANCOUVER, B.C. – It may have been Gershon Koffie’s first headed goal in his last three years of professional soccer. Don’t call it a fluke, though.
The 20-year-old’s second career MLS goal – his first of the season – got the Vancouver Whitecaps rolling last weekend en route to a 2-1 comeback victory, a last-gasp Eric Hassli goal helping the club turn around an early 1-0 deficit.
The Ghanaian’s 40th-minute header from a Camilo free kick that kept the ‘Caps in contention for the win after being outplayed by the San Jose Earthquakes in the first half.
Koffie's placement in the box is a deliberate tactical change made by head coach Martin Rennie, after previous coaches Teitur Thordarson and Tom Soehn elected to leave Koffie at the fringes of the area in set-piece situations to wait for loose balls and rebounds.
WATCH: Koffie ties it for Vancouver
“I’m good in the air, with my head,” Koffie told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at BC Place on Monday. “Usually when we have set pieces, the coaches tell me to wait outside of the box. But this time, [Rennie] said to me, ‘OK, since you are good in the air, we want you in the box.’”
Rennie’s decision to get Koffie going for headers on set pieces is part of a wider aim of increasing the midfielder’s offensive production. With defensive midfielder Jun Marques Davidson playing the holding role, the ‘Caps are hoping Koffie can push up, help the attack and become a more well-rounded player.
“He’s got the ability to attack the ball,” Rennie said of Koffie. “He’s aggressive, he’s powerful and he can jump well. We’ve got to make more use of that. For him, one of the things missing in his game is the goalscoring. Everyone remembers the goalscorers and for him to develop to the level we believe he can I think he needs to contribute more goals and continue doing what he’s doing.
“Not only that, but Saturday, he had 34 out of 35 accurate passes. That’s a big thing for a midfielder in a game with a high tempo. He was really giving the ball away, he was putting the ball in behind and to feet – overall he had a big game for us.”
Barbara could see action against FC Edmonton
Offseason acquisition Etienne Barbara is in contention for the second leg of Vancouver’s Canadian Championship semifinal on Wednesday against FC Edmonton at BC Place (11 pm ET, Sportsnet Pacific & Sportsnet West), which the Whitecaps lead 2-0 on aggregate.
The Maltese international, who led the second-tier NASL in scoring in 2011 as a member of the Carolina RailHawks, has spent virtually his entire Whitecaps career on the sidelines since suffering a sports hernia injury on the first day of preseason.
Darren Mattocks, the second pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, is looking set for a Saturday return as he recovers from burn injuries suffered in a March 18 cooking accident.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.