HOUSTON – Kofi Sarkodie has come of age in 2013.
The 22-year-old right back has put his stamp on the right side of the Houston Dynamo defense, underlining his status as one of MLS' rising young players. In Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League win over W Connection, Sarkodie showed what he offers at his marauding best, according to head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Sarkodie pushed Houston’s attack against the overmatched Trinidadian side. Working with striker Omar Cummings, Sarkodie was merciless in making runs up the right flank, sometimes from 80 yards out, to create in the final third.
For a team that always has the goal of exploiting their advantage from out wide, Sarkodie’s performance was a high-water mark for how his play can spark the Dynamo.
“I thought it was probably his best attacking game he’s had for us ever,” Kinnear said postgame. “That’s one of the things we like about Kofi, that he can attack. We were trying to get us to feed the right hand side more because he was having such a good game. I thought Kofi tonight was really, really good.”
That's high praise from Kinnear, especially for a right back who has had to work his way into the team over his first three years in the league. Sarkodie spent his first season-and-a-half watching as others manned Houston’s backline.
Getting his chance late last season, Sarkodie's defensive game blossomed, but Kinnear never wanted him to lose his attacking edge.
The young fullback has four assists this year, but his runs forward have been curbed at times as Houston’s defense has battled consistency issues. As the Dynamo struggled, Sarkodie’s ability to get into the final third has waned.
On Wednesday, Sarkodie showed what he can do, and more importantly, what he wants to do to be dangerous in games.
“When we came in we talked about [left back Mike Chabala] and I getting forward and the game opened up and I was able to do that,” he said. “If you look at the last handful of games I’ve been getting service up. It’s a positive thing that I’ve got to continue to do and keep moving forward with.”
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Not everything went Sarkodie’s way. He was served a dose of his own medicine when W Connection’s João Ananias blocked his shot off the line, something Sarkodie himself has done four times this year.
“It’s funny because all the guys were saying that,” Sarkodie said with a laugh. “They said I’d saved about seven this year already so it was bound to happen to me. It’s fair enough.”
It was a rare blemish on what turned out to be a template of a performance for the young right back.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.