HOUSTON – Kofi Sarkodie has become one of the more popular figures on the Houston Dynamo. Could this be the year his popularity goes national?
He may not be ready for the bright lights this summer in Brazil. But with a new cycle starting after the summer spectacle, a strong start to 2014 could be his ticket onto the US national team landscape.
“For the past couple of years, I’ve gotten questions about when I’m getting called in,” Sarkodie told reporters at Monday's media kickoff luncheon. “You focus on yourself and your team and that you’re fit and ready. You just wish the guys good luck and … keep an eye out so you have a good understanding of what the expectation is and you just play your game.”
Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear isn't the man making that decision, but he feels the fourth-year man has come into his own.
“You look at his credentials, he’s a starting defender for what I feel is one of the better teams in Major League Soccer," Kinnear told reporters. "I look around the league and feel he’s one of the better right backs in the league, so he’s doing his job.”
Sarkodie has gained attention with his game, providing an attacking presence with a defensive game that has grown over the years. It was enough to put him among the players that were noticeably left off the most recent USMNT January camp roster.
The most notable comparison to an invitee came with his college replacement, Seattle Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin, breaking into the mix. Sarkodie, 22, is not much older than his replacement and the case can be made he is not far behind him, if at all.
“Certain guys, maybe it’s their time,” Sarkodie said. “Maybe they have a certain amount of hype around them and maybe they’re getting rewarded for one thing or another, but you wish those guys good luck. You do what you can to produce on the pitch and you sit back and pray that the rest will work on the way it’s supposed to work out at this point.”
How did Sarkodie prepare to progress in 2014? Rehabbing a foot injury from last year, and studying film, not only of himself but of players in the English Premier League. Since he got back onto the field two weeks ago, his game looks sharp despite the time off. Getting forward, while a good part of his game, could be the next step for him according to a World Cup-bound Dynamo teammate.
“[Kofi’s] a player who has a lot of potential, especially in the attack,” Boniek Garcia told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “His crosses are really good, especially from what I’ve seen in preseason, but he has some room to grow still.”
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Perhaps ironically, Sarkodie hasn't ventured forward more in the past because Garcia has been so effective in attack.
“If Boniek’s one-on-one with an outside back or a defender, what’s the point in bringing another guy in with over with an overlapping run?” Kinnear said. “I think defensively, he’s done great and, attacking-wise, I think he’s done well over the years.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.