Poku-mania is sweeping the nation.
The powerful 23-year-old Ghanaian is one of the hottest commodities in Major League Soccer right now. Fresh off a two-goal performance against Columbus Crew SC in his second consecutive start, Poku has New York City FC fans demanding he remains in the starting XI and Ghanaian fans requesting his inclusion into the national team.
MLSSoccer.com presents 10 things you might not have known about NYCFC’s rising star ahead of the teaam's Sunday showdown with the LA Galaxy (3 pm ET; ESPN).
Poku emerged from the Asante Kotoko academy. It also produced former striker Tony Yeboah, who played at Eintracht Frankfurt, Leeds United and Hamburger SV; as well as former Bayern Munich defender Samuel Kuffour and Udinese midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.
His idol is Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, who he had a chance to meet in the preseason. Growing up in Ghana, Poku played the same holding midfield position and was a defensive midfielder in NYCFC’s first-ever match against St. Mirren.
Move to the USA
From Asante Kotoko, Poku came to the United States with the hopes of playing college soccer. However, when he couldn’t get the proper paperwork sorted out, Poku went to play for the Georgia Revolution in the NPSL.
Spotted by Wynalda
Poku immediately proved himself one of the top players for the Revolution, leading the team in goals in 2011-12 and assists in 2013. He scored a hat trick in a first-round 2013 US Open Cup match against Real Colorado Foxes, a match attended by then-Atlanta Silverbacks technical director Eric Wynalda. He signed Poku to his first professional contract in January 2014.
MLS race for Poku
He shone again in the 2014 US Open Cup with the Silverbacks, scoring a game-winning goal against Real Salt Lake. RSL, Chicago and Seattle battled to obtain his rights with the Sounders eventually winning the Discovery Claim. However, Seattle didn’t offer Atlanta much for Poku and NYCFC eventually traded a conditional 2017 draft pick for his rights.
What’s in a name?
Family call Poku by his given name – Kwadwo. But friends and teammates, who struggle to pronounce his first name, simply call him Poku.
Love affair with fans
Before he became a fan favorite at Yankee Stadium, Poku was a cult hero in Atlanta, where they still sing songs for him while taking in NYCFC games during watch parties. In the preseason, an emotional Poku embraced fans after a match in Charleston.
The son of a former professional soccer player, Poku’s aunts and uncles helped him when he was making his transition to living in the United States.
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What’s in a number and Twitter handle?
Poku’s father wore No. 8, as did Poku. He wears No. 88 now to signify one "8" for each of them. Poku and his agent, Remy Cherin, tried hundreds of variations of Poku Twitter handles – all were taken – before settling on @_Poku_Poku as the simplest one left available.
There’s no Poku sandwich – yet – but NYCFC’s favorite son does have a go-to restaurant. It’s Papaye Restaurant in the Bronx, which specializes in African delicacies.