Starter? Poku’s patience could pay off this Saturday

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by Christian Araos

The wait for Kwadwo Poku to make his first regular season appearance of 2016 may be in its final days.

Poku trained in Mix Diskerud‘s position today and could replace him in New York City FC‘s match against the New England Revolution on Saturday while Diskerud is on international duty.

That will be a welcome debut, particularly for NYCFC fans who took to chanting the players name during last week’s Orlando City encounter. However, patience is no issue for Poku, who said he is used to waiting for his chance to play.

“Since the beginning of the season, I’ve always been ready,” Poku said. “It really doesn’t matter. When the team needs me, I’ll be ready.”

Poku was an unused substitute in two of NYCFC’s matches and did not make the matchday roster for its match against Toronto FC. As NYCFC chased an equalizer in the second half of last Friday’s match, Patrick Vieira brought on Mehdi Ballouchy as a like-for-like replacement for Thomas McNamara. Ballouchy also trained in center midfield but Poku was more involved with the first team regulars.

The coach and the player have spoken about playing time but not extensively and it does not appear to be a source of friction between the two. Poku said he is still working on grasping Vieira’s demands for the position.

“He came with a different formation, a different strategy and it feels like it’ll be interesting for us playing out the back with four midfielders,” Poku said. “He really gives a lot of chances to the midfielders because we have to be four guys on the field all the time and last season we had the same problem because we had a lot of midfielders. I think we’re going to get how he expects us to play but we’re not there yet but we are close.”

Vieira would not commit to naming Poku as a starter for Saturday’s match. Although if he keeps the W-M formation, Poku is naturally suited for Diskerud’s inside right spot. He said Poku’s playing time depends on how hard he works in training this week but he understood why Poku has had difficulty picking up his tactics.

“It’s new for him because I ask him some stuff that maybe other coaches didn’t ask of him before,” Vieira said. “He may find it a little more difficult but that is our job as well for me and my staff to be more clear and to spend more time explaining what we want regarding the position we are playing. It’s just a question of time. It’s not a question of talent because he’s got the talent but it is about how he can use the talent to help the team.”