Reyna, Vieira: Poku, Diskerud yet to reach full potential

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by CHRISTIAN ARAOS

According to New York City FC sporting director Claudio Reyna and new head coach Patrick Vieira, we’ve yet to see the best out of Kwadwo Poku or Mix Diskerud.

We’re talking about two young players who I believe didn’t fulfill their potential yet,” Vieira said. “Of course the point of my job will be to try and get the best of them. I will put a lot of pressure on their shoulders because I believe they have the talent and the potential to be better than they were last year.”

Poku and Diskerud are the two most prominent figures under the age of 30 at NYCFC and are coming off contrasting seasons. Poku rose through the depth chart to contribute four goals and seven assists in less than 1000 minutes of playing time in 2015. Diskerud, however, played more than twice as many minutes as Poku, yet only scored three goals — none since the end of last July.

“They have a lot to learn,” Reyna said. “I think it’s important this season for both of them to perform to an even better level. They have a lot of qualities and I think one of the things that I think Patrick will instill into Poku and Mix is even better training habits.”

There were whispers of dissatisfaction with Jason Kreis’ training approach and loud criticisms of Kreis’ decision to only start Poku six times. Kreis defended his decision citing Poku’s lack of conditioning.

Although Kreis is no longer with NYCFC, his reasoning received a co-sign from forward David Villa this week when he praised Poku’s potential.

“The growth of this kid and his desire to get better—I’ve seen very few players in my career like this,” Villa told Sports Illustrated. “Obviously he is young and needs to learn more things with respect to physical conditioning, but if we can help him he will be incredible in the future.”

Vieira said he is looking for Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo to be mentors for Poku, Diskerud and the rest of NYCFC’s young roster. Although Vieira spoke generally about his vision for NYCFC’s style of play, he stressed that having high energy players was essential to success in 2016.

To achieve that, Vieira said he is going to demand more out of both players.

“I will be real demanding of them because they have to express that talent,” Vieira said. “I’m really looking forward to working with them because we have Lampard, Pirlo, Villa with fantastic experience and Poku, Mix, Patrick who are still real young but full of energy and I strongly believe the mix of generations among players will be successful for us.”

Although Poku and Diskerud are internationals, Diskerud has yet to establish himself as a leading US Men’s National Team player. His form last season coupled with an increasing scrutiny of national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s selections from inside and outside MLS circles has made him one of the more criticized players in recent months. Reyna said this is something Diskerud will have to deal with if he wants to improve as a player.

“To reach the next level, you have to suffer, work harder and be able to take criticism,” Reyna said. “[Diskerud and Poku] are both great professionals, well-liked in the locker room. I’m really excited and I think they’re going to make a big impact for the team.”