For Houston, time for youth is now
The Dynamo introduced their four-man rookie class on Wednesday, the culmination of an offseason that has seen the club lower the average age of its roster from 28 to 24.
As newly drafted Kofi Sarkodie and Will Bruin and Academy signees Josue Soto and Alex Dixon held up their new orange jerseys for photographers at team headquarters, it represented a clear sign to fans and the rest of the league that the club will rely heavily on young players for the first time since coming to Houston five years ago.
“Change is good sometimes,” head coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters. “We went through this type of transition in 2005 in San Jose, and we ended up with one of our best rosters the next year.”
Enter Sarkodie and Bruin, two players who were considered difference-makers heading into last week’s SuperDraft. Houston intends for both players to play big roles in the club’s transition in 2011. Both are polished enough to contribute right away but still have the potential to get better. That combination made them unable to pass up.
Kinnear is especially excited about Sarkodie’s pace and ability to pressure opponents on the flank when the team has the ball.
“Kofi provides great pace on the right flank and a great attacking option, but that is not to say that is all he can do,” said Kinnear.
Sarkodie shared his new coach’s excitement and feels like the Dynamo are the perfect fit for him and his skills.
“Playing for a team that gets the ball wide allows me to get up the flank and express myself is the best situation for me,” the Akron defender told MLSsoccer.com.
Bruin brings another physical presence and a knack for scoring goals to the forward position. Kinnear and the Dynamo have been searching for a consistent scorer next to Brian Ching since Joseph Ngwenya first left the club after the 2007 season. Bruin’s production at Indiana suggests he could be the solution to that problem.
When asked about his increased goal production from his nine-goal sophomore season to his 18-goal junior year, Bruin pointed to improved maturity as the reason. Now that he’s entering MLS, Bruin is looking to lean on Ching to continue the maturation process.
“I really want to learn everything from Brian,” Bruin told MLSsoccer.com. “I want to learn when to do certain things, make passes and attack certain defenders.”
While both players’ perceived strengths makes them candidates to contribute right away, they begin their pro careers intent on proving they have more to offer. Heading into the draft, Sarkodie heard the criticisms of his defense.
“I heard the skepticism,” he said. “But if you watched my games at Akron, I showed what I could do defensively in addition to my attacking.”
Sarkodie is joining a defense that gave up 49 goals in 2010. His athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will be a welcome addition to a group that was susceptible to speedy attackers and players making diagonal runs.
Bruin, on the other hand, feels he can be more than just a target striker and contribute immediately even though the team already has a few target forwards on the roster.
“I feel I can play off a forward like Ching,” he said. “I have the ability to make some flashing runs, and I am looking forward to showing them what I have to offer.”
For the Dynamo, that will have to come soon. Sarkodie and Bruin get their first chance to impress and show their overall ability when the club opens the preseason next week ahead of its March 19 season opener against the Philadelphia Union at Robertson Stadium.