Kofi Sarkodie’s Olympic dream is creeping closer and closer.
The Houston Dynamo right back has been a part of three U-23 camps under current head coach Caleb Porter, and has worked to put his best foot forward. That paid dividends Tuesday when he was listed on the preliminary roster that will play in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament starting March 22 against Cuba in Nashville, Tenn. The final roster for Olympic qualifying will be finalized March 20, the due date for all participating teams to submit their rosters to CONCACAF.
“It’s a privilege and I’m extremely excited and looking forward to getting in camp and keep proving myself,” Sarkodie told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s [an] honor and it’s a dream to be able to play in the Olympics. To have a chance to get close to that is hard to describe. It’s a great feeling to be on that path.”
Talking with the 20-year-old right back, the pride of being called quickly gave way to the task at hand: Booking passage to the Summer Olympics in London.
Sarkodie and the United States will face Cuba, Canada (Mar. 24) and El Salvador (Mar. 26) in the group stage and then need to win a semifinal match to book passage to the Summer Games. Sarkodie and his teammates are favored, along with rival Mexico, to be one of the two teams that advance out of the CONCACAF competition.
Qualification, however, is never guaranteed, even for the biggest of favorites. That’s a lesson many in the squad learned first-hand when the US failed to qualify for the 2011 U-20 World Cup, losing to Guatemala in the regional semifinal.
To ensure better fortunes, Sarkodie expects the US to play the smothering, possession-based style he was part of when he played for Porter’s national championship team at the University of Akron.
“We’ll be looking to put on a dominant performance for 90 minutes where we’re the team in control of the match,” Sarkodie said. “The more we’re on the ball the better chance we have to finish off matches.
“It’s my job to buy into that team philosophy and make sure I’m winning the ball back. Offensively I can get in good spots and make sure I’m covering the ground … occupying defenders and finding ways to provide service when the opportunity presents.”
It is clear that Sarkodie’s focus is on the work needed to take care of business and ensure the US is playing in London come the summer. But it’s tough not to look ahead to what could be waiting for him.
“Olympic soccer is always fun and to be in London, which is such a hotbed of world football, would be great,” said Sarkodie’s club coach Dominic Kinnear. “If everything goes well we could see Kofi in the Olympics. You always want your players to experience great things and that would be one of those.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached for comment at Darrell.A.Lovell@gmail.com