As the 2011 season draws closer, HoustonDynamo.com will introduce you to the newest members of the Dynamo roster. With 10 players who have yet to play a game for the Dynamo, the squad will feature a new look in 2011.
We start the series with the rookies, rounding out the week with defender Kofi Sarkodie. The highest draft pick in team history, Sarkodie was selected seventh overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Like fellow SuperDraft pick Will Bruin, Sarkodie had been projected to go higher in the draft, and the Dynamo were eager to select him at No. 7.
Sarkodie comes from a strong soccer family, and older brothers Kwame and Ofori have previous experience at the professional and youth national team level. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Kofi has represented the United States at the U-17 and U-20 levels.
He was a collegiate standout at the University of Akron, earning Academic All-America honors and helping the Zips to consecutive NCAA championship games, culminating with the national title last December.
An outside back who likes to attack, Sarkodie likes to get forward up the right flank and deliver crosses into the box. He is battling with Hunter Freeman, Andrew Hainault, and Mike Chabala for a starting spot at outside back for the 2011 season.
MEET KOFI SARKODIE
HD.com: Give us a bit about your soccer background.
Kofi: It goes way, way back. I started off playing my youth soccer with a local club in Dayton, Warrior Soccer Club. From there I moved on to Ohio Mutiny out of Columbus, and I was fortunate enough to get called into residential program with the youth national team, so I was down in Bradenton, Florida playing there. Then I moved on under coach Caleb Porter’s leadership at Akron, and we were fortunate enough to win the national championship this year, and now I’m here with the Dynamo.
HD.com: What is your earliest soccer memory?
Kofi: I first moved on to play with Ohio C, and it was 2-2 with literally a minute left in the game. I made a 50-yard run all the way into the box, a guy chipped it across, diving header – goal. I must have been 14.
HD.com: What is your most memorable soccer moment prior to
joining the Dynamo?
Kofi: There are two, and they were back-to-back. Scoring the winning PK in the quarterfinals to take my team to the College Cup, and then in the semifinal against Michigan scoring the winning goal to take us to the final.
HD.com: What do you remember about draft day and that whole
Kofi: Draft day was pretty crazy. It was real cool because I was there with so many of my friends from Akron and other guys around the country who I’ve known for a long time from playing against them. It was cool to see all the teams there and know this is the day you’re going to be part of something big and you’re officially going to be a professional. It was crazy, hectic, with a lot of emotions, but I had a great time.
HD.com: So your name gets called and you go hold up the Houston jersey for the
first time. What’s going through your head for all of that?
Kofi: The first thing going through my head was, ‘Alright, I’m going to Houston.’ It was just surreal. I had no clue going in where I was going to be. I knew I was projected to go kind of high, but I didn’t know where I was going to go. When I heard the Houston Dynamo call my name, it was like, ‘Alright, it’s time to get started.’
HD.com: What was your first impression of the club?
Kofi: It seemed really professional. Dom gets us in, get the work done, put in your hard work for the day, and keep moving forward. It seemed like the professionalism was realy there.
HD.com: What have your first impressions of Houston been?
Kofi: It’s big. Five-lane highways! I think on average everywhere you need to go is a 15-minute drive, which is a lot different from Akron, where everything’s a five-minute drive. That’s probably the biggest thing.
HD.com: What soccer players did you look up to growing up?
Kofi: Definitely MIkael Essien, and more recently in the past three years I’ve been watching Dani Alves and how he gets forward up the field and really understanding his movements. Between Essien and his aggression and his heart, and Dani’s movement off the ball and how he figures out ways to get forward, those are the two players I watch the most.
HD.com: What is the best part and the worst part about being
Kofi: The worst part about being a rookie, everyone knows, is that you have to do all the work: get the balls out, move the goals, and whatever the vets say you do. There are pros to being a rookie: You get in, you’re a fresh face, and you get a chance to prove yourself off the bat. You have a chance to bring a different energy and mentality to the team, and that’s always good.
HD.com: What has been the biggest adjustment to the pro game
Kofi: For me, the initial adjustment was just getting used to the pace of the game and the physicality. Now you’re playing with grown men rather than guys around your age, so that’s been the biggest adjustment of the past 2-3 weeks.
HD.com: What are some of your hopes and goals and
expectations for 2011?
Kofi: It’s no secret that coming in here I really feel like I can help the team in any way possible. One of the goals is to get on the field and become a regular starter and really give the team as much as I can like I did at Akron: getting up and down the sideline, putting in quality service, and getting assists and goals. First and foremost I want to find my niche on the team and then help us hopefully get to the playoffs and win MLS Cup.
HD.com: Any particular reason you chose number 8?
Kofi: A little bit. Growing up I always wore either No. 2 or No. 8, because my brother Kwame wore No. 2, and my middle brother Ofori wore No. 8. I always from Warrior Soccer Club to Ohio C Mutiny, I wore No. 8 with them, so when I got to Akron, I was No. 4. I didn’t really want to be No. 4, and this year I switched to 8 and then carried it over here.