NEW YORK – At first, it was nothing more than a faint whisper, as a section of the Yankee Stadium crowd making their opinions known. As the game went on though, the movement gained traction, and by the final moments, there was no mistake about it.
“We want Poku! We want Poku! We want Poku!”
In Friday’s 1-0 loss to Orlando City, many of the 24,597 fans that occupied Yankee Stadium united in chanting the name of Kwadwo Poku. Last season, the Ghanaian established himself as a Big Apple cult hero, netting four goals while providing six assists in just 978 minutes of action. For the NYCFC faithful, it wasn’t enough, as chants for the midfielder commonly ignited Yankee Stadium throughout the 2015 campaign.
The familiar phrase returned once again on Saturday night, although the crowd’s hopes were never rewarded. For the third game in a row, Poku didn’t see the field, limited to just the substitutes’ bench.
“It’s tough because every player wants to play,” Poku said, “but at the end of the day, I leave everything up to the coach. He took the job and I think he knows better than everybody on the field. He makes the decisions and I’ll just keep working and training and waiting for the chance.
“I really appreciate the fans’ support from Day 1,” he added. “I’m here for them. They’re the reason why I’m here. Any time I get the chance, I will do my best for them.”
Poku has mainly worked as a central midfielder in training after being deployed in a variety of ways last season. Despite his disappointment, Poku says he will continue to work hard with and for his teammates in training. The midfielder won’t be looking to score any extra goals or make any extra plays to strengthen his case. Rather, Poku will just continue plugging away, hoping to take his chance when it finally comes.
For Poku, the situation is somewhat familiar. Struggling for time early in the 2015 season, Poku found his feet on loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads before truly exploding onto the scene with NYCFC. This year, the midfielder says that likely won’t be the case, as he hopes to stay and reclaim a spot with the MLS club.
“I don’t think so,” Poku says. “Going back and playing with them, right now, I just want to continue going on with my career and playing in the big games in a big environment. I don’t think that’s the option. I’m just working to get my chance here.”
Poku insists that the relationship between Patrick Vieira and himself is good, and he has yet to hear from the French legend if he is doing anything that is not up to his standards.
Having risen through the ranks of the American soccer pyramid, Poku understands that he is not the only one on NYCFC desperate for playing time. Despite the chants and the support from the NYCFC faithful, Poku knows he is just one member of NYCFC, albeit the most popular, yearning for another chance to shine.
“Coaches, players, we all think about that,” Poku said. “If you put it into consideration, there are 28 guys and everyone wants to play. Everyone is training, everyone is working. At the end of the day, it comes down to the coach to make that decision…I know what I can do and I think he knows what I can do and what I can bring to the table. At the end of the day, he’ll make the decision.
“I have 28 players who are working really hard,” Vieira said of his roster, “28 players who want to play every week. It will be all about how players perform on the weekend.”