Gershon Koffie walked out of the Whitecaps changing room on Monday, past coach Carl Robinson who was midway through an answer about the midfielder’s spectacular Saturday goal.
‘He doesn’t do it enough . ‘ Robinson said, voice rising, eyes directed at Koffie.
‘He needs to do it mooore.
‘He can’t just score in one game. He’s got to score in two, three, four games on the trot.’
An amused Koffie agreed to cooperate on Sunday, when the Caps (4-2-5) visit the Portland Timbers (2-3-7).
‘Oh, OK,’ Robinson said, ‘picking yourself (to start)?’
Playfulness aside, is there really a choice?
Koffie’s played some terrific games since joining the Whitecaps from Ghanaian club International Allies in 2010.
Games when the ball seems stuck to one foot or the other as he wriggles away from pressure. When he wins almost every 50-50 battle, and when he shows flashes of being a top two-way midfielder in MLS.
But Saturday’s 2-2 tie at B.C. Place against Seattle was as involved and effective as Koffie’s ever been in a Caps shirt.
He had almost 100 touches to go with eight tackles, a 92 per cent pass completion rate, and eight shots. The touches and shots were MLS-career highs for him.
And as for 50-50 balls, Opta Sports had him winning 17 of 23.
Robinson’s challenge to Koffie remains the same. He needs to be more consistent. He needs to score more. And he can’t afford to switch off even once in the defensive end.
But Robinson also senses he has something special brewing in central midfield, where Koffie and the tireless and tenacious Matias Laba might as well come with a moat and some alligators.
That, in turn, allows Pedro Morales to work his magic.
‘If I was a defender, and I knew I had those two in front of me, I’d be absolutely delighted,’ said Robinson.
When Robinson signed Morales from Malaga in La Liga and traded with Toronto for Laba shortly before the start of the season, there was plenty of outside talk about the Caps’ midfield potential.
On paper, at least, a weakness suddenly looked like a major strength.
But the third midfielder in those discussions was mostly Nigel Reo-Coker, not Koffie, whose promise has never been questioned but whose form and confidence had slipped through an up-and-down 2013 under Martin Rennie.
Koffie started the first three games this season on the substitutes bench, but Reo-Coker’s concussion opened the door wide, and Koffie has justified Robinson’s decision to stick with him.
The partnership between Koffie and Laba is a young one, both in terms of games together and age they are 22. But they’ve each played around 100 professional games already, and Saturday was the best indication yet of how well they can complement one another.
Laba, as some teammates have noted, can almost do the work of two lesser players in his holding midfield spot. That allows Koffie more freedom, which he is keen to explore in Robinson’s 4-2-3-1 system.
And with Morales often dragging defenders all over the field, and with Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks stretching the field with their blazing speed, there’ll be all sorts of holes for Koffie to join the attack when things are going right.
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