By BRUCE CONSTANTINEAU, Vancouver Sun September 3, 2010
VANCOUVER — Gershon Koffie beams when asked what it will be like to play for a Vancouver Whitecaps team searching for new players to fill its Major League Soccer roster next season.
“It’s like a dream coming true because I used to read about MLS when I was a kid,” he said after a training session this week. “I just want a chance.”
The 19-year-old Ghanaian midfielder has trained with the Caps for nearly a month but delays in getting his paperwork sorted out have kept him out of game lineups so far.
That should end soon as the team announced Friday it has signed Koffie and he is available for selection on Sunday when Vancouver hosts the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Whitecaps globetrotting director of soccer operations Tom Soehn spotted Koffie at a tournament in Ghana six months ago when he played with second-tier Ghanaian side International Allies FC.
The talented two-way player finally made his way to Vancouver this summer after unsuccessful trials in Sweden and Denmark and said he will do whatever it takes to stick with the Whitecaps.
“I can be a holding midfielder or an attacking midfielder,” Koffie said. “Whatever the coach wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
The Under-20 Ghanaian international joins a growing list of at least five new midfielders battling for spots on the MLS-bound Whitecaps after former Vancouver midfielders Jonny Steele, Ricardo Sanchez, Justin Moose and Ansu Toure were traded or released this summer.
Add Davide Chiumiento, Terry Dunfield, Kyle Porter and Alexandre Morfaw to the Caps’ midfield mix and newly appointed Vancouver MLS coach Teitur Thordarson likes the possibilities.
“I want our midfield to be more creative, with players who support the attack better than before,” he said. “I want midfielders to score more goals than ours have been doing — through penetration or shooting from distance.”
Thordarson said he likes everything about Koffie, although he hasn’t seen the tactical part of his game yet.
“He’s technically good, his passing is good and he is extremely strong,” he said. “He wins balls and will be a huge asset to the group. He’s also young and has many years ahead of him as a top player.”
Morfaw, a 23-year-old hip hop/R&B-loving Cameroonian, feels he’s close to recovering from an ankle injury suffered early in his trial period with Vancouver this summer and is anxious to show his stuff.
“It’s too early for me to talk about next season because I’m focused on coming back 100-per-cent fit from an injury,” he said. “But the club has very big ambitions for next year and of course everyone here wants to be a part of it.”
Morfaw has played professionally in France, England and Sweden — most recently with third-tier Swedish side Bodens BK — and has represented Cameroon at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels.
He said it’s hard to compare North American soccer with the level of soccer he played in Europe but knows MLS is an improving league.
“It would be a good challenge for me and that’s why I’m here,” he said.
Thordarson said Morfaw is almost like a combination of fellow midfielders Dunfield and Chiumiento — a very good tactician and passer plus a very hard worker.
The Whitecaps’ evolving midfield faces a tough Puerto Rico squad that was riding a nine-game unbeaten streak [three wins-six draws] before dropping a 1-0 decision in Portland on Thursday.
The Islanders stunned MLS-leading Los Angeles Galaxy last month by defeating them 5-3 on aggregate to reach the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League play for the third straight year.
Thordarson said the Caribbean side is well organized defensively and can counter quickly with speedy forwards like former Whitecap Nicholas Addlery, who has six goals and four assists this season. English striker David Foley leads Puerto Rico with eight goals while former Whitecap Josh Hansen has four goals and three assists this year.