In its first season, New York City FC has made major headlines by signing three of Europe's most accomplished stars, but one player most responsible for the team's midseason turnaround has been a 23-year-old from Ghana who previously played in the lower-tier leagues of American soccer.
Kwadwo Poku was named to the MLS Team of the Week for last week after he assisted on three of his team's five goals, giving him a team-leading six helpers on the year while playing 90 minutes for the first time this season in Sunday's 5-3 win over Orlando City SC.
In his first MLS season, Poku's playing time as a reserve was sparse early on. Since the beginning of June, the 6-1, 195-pound midfielder's minutes have increased dramatically, and NYCFC is 5-2-1 during that span. NYCFC (6-9-6) has won each of the three games Poku has started.
"It feels really good, because that's what we've been focusing on, and trying to make it to the playoffs," Poku told amNewYork yesterday at NYCFC's training facility in Purchase. "That's everyone's dream here."
The attacking midfielder's combination of strength and speed is electrifying to watch on the pitch.
Few, if any, players on the club can rival his athleticism, so it's no surprise to see Poku quickly become a fan favorite in the Bronx since being acquired from the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks in January.
"The fans are great, and they never gave up on us," Poku said. "We try to make them happy as much as possible, especially when I hear the fans cheering for my name. I feel like I have to give everything because that's why they're here. We really appreciate how they support us and I think they should keep coming."
With 13 matches remaining in the regular season, Poku figures to continue to pay tremendous dividends for NYCFC even as icons Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard insert themselves into the offense.
NYCFC returns to Yankee Stadium on Sunday against the Montreal Impact (7-8-3) with the two clubs locked into a tie for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.