Gershon Koffie isn’t quite used to this.
The 21-year-old Ghanaian has been virtually undroppable since Vancouver Whitecaps FC entered Major League Soccer in 2011, having played 29 matches in each of the club’s first two seasons at this level.
But over the last two games, Koffie has found himself in an unusual position – the bench -- only coming on for a 22-minute substitute appearance against San Jose Earthquakes on April 6, before sitting for the duration of the 90 against Real Salt Lake over the weekend.
“I think it’s important for players to be put in that position sometimes,” head coach Martin Rennie said of Koffie’s benching after a training session on Wednesday. “The reality is you’re not always going to be an automatic starter and you do need to remember what got you to the point of being a starter and you have to have that incredible drive to keep getting better and to keep performing to your full potential.”
While hinting that perhaps there’s more he wants to see from Koffie, Rennie insisted that the box-to-box midfielder is still a player he rates highly, despite this latest omission
“Gersh has got massive potential and we want him to fulfill that and I’m sure he’s going to do that,” Rennie said. “He just needs to really have that desire to do it and I think he does. Last night he played in the reserves and did very well. He’s one of our best players. He just needs to make sure that he’s doing everything he possibly can so when he’s playing he’s at his absolute best because we’ve seen him take over games and be the best player on the field, but we want him to be like that consistently.”
And, as Rennie points out, from a coach’s perspective, having a selection headache in central midfield isn’t the worst situation in the world.
“Right now, Russell [Teibert] has done really well in the games that he’s played,” Rennie said. “Nigel [Reo-Coker] is playing well in the middle of the park as is [Jun Marques Davidson]. There’s good competition which we didn’t have before and even in the reserve games Matt Watson has been playing fantastic.”
As for the player himself, he's biding his time and states when he gets another start, he'll make sure to grab his opportunity with both hands.
"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger so I think I'll be stronger next time [Rennie] puts me in," Koffie said. "For me, I just have to play the way he wants me to play."
Paulo Jr. waived
The club also waived Brazilian attacking player Paulo Jr. on Wednesday. The club claimed the 24-year-old in the 2012 MLS Re-Entry draft but he failed to play a single minute.
“It was a tough decision,” Rennie said. “In that kind of position we’ve got a lot of what we feel are really talented young players and we just felt it might be difficult for him to get in the team.
“We wish him all the best. He’s a really nice guy and I think he’s a fantastic player. I think he’s dangerous and he’ll score goals wherever he ends up.”