Kwadwo Poku’s days in the Big Apple are numbered.
It looks like the 24-year-old Ghanaian midfielder will be sold to the NASL’s Miami franchise. He’ll be getting a significant pay rise over his MLS salary of $67,500. Earlier in the season, New York City technical director Claudio Reyna had told prospective suitors that Poku wasn’t available.
UPDATE: Per Empire of Soccer, Miami FC paid over $700,000 to land Poku. Poku himself will earn between $300,000 and $350,000, with his contract expiring next year. Given that Poku was on an option year, New York City made a tidy sum off a player they would’ve either let walk away for nothing or signed at close to the minimum. While initial reports had it at $500,000, subsequent reporting has the sum closer to $700,000, which means that even though New York City lose right of first refusal to Miami, they would wind up with a significant amount of allocation money.
Clearly, that’s changed. Why? Two reasons stand out. First, despite his obvious physical gifts and nose for goal, Poku struggled to find his rhythm in manager Patrick Vieira’s system. Despite making the 18-man game-day squad on multiple occasions, Poku was unable to see playing time. When he did, his impact on the game was mostly negligible. Lacking the technical skills needed to fit in properly, Poku instead resorted to taking on defenders directly, thereby throwing the offense out of sync.
Moreover, unlike last season, where he terrorized opposing MLS defenses en route to becoming a cult hero to Blues’ fans, this year Poku was largely neutralized, as opposing coaching staffs had an entire offseason to adapt to Poku’s play.
On top of that, Vieira was frustrated with Poku’s approach to team practice, repeatedly chafing at the midfielder’s lackadaisical attitude. Oftentimes, Poku would look utterly lost in tactical training. The feeling was that Poku wasn’t applying himself towards increasing his technical and tactical skills in a manner which would lead him to succeed with the team under Vieira’s stewardship.
It’s unclear when the decision to move Poku was made, but it’s been clear that he wasn’t a part of the team’s long-term plans for a while now. Both he and Mix Diskerud have been the odd men out in a stacked midfield. With Lampard now healthy, and on the evidence of the last couple of games, performing at an acceptable level needed for the team to succeed, space in the Blues’ midfield is at a premium. Given his invisibility in the Blues’ loss to the New York Cosmos in the U.S. Open Cup, Vieira may have decided to cut his losses.
All these things made Poku an expendable piece. So: why Miami FC?
The reality is that Miami FC has been willing to pay considerably over the odds for players that haven’t performed elsewhere. Not wanting to strengthen a MLS rival or the New York Cosmos, New York City decided to make a deal with the Florida team — probably the only team in the NASL that was able to meet New York City’s valuation for Poku.
Miami gets a solid midfielder who can score and create havoc with defenses, particularly as a second forward. Finally, Poku gets playing time, a real shot a proving doubters wrong who might be inclined to think he was a flash in the pan, and a considerable pay rise.
With the MLS transfer window re-opening again this coming week, don’t be surprised if this is just the beginning of widespread roster moves for the Blues as they seek to solidify both their roster and a playoff position. We’ll continue to update the story once we have more information.
EDITOR’S NOTE: New York City FC confirmed the sale in a press release Wednesday morning.