Entrusted with Adelaide United’s No.9 shirt, Kusini Yengi is ready to make it his own, and repay the faith of coach Carl Veart.
Yengi kicked off his A-League Men season by scoring the opening goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Perth Glory, in a promising start to life as Tomi Juric’s replacement.
“(Veart’s) told me that he wants me to be the starting striker and he’s gonna back me the rest of the season. Hopefully I can provide for him,” Yengi told AAP.
“I don’t think (the backing) does too much, really, I’m a pretty confident kid.
“It probably adds a little bit of extra pressure to perform week in, week out and know that the team is gonna rely on me a lot.”
Yengi’s main goal is to stay fit, after a hamstring injury curtailed last season.
He’s also getting his head around the type of striker he wants to be, having transitioned from the wing.
“I love to be on the ball and dribble and take lots of touches and take players on,” he said.
“But as I’ve grown to be who I am today, bigger, more of a presence in the box, I stay more centrally now and take less touches and am less involved in the build-up and more just getting through the box and scoring goals.
“I’m not sure really what I’m gonna see of myself in the future. I hope I’m able to be involved in the build-up play a lot more, which is Carl wants.”
Now 22, with five goals from 20 games and just eight starts, Yengi is ready to kick on.
“Kusini is a really level-headed person for someone his age, and he has a bright future,” teammate Craig Goodwin told AAP.
“As long as he can keep that mentality and that work rate that he has, he’s in for a big future.
“If he can find consistency this season and have a big year, he’s a really important player for us and he’s someone that by the end of the season will really put his name up in lights.”
One thing that won’t change is the Adelaide local’s love of a good celebration, something his teammates have embraced.
“The atmosphere and the environment in the change room and across the whole club, in the staff and everything is very welcoming and very open here at Adelaide,” Yengi said.
“Since day one I’ve felt very confident to be myself and it shows on the pitch.”