Based solely on the vast number of clever puns available to play off the last name of Senegalese midfielder Niouky Desire, headline writers around Major League Soccer must be licking their chops with the Revolution’s latest signing. The Revs can only hope that they’ll be equally as thrilled with the 23-year-old’s production on the field.
Desire, who will occupy one of the Revolution’s eight international roster spots, has spent his entire playing career in his home country of Senegal. Prior to spending the last four years with Dakar-based Port Autonome, he played four seasons with ASC Diaraf, also based in Dakar. With limited information available about the Senegalese soccer league – combined with the fact that he has yet to arrive in the U.S. to begin training with the Revs – Desire is a bit of a mystery.
Luckily for the Revolution, the only person who has seen Desire play firsthand is a man who knows a thing or two about scouting soccer talent. Head coach Steve Nicol unearthed Desire on an offseason scouting trip to Senegal, and was sufficiently impressed to offer the central midfielder a contract.
Described as a traditional central midfielder – providing a balance between both offensive and defensive capabilities – Nicol is hoping that Desire’s biggest contribution will be his ability to help the Revs maintain consistent possession, which would subsequently allow the Revolution to control the tempo rather than react to their opponents.
“He likes to keep the ball and pass the ball,” Nicol said. “That’s the main thing. He likes to get the ball at his feet and he likes to keep it.”
Nicol also mentioned Desire’s age as one of his most attractive characteristics, as the 23-year-old is old enough to have multiple years of professional experience, but young enough that the majority of his career still lays ahead of him.
While Nicol was conventionally coy in his description of Desire, the time will soon come when everyone will get a look at the young midfielder. Having already received his International Transfer Certificate, Desire will be able to enter the United States upon receipt of his U.S. P-1 Visa.
Unfortunately, there’s no set timetable on how long it will take to acquire the Visa. An appointment must be arranged at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar in order to receive the necessary paperwork, literally leaving the process in the hands of the government.
Because it could be weeks before Desire is allowed to meet up with the Revolution in Foxborough, it’s possible that he’ll be joining the club shortly before the season opener against the LA Galaxy on March 27. Factor in an adjustment period, and Desire could be hitting his stride with his teammates just as the season is getting underway.
How quickly he’ll adjust – or if he’ll need to adjust at all – remains to be seen.
“You always hope that they’re going to come in and compete straight away,” said Nicol. “Some guys, you can drop them in anywhere and they’re good to go, but other guys take time. There are no real hard and fast rules about how long it might take. It’s on an individual basis.”
A best-case scenario would have Desire adapt in much the same way that Ghanaian defender Emmanuel Osei did in 2009. After arriving in the United States on April 30 and joining the Revs for his first training session on May 1, Osei paired up with Darrius Barnes in the middle of the Revolution’s backline just eight days later, on May 9 against Chicago. He then proceeded to start every game for which he was available for the rest of the season.
While it’s unclear whether Desire will adapt as quickly as Osei, Nicol is confident that he’ll create healthy competition for places in the center of the Revolution’s midfield.
With the offseason departures of veterans Steve Ralston and Jeff Larentowicz, the Revs will be relying more heavily on the development of younger players like Pat Phelan and Mike Videira, both of whom are likely to see increased playing time this season. It’s essentially a given that 2009 MVP finalist Shalrie Joseph has locked down one of the central midfield roles, and Nicol envisions Desire, Phelan and Videira in a battle for the second spot.
Only time will tell if Desire will win that battle, but with the regular season set to kick off in just about one month on March 27 in Los Angeles, we won’t have to wait long to find out.