FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sainey Nyassi viewed this past Saturday night’s meeting with the Chicago Fire as an opportunity.
After making eight consecutive substitute appearances, Nyassi was handed a start against Chicago – his first starting assignment since April 6 – because everyday right midfielder Zak Boggs was unavailable with a knee injury.
Nyassi started a combined 49 games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons while making only seven substitute appearances, and entering his fourth full season in New England, the 22-year-old was expected to increase his role as a major contributor to the Revolution’s attack. As such, Nyassi’s extended spell on the bench sparked a personal desire to prove himself when given the chance.
“That made me really hungry,” Nyassi said of seeing limited minutes. “I always make sure that when I get on the field, I work really hard and do what all the coaches want me to do. That’s what’s been helping me. I was concentrating a lot and putting my head in the game. I didn’t let it bring me down. I was always focused.”
With instructions from head coach Steve Nicol to utilize his speed and directly attack Fire left back Gonzalo Segares, Nyassi was a constant threat down the wing and generated a host of scoring chances. The young Gambian forced Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson into a smart save in the ninth minute and delivered a pinpoint cross to teammate Kenny Mansally for a free header in the 38th minute.
“I always rely on what I can do, like my footwork and my speed,” said Nyassi. “That’s what really helped me on Saturday. That’s all I need to be doing. Get at players, use my speed, get behind them and put good balls into the [box].”
But while Nyassi showed glimpses of his ability against the Fire, he remained scoreless on the season as he continues to search for his first goal or assist in the 2011 campaign. With those statistics in mind, Nicol believes there is more untapped potential within the speedy winger.
“(Against Chicago) I think he showed that he had Segares any time he did go at him,” Nicol said of Nyassi. “We’re still looking for him to have more of an end product. He got a couple of shots off and the goalkeeper had to make a couple of saves, but we’re still looking for more from him.”
Consistency has long been the focus for Nyassi, who has yet to find a way to turn his unquestioned ability into quality performances on a week-to-week basis. After recording one goal and one assist in a superb showing in the 2010 home opener against Toronto FC, he was limited to just two goals and one assist in his next 25 appearances.
According to Nicol, the key for Nyassi lies in analyzing his opponents and making the correct decisions based on game situations.
“The sooner he works out who he’s playing against and realizes how he’s going to beat him – and then have the end product – Sainey will be a major threat to any defense in this league,” Nicol said.