KENNESAW, Ga. – Now entering his fourth full season with the New England Revolution, Sainey Nyassi knows more is expected of him in 2011.
Nyassi has shown loads of potential since joining the Revolution as a wide-eyed teenager late in the 2007 season, occasionally proving nightmarish to shell-shocked left backs unable to cope with his blistering pace. But the performances have been sporadic and the Gambia National Team winger has often shown his youth in game-changing situations.
No longer a young prospect, it’s now time for the 22-year-old Nyassi to turn his tremendous potential into a more dependable reality.
“It’s a big year for him,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “He’s been around us long enough to step up and be more consistent.”
Asked what specifically Nyassi needs to do in order to continue progressing, Nicol noted the mental aspect of the game.
“It really comes down to decisions on the field, on the ball,” he said. “If he makes better decisions then he’s going to give some defenders a tough time.”
To his credit, Nyassi welcomes the increased expectations and understands which aspects of his game need improvement as he aims to harness his potential.
“I need to be consistent and play with my teammates,” Nyassi said, echoing the sentiments of his coach almost word-for-word. “I need to be [wiser] and smarter on the field, because I’ve been around long enough to be able to give the coaches what they need from me.”
Of course, it’s one thing to take the coaching staff’s words into consideration, while it’s quite another to put those words into action. But if Nyassi’s current preseason form is any indication, he may well be on his way to a breakout year in 2011.
With goals in each of the Revolution’s last two exhibition games, Nyassi is the club’s leading scorer this preseason. Perhaps most promising is the fact that both goals have come against MLS opponents in FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew.
“I felt great scoring two goals in two games,” said Nyassi. “I need to stay [at that level] and keep improving.”
Should Nyassi’s performance level take a dip, newcomers Michael Augustine and Ryan Kinne are waiting in the wings for their opportunity to take over the right midfield role. Kinne in particular has made a strong case, scoring the game-winning goal in a preseason match against the University of Central Florida and consistently impressing in training.
Both Nicol and Nyassi believe the competition provided by Augustine and Kinne can only be positive.
“Ryan’s lighting a fire under him,” said Nicol, referencing Nyassi’s rebound performance against Dallas after Kinne shone against UCF. “Kinne’s gotten some time on the field and he’s taken it. It’s a good fight (for the right midfield role).”
“That will help me a lot if I have competition and see all the guys out there who are playing the same position as me,” Nyassi said. “Hopefully that will bring a lot of competition and I’ll work harder and harder to keep that starting spot.”
Should Nyassi perform up to his capabilities on a consistent basis, both he and the Revs could prosper.
“He knows exactly what we expect of him and he has to keep doing it week in and week out,” said Nicol. “If he does that, then we’ll be happy, he’ll be happy and everybody he plays against won’t be (happy).”