FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Revolution’s Sainey Nyassi is entering an important phase of his professional career. His 82 appearances for the Revolution since arriving at the tail end of the 2007 season means he no longer qualifies as a neophyte, despite just recently turning 22.
He now appears to be in the inner-circle of the Gambian senior team and with African Nations Cup qualifying in full bloom, Nyassi will have the added burden of flying to Africa for matches. Revs teammate Kenny Mansally, also of Gambia, faces the same challenges. Both players came to the Revolution as youth internationals scouted at the FIFA Under-20 tournament in Canada in 2007.
Nyassi has been the undisputed starter on the team’s right flank, looking to add to his total of seven career goals. But the player’s worth will be measured more by the danger he creates, combining his pace and trickery with quality crosses and passes into the box.
“I think I have a lot of pressure right now on my shoulders for a young guy playing a lot of games,’’ he said. “I think all I have to do is get better and better every year and I will be able to help the team in different ways. I think I just need to put things together and be strong. Get focused. That’s all.’’
Nyassi said he is fully aware of what coach Steve Nicol wants from him, and that’s to be more cunning and economical and less wasteful and self-indulgent.
“There are certain things that no one needs to tell you,’’ Nyassi said. “The coaches can tell you. But you just need to be smart, know how to maneuver in certain situations. Sometimes they’ll bring three guys to you and you just have to use your own brain, pass it around.
"I have my speed. I can use it. Play behind the defenders and get by them. Sometimes I can make clever plays and passes around. That’s all I need to do. In one-on-one situations I have to take the man on. That’s what I rely on, pace and ball work.’’
While Nyassi's speed and dribbling abilities are in abundance, Nicol said those attributes need to be wed to greater maturity.
“Everything comes down to decisions on the field and on the ball,’’ the coach said. “If he makes better decisions, he’s going to give some defenders a tough time. It’s a very big year for him. He’s been around long enough to step up and be more consistent and he’s no different to any other player.
“He’s certainly had the time on the field and he knows exactly what we expect of him,’’ Nicol said. “He has to keep doing it week in and week out, and if he does that we’ll be happy and he’ll be happy and everybody he plays against won’t be.’’
Nyassi said he is nearly at full strength after a bout with the flu. The team feared his illness was a recurrence of malaria he got during a trip to his homeland.
“I’m feeling healthy right now,’’ he said. “A couple of weeks back I got a flu, but I think I’m over it now. I’m really focusing on getting ready for the season.’’
With Gambia tied to England through a colonial past, Nyassi admitted he hopes to play in England some day.
“England would always be on my mind,’’ he said. “But it is always hard to get into that league to get the work permit and the caps you need, and I don’t have those. And, I think, your national team has to be in a certain position in the FIFA rankings to be able to play there. I’m hoping I can get there one day. My caps are increasing and I have a lot of games coming up so that puts you closer.’’
Nicol said he hasn’t had time to contemplate missing Nyassi for international call-ups and is only interested in getting the team ready for the season opener.
“At this time I’m not even thinking about it,’’ Nicol said. “Ryan Kinne (a training camp invitee) has come in and done well. [Zak] Boggs can go out wide. So we do have competition for that position. At the moment all we are thinking about is the first game of the season and nothing else.’’
Nicol is hoping the accumulation of games played against top African teams will help Nyassi’s development.
“You always talk about experience,’’ Nicol said. “It’s good experience. But like everybody else, you have to use it. Once you are given it, you have to use it. When you use it properly, it benefits the player and it benefits the team.’’
NOTES: The Revolution leave Thursday for the second journey of their preseason when they travel to Kennesaw, Ga., for 11 days. The camp’s intensity is expected to be ramped up as they will face league opposition in the Columbus Crew (twice) and Houston Dynamo. The team returned from Orlando late last week.