Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Colorado’s Terry Cooke narrowly beats out Nyassi for Player of the Week

Terry Cooke scored and got credit for two assists, but did his performance really outshine that of 19-year-old Sainey Nyassi? With 23 of 36 selected voters actually exercising their vote before the deadline, Cooke finished 1st with 10 votes, Nyassi 2nd with 8 votes, Columbus’s Adam Moffat and Colorado’s Christian Gomez finished tied for third with two votes apiece, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco rounded out the field with a single vote.

If you’d like to know how everyone voted, check here:

North American Soccer Reporters: How We Voted

To me Nyassi’s performance was more deserving of the award. Yes, Cooke scored a nice goal, but any professional soccer player should be able to find the back of the net with acres of space in the box and a goalkeeper recovering from the previous shot. His first assist was an impressive one, splitting the defense and sending Omar Cummings through on goal. But those watching the Revolution dismantle the Dynamo also saw a very similar and just as impressive pass from Nyassi to set up Kenny Mansally for what could have been his first goal. His shot did get saved, but the rebound fell to Steve Ralston for an easy tap-in to open the scoring. The Revs got the goal, but Nyassi didn’t get credit for the assist.

Then there was Cooke’s second assist. Sure he switched the ball across to field to Colin Clark, but the goal was entirely Clark’s creation. Clark did all the work to beat Abel Xavier, avoid a second Galaxy defender and slot the ball past Galaxy ‘keeper Steve Cronin. This is not to take away from Cooke’s performance; he had a good game and made a solid case to be Player of the Week.

What should have put Nyassi ahead was his two way play. Two way play was also the argument made by a few journalists for the Crew’s Adam Moffat, who may have been my second choice. Nyassi was everywhere all match, giving Chris Albright a pretty easy night in his Revolution debut. The Gambian U-20 International cleared a ball off the line, blocked another shot, and tracked backed to strip the ball away from Dwayne De Rosario on what looked to be a break-away. That’s not to mention the countless interceptions he had that came not just from his superior speed, but his impressive ability to read the game.

One of those, of course, led to his impressive goal deep into stoppage time, in which he intercepted the ball at midfield and charged all the way into the box, with some scissor moves on the way, before hammering a shot past Canadian International ‘keeper Pat Onstad. That goal, which looks likely win goal of the week, can be seen here:

Nyassi’s First Goal - To vote go here.

Not even mentioned is the competition the two were facing. Cooke was going up against the Los Angeles Galaxy, who happened to allow more goals than any other team last season. Nyassi was up against a Houston defense that allowed by far the fewest goals of any team in 2007, less than half of the Galaxy’s total of 48. Houston’s left back and captain, Wade Barrett, played so well last season he recently earned a call-up to the US National Team. This was who Nyassi had to go at when attacking up the right flank. Cooke was up against Michael Gavin, a rookie who wasn’t taken until the Supplemental Draft.

If voting based on stats alone, Cooke wins, but while they are important, it should be about more than that.

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