Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gambians Come Through for Revs

Nineteen-year-old Gambians Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally each scored in the first half to lead the Revolution to a 3-1 victory on the road in Kansas City on Wednesday night.

The Wizards’ Jack Jewsbury recorded an early own goal and then scored the equalizer on a penalty kick before the Gambians put the Revs back in the lead for good.

New England took the lead in the 12th minute when Tyson Wahl’s attempt to clear a Mauricio Castro free kick was sent back across the box. The ball deflected off Jewsbury and went into the net past KC goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for an own goal and a 1-0 Revs’ lead.

But for the second consecutive game the Revs had a penalty kick called against them when Nyassi tackled Kurt Morsink late at the top of the box in the 27th minute. Referee Terry Vaughn immediately pointed to the spot and Jewsbury took the kick and buried it past Matt Reis to tie the match at 1-1....

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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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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Monday, March 31, 2008

From the Stands: Offseason and First Kick 2008

The 2008 Revolution season has begun after First Kick 2008 commenced on a brisk Saturday in New England. Following an off season of speculation, loss and eventual retooling, this years Revolution squad looks much different than last years Open Cup winning squad. This season seems to mark a turn to youth and planning for the future, while still keeping an eye on all the major competitions the Revs will be involved in this season. Following last season pickups of U-20 World Cup participants Sainey Nyassi and Abdoulie "Kenny" Mansally the Revs once again turned to the U-20 tournament for another pickup in the form of Costa Rican U-20 forward Argenis Fernandez after a reported $200,000 transfer fee1 was paid to Santos. With the addition of Kheli Dube through the Supplemental Draft (1st Round, 8th overall) and Rob Valentino via the MLS SuperDraft (1st Round, 13th Overall) the youth tone has been set for this year.

The Revs seem to have understood though that while facing competition in this years CONCACAF Champion's League and the SuperLiga, a youthful team might not be ready to fully compete in 3 major tournaments along with the MLS Season. Thus, US international defender Chris Albright was brought in from Los Angeles and Chase Hilgenbrinck from Chile to replace the departing Avery John (unsigned) and James Riley (San Jose via Expansion Draft). Honduran international Mauricio Castro was brought in to add depth to midfield that lost the versatile Andy Dorman (St. Mirren of the SPL). Upfront, the afore mentioned Fernandez and Dube were brought in to help add depth to the strike force that will be without US national teamer Pat Noonan (Aalesunds in Norway) who moved on after his option was not picked up by the Revs.

This weekend we had a chance to have a first look at many of the new acquisitions as the Revs faced off against Houston in a rematch of last years MLS Cup final. Again it was the Revolution who scored first but this time the tables were turned as they managed to add another goal shortly after to open up a 2-goal margin, something they could not do in the cup final. Sparking the attack in the first half was youth contingent. On the first goal, Sainey Nyassi played a perfectly weighted through ball to countryman Kenny Mansally. Mansally had his initial well placed opposite corner shot pushed away by Houston keeper Pat Onstad, however, the ball fell right onto the boot of a well positioned Steve Ralston who calmly deposited the rebound into the net for the early 1-0 lead. Newcomer Castro then drew a free kick in a dangerous position about the 31st minute which allowed the Revs to take a 2-0 lead. A quick restart was played to long shot specialist Jeff Larentowicz who rifled a shot towards Onstad. The Canadian International 'keeper again only managed to push the ball back into play and again into the waiting path of a Revolution attack, this time Adam Cristman. Cristman was able to deposit a jumping header into the back of the net over the keeper. The last goal was just what Nyassi deserved after he ran the Dynamo ragged all game. He was ever present on both the attack and defense and his 3rd goal was a great display of both. After reading a pass out of the Houston defense, Nyassi jumped into the path of the ball and without pause took off on a 50 yard dash towards the Houston penalty box. With a bit of trickery he was able to freeze the defense and had Onstad on his back foot. With the composure not many Revs would have, he was able to deftly place the ball in the top corner to seal the game as Houston was pouring players forward trying to get back into the match.

This match was not without things to question, Castro with his slick ball skills might be a very good player, but it is debatable whether he is best served on the left wing. His style seems to be much more suited for the middle of the pitch, but with him only training with the squad for a short while drawing fouls all game was a good first impression. The refereeing left something to be desired by both squads, with many players openly appealing for handballs, fouls and cards. At one point, one Revolution player was screaming at Michael Kennedy from almost 40 yards away after he was just fed up with being shoved around with no call in sight. But despite all this the Revs played a very fine match on that chilly New England evening. This should give the squad a bright outlook for both this season and the future as many of the stars of today's game were in just their first few seasons with the Revs.

Match ratings:

GK: Matt Reis (8) - He didn't have as much to face as Onstad, but his save in the 58th minute on a well placed header kept the momentum on the Revs side.

DFL: Jay Heaps (7) - Switching to the left flank Heaps didn't seemed phased much, made a few dashes forward and played solid defensively.

DFC: Michael Parkhurst (8) - Very solid match from the recent US Squad call-up showing why he has a chance to be on the plane to SA in 2 summers.

DFR: Chris Albright (8) - Made a seemless transition to the 3-man back line and was immense in the air. His attacking skills were evident as he kept linking well with Nyassi.

DMC: Jeff Larentowicz (7) - A much improved game from the tough midfielder, avoided a yellow which always good for him and managed a great shot off the free kick.

DMC: Shalrie Joseph (7) - Moved around a bit after Ralston went out through injury, but still played very good defensively, but did give the ball away a few times.

MFL: Mauricio Castro (6) - Showed great ball skills, but his timing was off on when to cross. Was willing to get back and defend and was great at holding possession.

MFR: Sainey Nyassi (9 MotM) - Speed kills and tonight it slayed the Dynamo. His offensive contributions were great, but his ability to cover the entire right side was immense.

AMC: Steve Ralston (8) - Prior to the injury, he was having a very good match, switching to the wings at times and knowing when to make a well timed run into the box.

FW: Kenny Mansally (7) - Showed some very good flashes, using speed and chemistry with Nyassi to make runs. Shot the ball accurately and solidly, but needs to hold the ball up a bit better.

FW: Adam Cristman (7) - Scored well off the free kick rebound, but other than that was just not that involved in the attack after replacing the injured Taylor Twellman.

Sub: Gary Flood (6) - Defended very well in the middle of the field, and made a few nice passes, seemed much improved over last season.

Sub: Kheli Dube (N/A) - Not much time, but was making it tough for Houston to build from the back and made himself available to draw defenders away on Nyassi's magical run.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Revenge for Revs in Opener

FOXBORO, Mass. – The stage wasn’t the same, but the New England Revolution managed to extract some revenge against Houston in the season opener Saturday, defeating Dynamo, 3-0, in a rematch of the past two MLS Cups.

Goals from Adam Cristman, Steve Ralston, and the 19-year-old Sainey Nyassi gave the Revs a deserved win for a dominating performance, despite wholesale lineup changes due to offseason departures, injuries and international absences.

"It was a great win," said Revs’ coach Steve Nicol. "We were definitely the better team in the first half. I think the second half you saw the difference in fitness. They have obviously been playing in the [CONCACAF] Champions Cup and playing those games that mean something. I think the second half showed we still have a wee bit to go as far as playing a competitive 90 minutes are concerned. But saying that, I think again you saw the attitude and the commitment of the players. The goal at the end was just the icing on the cake, it was a fantastic goal. It was a great result with a great performance."

Nyassi, the man of the match according to Nicol, sealed the victory deep into stoppage time with a spectacular 50-yard run from midfield before blasting a shot into the back of the net. The Gambian youth international was all over the field making important defensive stops and creating dangerous chances up front for the team all night. The match marked Nyassi's first start for the Revolution and he became the youngest player ever to start on opening day for the Revs......

Read the rest at Soccer New England

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