The Sounders FC is playing better than they have all season as a team. The same can be said for many individuals as well.
Among those is midfielder Sanna Nyassi.
The speedy right wing has started three of Seattle’s last five matches and has notched three assists in that stretch, all of which came on game-winning goals. As his role has increased, so has his confidence.
“I’m getting into a lot of games, so I’m bursting with confidence. I’m working hard at training to make sure I work on my weaknesses. I’m getting better and better every day,” Nyassi said. “It helps when you keep playing games. You know where to run, when to go and when not to go because you get used to guys when you keep playing with them. That’s helping me out a lot.”
However, that’s not all that has changed for Nyassi.
He’s never had problems racing past his marker up the right side. It’s what he does once he’s beaten his man that has kept Nyassi from seeing significant time earlier in his MLS career.
Now, he is targeting players on his crosses, instead of simply blasting the ball across the box and hoping for the best.
“I’m finding guys a lot better. Last year I was crossing to spots. Now, Sigi has told me to take a look before I hit the ball so I can pick out guys,” Nyassi said.
It’s been a work in progress for Nyassi, as Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid has been working with the 21-year-old Gambian midfielder.
“We’ve always said, Sanna has all the physical abilities it’s just a matter of him improving his decision making. That can still get better, but it’s definitely gotten a lot better,” Schmid said. “His decisions as to laying off the ball, his completing of passes is better. His finding people on crosses is better. He’s really improved his decision making and that’s why he’s getting more time on the field.”
The result has been a deadly combination of speed and passing that has led to goals by Roger Levesque, Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero and loads of chances for anyone else who can find space in the box. Montero, in particular, has found himself on the receiving end of Nyassi’s crosses.
“It all starts at training. During training we make sure that we talk all the time,” Nyassi said. “He always tells me where he wants the ball, so I try to find him whenever I get the ball out wide. I look up and make sure that I find him.”
This wasn’t, however an overnight success story, but rather a continual work in progress that is now starting to see the fruits of Nyassi’s labors.
“We’ve been talking to him about it a long time and all of a sudden it clicked. What that moment was – I think it was a gradual progression,” Schmid said, noting that it isn’t an ability that Nyassi is likely to soon lose. “When you get to that moment, it’s pretty permanent.”
Nyassi will also make another change to his normal routine this season. In past years, he fasted for Ramadan. The Muslim holiday is underway and runs for one month, until September 10, and is the Islamic month of fasting. As was reported on SeattleTimes.com, this year he and his brother, New England Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi, have spoken with religious leaders who have excused them and other professional athletes from the fasting practice because it has such a detrimental impact on their professions.
Nyassi was rarely used in the final months of the 2009 season because his physical stature had dwindled so much because of his fasting.