Blaise Nkufo does not claim to be any sort of soothsayer. He’s not clairvoyant. Nobody’s ever called him Nostradamus.
However, he did know well in advance that Sanna Nyassi would prove to be the difference-maker in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title for the second year in a row.
Flash back to Saturday afternoon. The Sounders FC had just topped Toronto FC 3-2 and Nyassi netted his first MLS goal after 34 career scoreless matches. It was the game-winning goal, to boot. The entire team was visibly thrilled that Nyassi had come through.
Nkufo, as it turns out, had given Nyassi a bit of a peptalk before hand and Nyassi came through in the 59th minute with a left-footed strike.
“During halftime and the last few days we’ve talked and I told him to take the right decision. Finally he had a couple of chances to score and he missed. For him I think the door will be opened for his confidence,” Nkufo said after the match. “Scoring his first goal is great and I’m looking forward to him scoring his next goal on Tuesday.”
Fastforward to Tuesday and what should happen when the Sounders trail 1-0 to the Columbus Crew?
Sanna Nyassi swooped in to the rescue with two great goals – one with each foot, one in each half – to procure the Sounders FC’s second cup in as many seasons.
“He’s been missing for two years. It’s about time,” joked Steve Zakuani, who assisted the game-winning goal. “We’re happy for him. Three goals in two games. It’s fantastic. It’s amazing.”
Any question as to how the team feels about the 21-year-old Gambian midfielder is answered with each goal.
On Saturday, he scores, then leaps into Nkufo’s arms only to be quickly dog-piled by his teammates.
On the equalizer against the Crew on Tuesday he was again swarmed as he ran toward the far sideline, finishing with Osvaldo Alonso leaping over the horde of Sounders FC players in celebration.
When Nyassi scored the game-winner, it was elation on the endline as Nyassi sought the reserves warming up in the south end. Zach Scott got to him first, but the rest of the 18-man squad, save Keller and a couple of defenders, was soon to follow.
Granted, teams celebrate every goal, but there was a certain pride in Nyassi that can be seen in the players’ faces to say that this was no ordinary goal.
“Sanna is such a good young man and a great part of the organization. I couldn’t be happier for him,” owner/GM Adrian Hanauer said. “He deserves the praise that comes with that.”
And with the praise, whether it is from coaches, teammates, fans or media, comes a boost in confidence for Nyassi.
“My confidence keeps growing after scoring two goals tonight,” Nyassi said. “I make sure that I continue working hard at training. Make sure that I do a lot of finishing at training. Whenever the chances come I make sure that I take them.”
The Sounders would undoubtedly like to have Nyassi available for their match on Saturday against the Kansas City Wizards at Community America Ballpark, but Nyassi will be with the Gambian National Team. He left on Wednesday for the flight to Burkina Faso, for an African Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday against the small West African country.
His success in recent matches, just may make that flight a little bit easier.
“It’s a good confidence booster,” Hanauer said. “It should make the long, long trip a little less long.”
Nyassi is slated to return early next week, but he is not the only one who left Seattle on Wednesday.
Goalkeeper Terry Boss played in matches on Saturday and Monday in the Caribbean Cup for the Puerto Rican National Team. He then flew to Seattle Tuesday to be with the Sounders FC as they hoisted the US Open Cup at Qwest Field. On Wednesday, he flew back to Bayamon, Puerto Rico, for the final match of the Qualifying Group Stage One.
“Have a fun flight,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller laughed. “I had to do it one time. I won a Cup in England and had to fly out the next day for a qualifying game. Terry played a couple of great games in this competition to help us get to this point, so I’m sure he’ll celebrate.”
It was anticipated that he would be the starting goalkeeper for Puerto Rico in Wednesday’s match against the Cayman Islands, then return to the Sounders before their match with the Wizards.