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Pair is in flux for Revolution

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / June 26, 2011

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Few soccer teams have made as sudden an impact on the international scene as Gambia. In 2005, the Gambians upset Brazil, 3-1, in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Peru, and two years later reached the quarterfinals of the U-20 tournament in Canada. Quite a debut for a country of 1.7 million that had never previously qualified for even a continental event.

Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi were key figures in Gambia’s rise, part of a first wave of players to embark on professional careers. Four years ago, Mansally and Nyassi skipped the flight home to join the Revolution, becoming part of a perennial MLS Cup-contending team.

They displayed great promise with their initial appearances but as the Revolution have descended in the standings, Mansally and Nyassi have been relegated to lesser roles.

Now, though, coach Steve Nicol appears to have regained confidence in both players as the Revolution head into a difficult five-week stretch. A visit to Seattle today is the first of five away games, sandwiched around home matches against Manchester United (July 13) and Philadelphia (July 20).

“They definitely add something to the team,’’ Nicol said. “This is an important year for both of them to put everything together and become fixtures in the team. It’s about consistency and, probably, that’s the one thing they need to do better.’’

Mansally has brought another dimension to the Revolution forward line since pairing with Rajko Lekic in the second half of a game against the New York Red Bulls June 10.

Nyassi, among the most dynamic right wingers in MLS, returned to a starting role against Chicago last week.

But neither has been able to snap the Revolution’s scoring slump. When Mansally is on his game, teammates seem to be off theirs. Last week, when Nyassi was destroying the Chicago defense, Mansally was unable to finish.

“He needs to get something on the end of it, that’s the extra step he needs to take,’’ Nicol said of Mansally.

Asked about being patient with Mansally and Nyassi, Nicol said, “Every player’s problem is different. Some adapt quicker than others, but you have to be patient with everybody. Part of the job is having patience, working with people, and encouraging them and pushing them in the right direction.’’

Both Mansally and Nyassi are 22, at once younger and more experienced professionally than most of their teammates.

Mansally appeared headed for great things as a teenager, scoring Gambia’s first goal against Brazil in Piura in 2005 and knocking out Portugal with a free kick past current Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio in Montreal in ’07.

“When I hit that goal, that made it possible for me to come to the team here, and that was great for me,’’ Mansally said. “I am just going to be working hard and a lot of things can come out of that.

“You never know. When the season started, I was on the bench, but now I’m in the lineup and creating chances, so I’ve just got to finish it and I’m just going to work on that.’’

Nyassi has tried to make the most of his substitute’s role this season.

“You have to work hard whenever you are on the field and that’s what I’ve been doing,’’ Nyassi said.

“Sometimes when you are on the bench you can hear the coach yelling at players to do this and do that, so I’ve been listening and watching, and that helped me read the game and start to play better.

“I am concentrating on that, putting more good balls in the box, playing as a team, defending, using my weapons, speed and footwork.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at

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