It’s been a frustrating four months for Sainey Nyassi. The speedy midfielder has been sidelined since February 10th with a severely strained right hamstring, missing out while the New England Revolution has already played 14 games this season.
But, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally nearing. On June 10, Nyassi played 34 minutes for the Revs Reserves against the Columbus Crew in a 1-0 loss – his first action since playing for the Revs in a February 10th preseason match against Boston College.
Then, on Sunday, June 17, Nyassi came off the bench in the 60th minute to score the game winner in the Revs Reserves 1-0 victory over the Crew.
“It feels great,” said Nyassi of his return to playing and scoring. “After being out for almost four months, it has been a frustrating year. Getting back and starting to run out is a good thing for me.
“I’m happy that I’m back. I’ve been thinking about it a lot – being out for a long time. Hamstring [injuries] sometimes come back – you think it’s gone and you start feeling it. But [Sunday] it was good, so I felt great.”
Just two minutes after entering the match Sunday, Nyassi snuck behind the defense to tap-in the rebound after a John Lozano header was saved. Undoubtedly that goal could serve as an important confidence builder as Nyassi looks to return to pre-injury form.
“I told him, I said ‘gosh, it’s so refreshing to see you out and playing again,’” said Revs assistant coach Jay Miller. “I know how difficult that is for a player to sit and watch as long as he has. I would just see nothing but improvement for him.”
And Nyassi does still have a ways to go to return to full form and fitness. Getting 90 minutes fit won’t happen overnight.
“I’m not far,” said Nyassi. “I’m almost there. I’ve been doing some fitness running with my trainers and things like that. Right now the plan is to be playing one half every game, so hopefully by the end of the month I’ll be ok to play – in a couple of weeks hopefully to even a month, but hopefully 2-3 weeks I’ll be fine.
“But I feel pretty good going 45 minutes. I feel like I can go more than that, but they have to pull me out. That’s the plan. 45, 40, 30 sometimes.”
While Nyassi has made plenty of progress and continues to press forward in his recovery, first team playing time isn’t guaranteed, even when Nyassi is 100%. With the deepest midfield in recent years in New England, Nyassi will have to be at his best just to earn a spot in the match day 18.
“I think we have a pretty good team this year, so you have to battle it out to get back in the starting eleven,” said Nyassi. “I’ll have to work hard to get back in there… We have a lot of midfield players that are playing pretty good this year, scoring goals and I’ve been out for a while, so I’ll take it easy and keep working hard to get back in.”
But what Nyassi can bring is something that – despite all the talent the Revs have in midfield – no one else can match: speed. Nyassi’s unparalleled pace can add a different element to the Revs attack that could prove a game changer. Unfortunately, that blazing pace has yet to fully re-emerge as Nyassi continues to recover.
“We don’t have that burst of speed from him yet,” said Miller. “He’s still a little nervous – he had a very bad hamstring tear. But, again, that’s a dimension that could really add a lot to our team as well – that burst of speed – especially wide.”
Once that speed is back, look for Nyassi to add yet another threat – and create another difficult decision for head coach Jay Heaps to make – to an already impressive and crowded midfield.