Sainey Nyassi's MLS experience an asset in new role with D.C. United

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Sports,D.C. United,Craig Stouffer

Midfielder familiar with MLS style of play

Sainey Nyassi has the one thing that the other half-dozen free agent trialists that have been in and out of D.C. United trainings over the last couple of weeks did not: MLS experience.

It was clear from the moment the Gambian midfielder stepped on the practice field just outside of RFK Stadium, it was enough to convince struggling United (1-9-2, 5 points) to add him to the roster to provide some crucial midfield depth. He fills the roster spot recently vacated by retiring Robbie Russell.

"I'm coming in with fresh legs, humble and ready to play," Nyassi said. "I definitely can contribute. I will see what I can do to help the team. Right now, it's being tough in the locker room and being tough around. Having me is a plus for them. I think I will definitely pay them back for having the trust in me."

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United at Fire
When » Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where » Toyota Park,
Bridgeview, Ill.
TV » CSN

Still just 24 years old, Nyassi has been in MLS since the end of 2007, when he signed with the New England Revolution. Over the next four seasons, Nyassi piled up 102 appearances (75 starts), scoring eight times and adding four assists.

But last season, a hamstring injury was poorly timed with a regime change -- Jay Heaps replaced Steve Nicol as Revolution head coach -- and Nyassi made it on the field only once. After he was waved earlier this month, Nyassi did as he does most days more than once: called his twin brother, Montreal Impact midfielder Sanna Nyassi.

"The first thing he told me was to try to get on a team here before going to Europe because it's almost halfway through the season," Nyassi said. "If I get on a team here, finish the season and then see what's coming."

If the Nyassi brothers had it their way, they'd been on the same squad -- they occupy the wings for their national team -- but that hasn't been the case since Sanna followed Sainey into MLS in 2009. Instead, they'll talk by phone some days for two or three hours.

"When I was in Boston, sometimes I would drive up to Montreal," Nyassi said. "It's only five hours away. If I had days off, I would drive up there to go see him."

Making his United debut in the U.S. Open Cup against Richmond on Tuesday, Nyassi showed his speed on and off the ball and a willingness to bring life to D.C.'s tepid offense. His next step will be to develop chemistry with his new teammates. There will also be competition for minutes in midfield, where Kyle Porter has established himself, Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon are fully healthy and John Thorrington is nearly ready to dress for the first time since March.

"He brings a lot of flair," United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said. "He's very smart and decisive with the ball. He gets his shots off really quick, and he's a good finisher as well. He's young, and he has a lot of MLS experience which is very important It's not like different leagues around the world. He brings MLS experience to our team, and that's needed right now."

Note » MLS announced that its All-Stars will face Italian giants AS Roma in the MLS All-Star Game on July 31 at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner