Sanna Nyassi provides attacking spark on a day when team needed a boost

MONTREAL – The 18,932 fans at Stade Saputo for the Montreal Impact-Chivas USA 1-1 draw on Sunday had to be thankful Sanna Nyassi was on the field, especially in the first half.

The opening 45 minutes left much to be desired; both teams were mostly lackadaisical in possession, the urgency in their play sapped, perhaps, by the humidity which reached 86 percent at the start of the game.

For Nyassi, though, it was business as usual: pace, tricks and drive. He was the one drawing the oohs and aahs from the crowd.

“Because I’m African, I’m used to this kind of weather, so it’s normal for me,” he said after the game. “Whenever we play in temperatures like this, it’s okay for me.”

And it was more than an “okay” night’s work for the Gambian midfielder. Nyassi was his side’s spark plug, releasing Marco Di Vaio into space as early as the fifth minute.

Unfazed by Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy denying the Italian, Nyassi kept doing his bit, most notably in the 28th minute when he twice fooled Marco Delgado, first with a swift stepover-and-turn combination, then with a sudden swerve, before his cross nearly created Di Vaio’s 12th goal of the season.

Fatigue didn’t seem to set in for Nyassi, who kept pushing forward in the second half. It thus felt completely natural that the 24-year-old would be the one fouled on the penalty called against Chivas USA with 10 minutes left in the match.

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“Sanna was very important tonight,” defender Hassoun Camara said in the locker room. “I think he was the man of the match. He brought us a lot, drove forward and offered many options in attack, which greatly helped us find space. We were missing that, these past few games.”

Nyassi was, indeed, voted the man of the match by the Impact fans. Not that it fully satisfies him, though.

“Before the game, we talked about how we needed to end the winless streak tonight, but it was unfortunate that we didn’t get the three points,” Nyassi said. “I think that for me, despite the result, we deserved three points tonight.”