COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (Monday, July 25, 2011) – Colorado Rapids attacking midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who started both games last week as a withdrawn forward in place of the injured Conor Casey, was voted Major League Soccer Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) for Week 19 of the 2011 MLS season. Nyassi scored his first career hat trick in the 4-1 midweek rout of the New York Red Bulls and followed that performance by drawing a penalty kick in the 2-2 tie with the New England Revolution on Saturday.
Nyassi earns his first-ever MLS Player of the Week honor and becomes the first Rapids player recognized as such since Omar Cummings was selected as the League's best for Week 23 of the 2010 season.
On Wednesday, July 20, Nyassi opened the scoring in just the second minute of play by working a give-and-go with Cummings before streaking through the Red Bulls defense and slotting a shot into the right side netting just out of reach of New York goalkeeper Frank Rost to quickly give the Rapids the lead.
"We did it yesterday in practice," Nyassi said after the game of his combination with Cummings. "Before the game me and Omar talked about it that when I get the ball to make sure he would be there for the 1-2. Omar made a great run and took two defenders away with him which gave me the chance to have a 1-v-1 with the other defender so I was like, 'I'm going to take him on,' and it worked."
Later in the first half, Nyassi hammered a 40-yard shot off the post, and the rebound was finished by midfielder Wells Thompson. The 22-year-old from The Gambia then juked three defenders to finish his second goal in the 31st minute before completing his hat trick in the second half, nutmegging Carlos Mendes and sliding the ball under Rost to complete his first three-goal game.
"Everybody gave me confidence," Nyassi said. "My teammates, the coaching staff - they believed in me and what I could do...I know that whenever I’m given that chance I can bring something to the team and help them win."
After the game, Nyassi said he dedicated the win to Casey, who learned last week that he'll be out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Nyassi's three-goal performance was the Rapids' first since Casey' scored a hat trick on August 8, 2009 versus Chivas USA.
With Colorado trailing New England 1-0 in the 63rd minute of play Saturday, Nyassi got behind the Revolution defense but was taken down from behind before he could shoot, drawing the penalty kick which Caleb Folan converted to equalize.
The MLS Player of the Week award is selected each week of the regular season by a panel of journalists from NASR. The group consists of members of print, television, radio and online media. More information and membership information can be found at www.soccerreporters.com.
2011 MLS Player of the Week Winners