Evidence suggests that at one time or another, and likely on several different occasions, Jay Heaps has had plans to use Sainey Nyassi as a striker.
It all started in pre-season camp last year when the Revs made their first trip to Arizona. New England played a staggered match against their hosts, FC Tucson, which was separated into 2 "halves" of 35 minutes each and then another 45-minute half. During those first 35 minutes, Nyassi partnered with Mike Roach up top on a 4-4-2. He scored the first of New England's 2 goals in that game (in the 37th minute when he was actually shifted out wide). After the match, Jay Heaps had this to say about Nyassi (forward to about 1:00):
Postgame: Revs 2, FC Tucson 1 (via NERevolutionsoccer)
This is our first piece of evidence that Jay Heaps was interested in utilizing Nyassi as a striker. Heaps speaks to his speed (obviously) and his ability to get behind defenses. Nyassi himself talks about playing the first 35 minutes as a forward and, for the most part, seems to be open to the idea.
Then of course Nyassi's 2012 season hit a brick wall before it even really started when he sustained an unfortuante right hamstring injury that kept him sidelined for about four months.
But the Gambian rehabbed it, with the help of Revolution strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing, and eventually was able to see some time in the Revs' Reserve league matches. And, in fact, he was a pretty key factor in several of those games.
On June 17th, 2012, Nyassi played his first minutes since his injury in the Revolution's Reserve League match against the Columbus Crew. He played only the second half, and was employed in the midfield (as opposed to up top), but he ended up scoring the game-winning goal in New England's 1-0 victory that night.
Nyassi saw his next minutes again in Reserve League play against Toronto FC where he assisted the Revs' only goal of the match. He was once again used in the midfield.
On July 8th, however, Nyassi returned to the forward position for the first time since that fateful FC Tucson pre-season match in a Reserve League game against the New York Red Bulls. The Revs drew 1-1 that night, thanks to a goal by none other than the rehabbing Nyassi. Here we see Heaps' experiment at play (literally) once again.
So, you may be asking, "what does it all mean, Corey?" Well, not much, unfortunately. But I believe there is enough evidence last season to indicate that Heaps was interested in using Nyassi as a forward, or at the very least evidence that Nyassi can be a contributor to the New England attack. As Abram suggested earlier in the week, perhaps Sainey Nyassi could be the savior of our currently dismal offense. Maybe he is just what we need to get back to scoring goals and generating an attack. Maybe, just maybe, Nyassi could help the Revs stretch defenses as a forward, or even a winger, and help his teammates get into better goal-scoring positions.
Maybe Jay Heaps just needs to #FreeNyassi. (Or maybe we're just crazy.)