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Nyassi, Cummings offer surprising new pairing for Colorado

Sanna Nyassi

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Sanna Nyassi was rightly the center of attention for his outstanding hat trick performance against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night, but it was more his partnership with Omar Cummings up top that caused the visitors headaches all night.

Gary Smith surprised most observers with his choice to play the two speedsters together to challenge what isn’t seen as the quickest center-back pairing of Carlos Mendes and Tim Ream. It had been expected that Caleb Folan would move in alongside Cummings to take the place of the injured Conor Casey.

The speedy combination sent Dick’s Sporting Goods Park into a frenzy, as Cummings provided all three assists for Nyassi’s goals on Wednesday. Thierry Henry, who scored a consolation goal for the Red Bulls, agreed that the two forwards overwhelmed the visitors who gave them far too much space. Henry could potentially partner with Cummings next week in the MLS All-Star game against Manchester United.

“That was the problem for us tonight, the connection they had,” Henry said. “Obviously, Nyassi will grab the headlines, and rightly so, but without the movement of Cummings, it would have been much more difficult for him. I wish I had that time on the ball, to turn and run at people.”

Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, who will coach Cummings in next week’s All-Star game, said the two strikers took full advantage of his own team’s defensive shortcomings.

“If you leave that much space for guys like Cummings and Nyassi, then you will be in trouble, definitely,” Backe said. “When you give up that much space for those kinds of players with that pace they have, and they can turn in between our midfield and back four, then they are deadly with the pace they have.”

Cummings, who has scored only twice this season, said he was very happy to get the assists even if he regretted not scoring one himself.

“Four goals scored and not getting one is a bit strange,” said Cummings, “[but] I am very happy for Sanna, very happy for the team and I’m OK with me.”

It will be interesting to see what combination Smith puts out for the New England game over the weekend. Cummings was substituted off early with a big week ahead of him, and Nyassi hopes to have a similar impact against the Revolution. The fact that Nyassi will be playing against his twin brother, Sainey, should add extra motivation for him.

The Rapids will continue to try and find a replacement for Casey, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles suffered last week in Seattle, and will be a constant moving piece for the rest of the 2011 campaign. Last night it was Nyassi who stole the show.

“It was tremendous,” Folan told MLSsoccer.com. “That was one of the best hat tricks I’ve seen in a long time. It was pretty unbelievable to be honest, but we see glimpses of that every day [in practice]. He really thoroughly deserves it and it was great to watch.”