COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Sanna Nyassi-Omar Cummings strike partnership that has proved formidable for the Colorado Rapids in recent weeks could be under threat for Saturday's trip to the San Jose Earthquakes.
After combining for five goals since Conor Casey's season-ending Achilles injury on July 16, both players' participation in the San Jose match is in doubt because of long around-the-world trips with their respective national teams this coming week.
Nyassi, who has scored four goals since his breakout game against the New York Red Bulls on July 20 and who provided the assist for Cummings to clinch the game against Columbus on Saturday, is due to play for his native Gambia against the Democratic Republic of Congo in an international friendly on Wednesday.
That means not only a long flight out to West Africa but also a complicated return via Belgium and Chicago to Denver before then heading out West to San Jose. Rapids head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com that the club is trying to get Nyassi to fly directly from Chicago to San Jose.
Because of the complicated nature of his return flight, the club said Nyassi’s participation in the San Jose game remains in question and a decision will not be made until later this week. Following Saturday's game in San Jose, the Rapids have two home games, beginning with a Champions League game against Isidro Metapán on Aug. 17 and a conference tilt vs. Chivas USA on August 20.
Cummings, who scored his first goal in four months against Columbus, is scheduled to travel to Hefei, China, to represent Jamaica against the host in a friendly. He was approved for a last-minute visa over the weekend and will fly back from China directly to San Jose, where he will meet the Rapids team on Friday.
The speedy duo have combined spectacularly since Casey tore his Achilles tendon against Seattle. Of the 10 goals scored by the Rapids since the Seattle game, seven have involved either Cummings or Nyassi. Cummings has all four assists on Nyassi’s goals.
“At the moment, they look very exciting,” Smith said this weekend about the partnership. “Any defenders playing against them have got be mindful and concerned. It’s great, no doubt about it.”
However, Smith said he may want to change the partnership for the San Jose game, regardless of whether Cummings or Nyassi are ready to go. Caleb Folan, who missed the Columbus game because of a slight groin injury, is expected to be available against San Jose.
“We will run into different challenges next weekend at San Jose,” Smith said. “Tighter pitch, a different type of team to some of the others we have played against recently. It may lend itself to a big, strong center forward and a more get-up-and-at-‘em approach, but we’ll see.”
For now, Nyassi is enjoying his withdrawn forward role tucking in just behind Cummings and wandering all over the field.
“I think Gary gives me that freedom to play like a free role, go wherever I want to, just to mix it up,” the Gambian said. “I was just making sure to keep my fitness as I am going to the national team. I’ll go back and see my family and I hope to be back [for San Jose].”