PORTLAND, Ore. – The inevitable posturing between Portland defender Futty Danso and New England midfielder Kenny Mansally started during the middle of the week.
Danso and Mansally comprise two-fifths of the usual contingent of Gambian internationals based in MLS. As one might expect, a friendly rivalry usually takes hold as a match between any of the five players – a group that also includes injured Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi, Colorado midfielder Sanna Nyassi and Vancouver striker Mustapha Jarju – approaches.
“We've been talking about it before the game,” Mansally told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “He came to the hotel and we had dinner on Wednesday night. We were pushing each other, talking about how we were going to win.”
While the collective requirements for two teams hoping to make a playoff run take precedence, the personal stakes aren't exactly insignificant. Bragging rights assume additional importance when the group of players meets up to travel back to Gambia for international duty at different points during the year.
“We know the outcome,” Danso said. “If you lose this game, we know what it's going to when we're both on the flight to Gambia. It's like a 27-hour flight. If you're losing games, you don't want to be sitting next to someone who is in your ears for the next 27 hours.”
Mansally will have to hope that he does not draw the seat next to Danso on the next trip back to Gambia after the Timbers’ 3-0 victory on Friday night. The two players only spent 19 minutes on the field together after Mansally entered as a 71st-minute substitute, but that mitigating fact probably won't do much to spare him from the inevitable needling he will take the next time the two men meet.
Although the result didn't fall Mansally's way this time, he understands that the ability to face a fellow Gambian in MLS action represents a opportunity worth cherishing regardless of the final outcome.
“Playing [against] your countrymen, you feel great,” Mansally said. “You want to compete. Even in Gambia, I saw the websites and they were talking about this game. Unfortunately, we were unlucky.”