FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kenny Mansally isn't used to the scenario he faces right now.
The 23-year-old midfielder has never really made a starting position his own since he joined the Revolution in 2007, but he also never really found himself on the periphery until this campaign started.
Periphery, in truth, may not even quantify his status at the moment. He hasn't played a minute of first-team football this season and has featured in the squad on just one occasion. While his teammates go out and ply their trade each weekend, Mansally waits for his turn.
The situation leaves Mansally to dig in during the week to find some way to change the emerging pattern and work his way back into the picture.
“I'm just trying to get myself [ready],” Mansally told MLSsoccer.com. “I'm working week in, week out. I'm just waiting for that time when the coach is going to put me in.”
Plenty of toil remains before Mansally hits that point. A two-goal showing in a reserve match earlier this month didn't even earn him a spot on the bench in the 2-1 home defeat to D.C. United on April 14 with José Moreno and Björn Runström now fit and available.
Increased competition for places represents only one of the factors in Mansally's plight. A preseason trip to link up with Gambia for a friendly against Algeria and the road-heavy schedule to start the season tempered his ability to adjust to the new system installed by Jay Heaps, according to the rookie Revolution boss.
“He's doing an excellent job [in training],” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “Unfortunately, Kenny – when he went away with the national team – missed a bit of our preseason when we were getting everyone up to speed. We were on the road for the first four of five [matches], so he hasn't been with the group as much as everyone else.”
Those logistical issues likely played some part in Mansally's troubles, but the particular demands of the structure itself loom as his most significant challenge. Mansally regularly featured on the left flank and as a forward under former coach Steve Nicol, but the requirements for those positions have changed a bit this season.
Heaps has all but eliminated wingers from the starting equation – Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe have featured most often in those nominal outside positions – in midfield and preferred other choices with different and more technical qualities up front.
“I once played with Jay, so he knows what I can do,” Mansally said. “We've changed the formation, but, still, I [can] get my momentum going. Any position they play me, I'm just going to work hard and push myself. Right now, it's both left midfield and forward. I'm switching all of the time.”
Mansally's efforts aren't going unnoticed by his manager, but they haven't yielded much of a change to the calculus that has left him out in the cold so far this season, either.
“He's still acclimating, he's still learning the players and he's still learning what the players are doing," Heaps said. “To his credit, he shows up workmanlike with his lunch pail, ready to go.”