- Monday, 02 April 2012
- Written by Modou Lamin Beyai
Former Gambia U-20 international Sainey Touray was in his third season in North American soccer in 2011, but in reality it may as well have been his first.
If the 22-year-old Gambian continues to find the same level of success he did with the Harrisburg City Islanders a year ago, though, then even bigger things could be on the horizon for the club and the player alike.
Ballack as he is fondly called first came to the U.S. in 2008, earning a spot with the New York Red Bulls. But after a making six reserve team appearances, scoring twice, he became surplus to requirements.
The next chance came with North American Soccer League [NASL] side Carolina RailHawks, for whom he had an impressive preseason in 2010, but then hamstring injuries hampered him, with the only appearance he made that summer coming for the City Islanders in a short loan spell.
The impression he left from that stint stuck with Harrisburg coach Bill Becher, though, so when the opportunity came to pick up Touray before the start of last season, the City Islanders jumped at the chance.
“He’s pretty relentless,” Becher said. “He’s constantly working, moving, offensively, defensively and I think when you put those things together – work-rate, speed and toughness – you have a pretty good player. And he wants to score, I mean, a lot of people say they want to score, he shows it.”
Sainey Touray certainly showed an ability to score. But it was his ability to create as well that helped the City Islanders grab second in the National Division, finishing the season with seven goals and six assists. While for much of the first half of the season he came off the bench, once a change moved Andrew Welker into midfield from defense, the two clicked and the goals started pouring in for the City Islanders.
“When Andrew … got a chance in the midfield, that’s when both of them took off,” Becher said. “Andrew went on a four- or five-game scoring stream, Sainey started scoring goals, those two seemed to work very well together.”
The confidence Sainey Touray showed then should continue into this season. After the City Islanders season ended, he spent time training with the club’s MLS partner the Philadelphia Union, and while he wasn’t able to earn a place on the roster, Ballack was able to bolster his own belief in his ability.
“Being around so many good players, you get to feel like they’re great players, but you’re good too,” he said. “You can be working with people out there who you think are the best, but when you get to kick the ball around with them you know you’re good too. I learned that they are great and good players, but we’re good too, and we have an opportunity to be out there.”
Now the question is whether Sainey Ballack Touray can sustain his performance this season. With strike partner Jose Angulo gone to the Red Bulls, and Welker currently in New York as well as a trialist, he will likely be the center of attention for opposing defenses. But with his combination of speed and technical ability, Becher is confident Touray will be able to rise to the occasion and continue his progression as a striker.
“I think last year he [Touray] might have been a guy that snuck up on people a bit, they didn’t know as much about him,” Becher said. “Now he’s been in the league a year people know who he is and are going to have an eye on him. But he’s a guy that will rise to that challenge. He’s got the ability to still score goals regardless of what teams are trying to do against him.”
And if that proves true, then the Gambian’s goals could help the City Islanders go one step further than they did a season ago.
“After last year, winning the championship would mean a lot, but this year everybody is having that confidence that we can get there,” Touray said.
“We’re working toward the playoffs and we’ll see what happens, if we can get to the final, but we have that confidence that we can win something for the City Islanders this year.”