The birth certificates say Sanna and Sainey Nyassi are twins.
But in terms of their Major Leaguer Soccer careers, New England’s Sainey is an established veteran, and Seattle’s Sanna is a rookie still striving for chances to contribute.
When asked Tuesday about Sanna’s current role, coach Sigi Schmid answered: “To impersonate his brother.”
The 20-year-olds will face each other on opposing teams for the first time at 7 p.m. Thursday when New England visits Qwest Field in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
“I’ve never played him before,” Sanna Nyassi said after practice on Tuesday. “We (were) always on the same team, played on the same club: (Gambian) national team, U-17, U-20. We’ve never played against each other. This is the first time.”
In addition to their national team duties, each also played for Ports Authority FC of Gambia.
But Sainey got a two-season head start in MLS. He joined the Revolution late in the 2007 season, making one appearance in the league and four with the reserves. Last season, Sainey started 19 games and made 25 regular-season appearances, notching two goals and one assist. So far this season, he has started 14 of 17 games, with one goal, nine shots on goal and 16 shots overall.
Sanna Nyassi became the third player to join the expansion Sounders last September, and he played six games while on loan to the USL-1 Sounders.
Now in his first MLS season, he remains a part-timer who can provide a burst of energy and fresh legs late in games. He has started two games and appeared in 11 more without notching a goal or an assist.
“You’ve got to remember, he’s still young,” Schmid said. “He’s still learning, and I think every day he gets more comfortable and is improving more.
“It really took his brother probably six months to a year to really settle in to what was going on in New England. And Sanna’s getting to that point. So, I think he’s going to contribute for us the rest of the way; but I think his biggest impact is going to be next year.”
New England lists Sainey as 5-foot-8, 135 pounds. Seattle lists Sanna as 5-foot-9, 145 pounds.
Schmid also considers their games to be similar.
“They both rely, obviously, on their speed and on their intensity and desire,” he said. “They both strike a good ball. They jump well for their size; they get up in the air well. They’ve got a sneaky-long throw-in that they can throw out there every once in a while. They’ve got a lot of similarities in that way.”
Schmid said he understands that Sanna would like to get on the pitch against his brother, but he added that the needs of the team must take precedence.
And whether Sanna gets on the pitch or not, he already has taken the first shot.
“Since our childhood, we have been competitive between us,” he said. “Everyone wants to win. … I already told him that they’re going to lose when they get here.”
Freddie Ljungberg was limited to stretching and light jogging Tuesday while awaiting test results regarding his recent impaired vision and memory loss.
Schmid said those symptoms are thought to be unrelated to Ljungberg’s history of migraines, so tests were ordered to find the source of the problem.
“We just want to make sure there’s nothing else going on,” he said Tuesday.
“I don’t think (there is anything seriously concerned about). He feels fine today. We want to err on the side of caution rather than come out and say, ‘OK, come on and play,’ and then have something else happen.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808