The Houston Dynamo hit the field at Kino Sports Park in Tucson, Arizona this morning, ready to begin final preparations for the 2016 regular season. As the roster slowly begins to take shape ahead of the March 6 opener against New England, a new face joined the fray.
Defender Abdoulie Mansally, acquired by the Dynamo from Real Salt Lake in a trade Thursday, joined his new club in Arizona hours later. This morning, he found himself competing in a full-field 11 v. 11 scrimmage, trying to communicate along the back line with teammates whose names he barely knew.
Yet for a team with 17 new players in the last 12 months, integrating new faces is part of the routine. Head coach Owen Coyle noted that the Dynamo have had plenty of experience with integrating new additions in recent months, and that the character of the current players helps make newcomers feel welcome.
“We have a good group of players that make the new ones feel at home,” he said. “Agus and (David) Rocha felt that right away; Andrew Wenger and Chaco Maidana; so they’ve certainly integrated into the group, which is important.”
Mansally was introduced to his new teammates at the team dinner Thursday night, and he said the team made him feel welcome right away.
“It went great. When I just joined the team last night, everybody was smiling,” said the 27-year-old Gambia native. “Everyone was happy. I’m excited to be here. I know everything will get up quickly, but as a soccer player, I’m ready to go. I’m so excited and I’m happy to join the team.”
Coyle noted that Mansally will add depth at left back along with incumbent DaMarcus Beasley, a spot the club struggled to fill last season when Beasley was out of the lineup.
“We’ve always had DaMarcus Beasley, who’s an outstanding left fullback, and we’ve probably not had another natural replacement, and we struggled with it at times last year when DaMarcus had one or two little knocks,” the gaffer said. “Abdoulie Mansally is a seasoned player in MLS, has played a huge number of games at a natural position of left fullback, so it’s a great addition to the squad.”
For his part, Mansally felt like his first training session with the team went well, allowing him to showcase his abilities.
“It went great. Warming up was fantastic, and it was some 11 v. 11, which was great, so getting used to the players and getting to know everybody as well,” he said. “For me, I am a weapon to use, so I am just going to bring that to the team and help the team as well, because I’m fast and I can go and be more attacking. I’m so excited to join the team and I’m ready to go.”
As the Dynamo open their second stint in Tucson with a Desert Diamond Cup match against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (8 p.m. CT; HoustonDynamo.com/live), Mansally may find his opportunity to get going right away.