Back in mid-June Tanzanian National Team player Mrisho Ngassa was announced as likely to come to Seattle to trial with the Sounders. At the time General Manager and Minority Owner Adrian Hanauer said that only the issue of paperwork (passport, visa, etc) was keeping the trial from occurring. Those things are taken care of now, as Ngassa is leaving Tanzania today to begin his two week trial according to the coach of Azam FC his club there.
However their lead striker Mrisho Ngassa, could be headed for greener pastures if all goes well after he was reported last week to be headed for trials in the United States. The prolific forward will leave the country on Wednesday 6th of July 2011 destined for Sounders FC where he will be for two weeks.
Lead striker you say? Seattle could use one of those, but this is just a trial, East Africa is not yet known for soccer, but the Seattle Sounders are trying to get involved very early in the process. The lack of a mature soccer culture in most of East Africa means that transfer prices are low - Ngassa has the record at over 70,000 US Dollars.
How could he help this Sounders side that is looking for an offensive boost?
Through email exchanges with an agent/scout based in Tanzania Sounder at Heart has learned that Mrisho Ngassa is a natural right winger(both footed) who can slot into a withdrawn forward or even as a center attacking mid. He has experiences with the U-17, U-20, U-23 and senior National Team of Tanzania. He has twice been named either player of the league or MVP in his short time as a professional. Twice his past clubs have won their league season, while in the most recent season he had 14 goals in 20 games (2nd in league) and is a regular leading scorer for his teams.
He clearly is willing to take on players on the dribble, to sprint to a ball in space and attempt crosses that threaten keepers. While it is hard to judge his overall speed due to the film's technique the report we have notes;
Mrisho is a powerful and dynamic right wing player. He is very skilful and has super shot. He is fast, [with] good technique and perfect ball control. He is good on pace and excellent on [the] flank.
While these statements are clearly meant to generate interest in the player, who once trialed with West Ham, now at 22 years old this would seem to be his opportunity to take a step up to a more difficult league and the continual mention of pace and ball skill emphasizes tools that Seattle needs.
But he is still a trialist, not an assured signing. When that same agent/scout was asked what his upside in MLS could be the response was of course positive;
Ngasa is a very talented boy. There is no doubt that he will perform in the MLS given the fact that Nizar Khalfani is doing well and the two boys are coming from the same background. Ngassa has been the top goal scorer for Tanzania National Team and Clubs Young Africans & Azam FC for the past three years and his performance has never went down. Seattle Sounders will have to improve his fitness though.
A right winger who can also play left, Nizar Khalfan is neither strong nor particularly quick. Instead, he's an adept of using his body and beating defenders by taking an angle. He's a useful scorer (he actually played forward for the 2010 Whitecaps) who isn't the most reliable finisher but shoots from distance. He might be the best crosser on the Whitecaps today.
Khalfan's weakness is consistency. He needs his teammates to keep him involved and give him someone to set up. At best he's a sparkplug: gets the ball, skims by defenders, sets up a glorious scoring chance. At worst he's like playing with ten men.
So there are similarities, but it should be noted that Khalfan did not have the scoring touch at any level that Ngassa has displayed. The upside seems to be a useful MLS player who could develop into something more given better fitness and technical training.
Whether the player is signed after the trial or not is almost immaterial. It is notable that while some organizations are stuck scouting even DP level players based on a resume and highlight video the Sounders have already sent personnel to Tanzania, and are now bringing the player through on trial. They continue to scout globally, going to portions of the world that are less intensely tapped than most and are clearly looking not just at the famous and amazing, but the merely good who can climb the ladder to become even better.