A Few Words With Tony Sanneh on His Last-ditch Effort to Prolong His Career With the Galaxy

At age 37, former U.S. international Tony Sanneh is on trial with the Galaxy in a bid to extend his injury-riddled career.

Sanneh began his MLS career winning back to back titles with Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena at D.C. United. But Sanneh has battled injuries of one sort or another ever since moving from MLS to Hertha Berlin in 1998, where he managed just 31 appearances in four years. Since moving back to the U.S. in 2004 he’s played a mere 50 times in five years for four teams, most recently in 2007 with the Colorado Rapids.

After sitting out – but never officially retiring – last year, Sanneh explained after the third day of camp today why he’s giving the pro game one last shot:

Question: How are you feeling?
Answer: I feel a little bit rusty and I’m trying to get in shape, but I think everybody is a little sore. Obviously, haven’t played at this level in a little bit so it feels good to be out here day by day and test my body

Q: What do you offer on the field?
A: I can offer leadership, I can offer experience and obviously a winning mentality. And I know what Bruce wants, so hopefully I can lead by example .

The biggest thing is: can I be injury free and I can I get to my old playing weight?

Q: What does Bruce want?
A: He wants winners. He wants guys to fight to the end. He wants guys to be team players. He wants you to sacrifice. He wants you to do the extra, just in case.

Q: Why come back? Do you have something to prove?
A: I had a lot of injuries and so I haven’t put too many miles on the last five years. I had two hip surgeries and I was playing pick up (soccer) and most of my pain was gone so I decided to get back into shape.

I’m not stupid. I know I’m very old for the game, but it has been done before: Preki was (MLS) MVP at 42 (actually 40, according to Wikipedia) and (Paolo) Maldini is still playing at 43 (he’s actually 40, according to Wikipedia) and I was as good an athlete as both those guys.

Q: What happened last year?
A: I had labrium (shoulder) surgery at the end of the year in Colorado. I was hoping to go somewhere else and it didn’t work out.

So I was training to get back into shape in Minnesota and and (suffered) a bad tackle and ( I had) a deep bone bruise on my knee and I thought that maybe that was a sign from God that I’d had too many injuries and to take it easy. So I did for a couple of months and had a good time. And then I started playing in the local pick up leagues just for fun and as I took care of my body it hurt less.

Obviously I wasn’t playing at a high level, but it hurt less and I thought y’know why not see what would happen if I was in shape, because when I was younger I was so much faster than other people that me losing a step or two might not have as big an impact as it would on other people.

Q: What do you need to do to make the roster?
A: I’m injury free. If everything goes well, I would like to get through the camp (and make the roster). And I need to lose another eight to 10 pounds maybe in 2 1/2 months and I think that’s achievable and playing every day will do that to you. I’m pain free and they have an excellent medical staff here that is familiar with me and I know at this stage I have to do extra stuff to be a better pro.

Q: Is this your last chance to continue your career?
Q: I never really thought of it like that – it’s an opportunity and it was worth exploring and I’m just taking it a day at a time right now.

I wouldn’t want to come here and make a fool of myself. I took eight months off and went to Colorado and I trained a week and a half and I was starting there y’know? So obviously it’s a whole ‘nother year later, but if I didn’t think I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t try.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • charlesj27

    Thanks for this great interview piece with trialist Tony Sanneh. Very much appreciated. I wish Tony the very best of luck at 37 years old (oy’veh – the same age as I am, but I know I won’t be able to last the full 90 minutes of full-court MLS soccer!). Hope you do well, Tony… and, prove the rest of the doubters wrong!

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    If Sanneh makes it through camp, where would Arena play him? Right back, as on the 2002 World Cup team? Does he have any speed left? I would doubt that, especially since right back is Franklin’s natural position. Maybe he would come off the bench but in what capacity? How much money would he sign for and how much would he count against the cap?

    Signing Sanneh doesn’t make sense, regardless of his leadership skills.

    Speaking of “leadership,” aren’t Beckham, Donovan and Klein supposed to provide it? Where have they been the past two years?