HARRISON, N.J. – It had been almost two months since Saer Sene last played in a competitive match, but you would have been hard pressed to guess that based on how he looked in his first 97 minutes with the New York Red Bulls.
Sene made his debut and earned his first start with his new club this week, coming off the bench to make a seven-minute cameo vs. the Montreal Impact this past Saturday before going the distance in a CONCACAF Champions League bout with CD FAS on Tuesday.
The two appearances were Sene’s first since he played 11 minutes for the New England Revolution back on July 4, but he did not demonstrate any glaring rust despite the layoff. The 27-year-old striker showed plenty of flashes in his two outings, displaying a good understanding of the game and, at times, with his teammates and a nose for goal that saw him score the opener in the 2-0 win over FAS.
“His touch is phenomenal, his first touch. His ball skills, his ability to separate himself from a defender with the ball is very good,” said Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke after the CONCACAF Champions League triumph. “I think the more minutes he gets in the game, and the more practice time he gets, he’ll be more comfortable. … I’m excited to have Saer here.
“I’m very happy. It was very important that he got a goal tonight, not only to get a goal and to open that account here with us but also to feel comfortable and feel confident. … Couple more days and he’ll be back into the form that he was in, so I’m happy with Saer.”
Sene is equally as happy with having had a chance to build on his game fitness. He admitted shortly after joining the Red Bulls via a trade from the Revolution on Aug. 12 that he was not ready to go the distance but was hoping to improve that over the course of the next few weeks.
With Tuesday’s 90-minute cameo under his belt, Sene is now nearing tip-top shape.
“I’m getting closer,” said Sene. “I played 10 minutes on Saturday, I play 90 minutes [Tuesday]. I’m just taking the minutes that the coach gives me and I’m going to work hard in training and we’re going to see where we’re at the next couple of weeks.”
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What bothered Sene a bit after the victory over CD FAS, New York’s first in Champions League play, was that he missed a couple of quality chances that he should’ve finished to put the game away. But he still found the back of the net in the early going, finishing off a pass from Tim Cahill in a cool manner in the 11th minute to net the ultimate game-winner.
“It’s just a great feeling as a striker,” said Sene. “For me, it’s been long since I didn’t play. To get back on the field and play 90 and score a goal is great for me, but it’s just the start.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.