Kekuta Manneh may have a shot
By Jonathan Szekeres
I tend to not put much stock into pre-season matches. After all, they're essentially meaningless, just big practice sessions with another team involved. However, the Vancouver Whitecaps are making me very excited for the regular season to get underway, excelling in the pre-season with a 4-0 record. Now, like I said, that doesn't mean the Whitecaps have proven anything. They can't be called an elite team, or even a very good team. They underachieved last season, and will go into 2013 still wearing that reputation.
That being said, the new faces on the 'Caps are certainly making things interesting. Last night, the Whitecaps beat the Charleston Battery 3-2, on the strength of two goals from rookie Kekuta Manneh. Stats can always be misleading, but the two goals that Manneh scored were things of beauty, markers that required true talent. He even had another goal called back, and it was equally impressive.
On his first goal (that counted), Manneh took a feed from Daigo Kobayashi in the box. Instead of simply one timing the shot, Manneh played it forward for himself, got into better position, then unleashed a laser that found the back of the net. The goal required creativity, quick thinking, patience and finish, all rare things to see in such a young footballer.
On his second marker, Manneh took a pass in the box, in stride, and managed to a fine shot off that went overtop the keeper for a 2-0 lead. Manneh had a few other chances as well, creating an interesting debate moving forward. Many (including myself) thought Manneh would be learning the MLS game, and he wouldn't see regular action for the first couple years in his career. It's not a slight on him, it's just that he's an 18 year old kid, and players as young as that aren't supposed to look as confident as Manneh did last night.
Of course, the obvious similarities between Manneh and Darren Mattocks need to be stated. Young players, incredible foot speed, confidence on the pitch, and something that Mattocks has been showing more of in the pre-season; finish. Simply put, the two players look good together on the pitch. For Whitecaps fans, it's a combination they want to see for years to come.
So I'll go out on limb here and say, I think the kid has a real shot to make this roster. Bob Lenarduzzi made that claim when Manneh was drafted, saying that he believed Manneh was 'MLS Ready.' After seeing his game in the pre-season, I think I have to agree with him.