VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps rookie Kekuta Manneh is hoping his breakout game against FC Dallas this past Saturday earns him a starting spot in his side’s second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against FC Edmonton on Wednesday night at BC Place (10 pm ET, Sportsnet).
The 18-year-old’s 54th-minute introduction was the catalyst for a two-goal comeback that featured a stunning strike from the Gambian and a set-up for Camilo’s equalizer in that dramatic 2-2 draw.
“From the last game and the game before that, I think I came in and made a difference – created some chances,” Manneh said on Tuesday at BC Place. “When I came in, the game changed, so I definitely need some minutes to play.”
After such a stunning substitute appearance, in which the fourth overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft appeared to glide past opponents with ease at times, culminated by his cool MLS Goal of the Week-nominated finish, Manneh admits the attention has been a new experience for him to take in.
“As a professional, you have to learn how to do that,” Manneh responded when asked how to avoid letting the attention get to his head. “It’s my first year, so you have to learn from the veterans and all that stuff – talking to them and getting advice from them, so, I think, I’m cool – it’s fine.”
Keeping it cool is also crucial for the team as a whole as they attempt to navigate their way to the Canadian Championship finals against a bulldoggish FC Edmonton side.
Leading 3-2 on aggregate and with the benefit of having scored two away goals in the first leg, the temptation is always there to sit back and see the tie out – but that’s a reflex best avoided, according to Manneh.
“We have to go at the game,” Manneh said. “We’re not going to sit back or do anything. We’re just going to play our game. We know it’s really important, it’s a really important game – a semifinal to go to the final.
“We’re going to give it our all and I think the team is going to get ready to get three points, not to sit back.”