VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the Vancouver Whitecaps drafted Kekuta Manneh fifth overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, they knew they were getting a player with a plenty of promise.
The question was when that promise would actually turn into production. Sooner than expected, it turns out.
In Saturday’s 2-2 draw, fans at BC Place witnessed Manneh’s mouth-watering potential become something tangible, as the Gambian played a crucial part in a comeback from two goals down, first scoring in the 72nd minute before setting up the equalizer just three minutes later.
“It always feels good to score, especially with my first professional goal,” the 18-year-old told reporters after the match. “It was a tough situation. We were down two goals and we needed a goal.”
A tough situation indeed. And that pressure showed with his first few touches as Manneh looked a bit raw before taking the game to Dallas, who struggled to deal with his pace and dribbling ability following his 54th minute introduction.
“It definitely builds my morale,” Manneh said. “I have confidence. I think it’s something to build on.”
Head coach Martin Rennie started Manneh on opening day against Toronto FC but withdrew the player at halftime. Since then the rookie has figured in just 74 minutes over four matches.
So he was eager to make the most of this chance when it came his way, for fear of losing his place.
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“It affected me a little bit,” Manneh said of Rennie’s quick hook on opening day. “But the mentality was to come and perform. I know if I don’t play there’s lot of players. If I don’t perform, there’s lot of players on the bench, so I probably wouldn’t play for a while.
“It was in my head to give my all and everything I have.”
As for Rennie, in his post-match press conference he said he wasn’t surprised by Manneh’s performance, but looked irritated when a reporter followed up by asking why he hadn’t used the youngster more often, commenting that he’d been a substitute against Real Salt Lake in the club’s last home match.
“That goal was fantastic,” Rennie said. “He showed great composure. Not only that, but the run to set up the second goal was real high quality.”