RALEIGH, N.C. – Kekuta Manneh has done his share of waiting.
He waited five years in residency in the United States to qualify for a one-time switch from Gambia by FIFA rules from 2012 to 2016. But now his wait has come to an end, as he received the call that he was invited to the US national team for a friendly against Paraguay on Tuesday (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).
With the selection coming after the initial squad was announced, the call took many by surprise, including Manneh.
“I was at home sleeping, and the call woke me up,” Manneh said. “I was in bed when I talked to them, and it was good news. It was exciting to get the call, and it’s a good feeling to be here with the guys. Hopefully it’s a good week.”
Manneh spent five years playing in Major League Soccer, the first four and a bit with the Vancouver Whitecaps before moving to Columbus Crew SC during the 2017 campaign. All told, he made 120 appearances with 71 starts and scored 26 goals in MLS, before moving to Liga MX side Pachuca in the offseason.
It’s that attacking edge that Manneh believes he can add to the national team.
“I think I can help the team wherever they need me,” said Manneh. “I think I can help attacking-wise, making plays and getting goals and assisting people, and just trying to be a big part of the team. Hopefully I can be a good addition.”
Manneh recently made his first appearance for his new club, coming off the bench against Toluca on March 4.
Playing in Mexico is no different than playing in the United States or Canada for Manneh, as he says the game doesn’t change.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of difference in playing in Mexico,” Manneh said. “It’s just a different league, and you hear different voices, but I think the game is the same. Football is the same everywhere that you go. You just try to learn as much as you can in the environment that you’re in, and adapt to it. I think I’m in the adaptive process right now, but there’s not a whole lot of difference.”
Integrating into Dave Sarachan's USMNT camp has gone well for Manneh, and he says he’s looking forward to the match against Paraguay.
“The camp is good so far,” Manneh said. “It’s a good group of guys, some people I know and some people I’ve never met before, and it’s good to be here to get to know them individually. It’s been good so far, and hopefully we can have a good weekend and win the game against Paraguay.”