COUNTRY: United States
CLUB: Columbus Crew SC
YEARS PRO: 5
Kekuta Manneh has been one of the most exciting young attackers in MLS since arriving on the scene after being drafted by Vancouver in 2013. In 115 MLS regular season games, the winger/forward has scored 26 goals and 15 assists, and as he's worked to obtain US citizenship, he's a tantalizing prospect for the future with the US national team.
Still just 22 years old, Manneh experienced a change of scenery this season, after being traded in March from Vancouver to Columbus. Known first and foremost for his speed, the Gambian-born attacker has shown considerable potential as he's developed his skills and soccer IQ to match his impressive pace. Injuries have provided setbacks at times, but Manneh is a dangerous combination of a player who doesn't appear to have reached anywhere near his ceiling while also having considerable experience at the MLS level.
What the technical staffers say:
“Obviously his pace is something that can hurt people, and he’s actually got a good little spring in his step to get up and head the ball, as well. But I think really with him the main thing that’s keeping him from being one of the best players in the league is consistency. He’s got the quality, he’s got the skillset with the pace and athleticism, but he seems to be a little bit inconsistent. Obviously, we’ve seen when he’s on a roll and when he’s playing with confidence, he’s done quite well.”
“I’ve thought that the thing that was always holding him back was his maturity. He’s had two really good coaches now in Carl Robinson and Gregg Berhalter. For me, they’re two of the better coaches in the league for development, they’re both willing and open to working with young players and they were two potentially positive environments for Kekuta. And so the fact that he hasn’t flourished under those regimes is a concern. He’s got the physical ability, for sure. I’d even say he’s electric when he’s on and he’s confident. Of course, injuries hurt any player, but I think the biggest thing for him is off the field. Can he adjust to competition, can he adjust to pressure, can he adjust to a daily training load?”
“I think we’re at the point with Kekuta where it’s up to Kekuta to define himself. As a league and as a fanbase, we have really been enamored with the upside of Manneh and he has come really close to teasing that ceiling at times. But the consistency is now up to Kekuta to perform week in and week out and force the issue in Columbus to be on the field every week performing at a high level. We’re talking about a United States developed player who has the ability to be very unique and very special, and now even though we’re talking about a list of 24 Under 24, I think the expectation at this point is that Kekuta delivers. When he’s healthy the kid’s damn good, but it’s on him to make us all stop wondering if he’s actually gonna be there week in and week out.”