And will not be missed.
Kekuta Manneh is a symptom of the misunderstanding of football that exists in the northern part of the continent. We have a physically gifted player, one whose ability to run with the ball greatly outweighs his footballing sentiments.
This player excels in simplest forms of football: speed and power.
Over the past few years we watched Manneh race down the left wing, cut in, and shoot. Occasionally he played in the centre with limited success. Never did he seem to understand what was going on in the game; he always waited for the ball to be sent for him to chase; never did he generate the space for others to play into.
Certainly he drew defenders to him when the opposing manager was naive enough. And this gave the appearance that he was producing a tactical game plan. But he wasn’t. I remember a couple of years ago when we opened against Toronto, it was Vanney’s first full year, they came at us with high line. The opening half was a disaster for TFC, the space their defense gave up was exploited easily by Vancouver’s long balls to Manneh and Darren Mattocks. The second half witnessed Vanney’s tactical awareness and that space was choked off. And the two speedsters were silenced.
Manneh joined the Caps at an age of extreme youth for both him and the team. At the age of 18 Manneh would eventually become a major focal point for team’s attack. However, having such little and limited experience has dealt Manneh a huge blow. He was forced to rely on his physical attributes more and more to the extent to which that his footballing prowess, intelligence, and understanding atrophied.
At the time of his arrival, the Vancouver Whitecaps did not have any sense of a set team structure. Truthfully, this was an infant team in desperate need of a sense of self and belonging. We drafted nothing but speed. Manneh landed amidst a team with no historical tactical template, nor with any elder players to guide the draftees.
Manneh became a focal point for the attack as he watched the likes of Camilo Sanvezzo and Davide Chiumiento. While not necessarily selfish, these players are not the type that are set to guide the youth. Early on, the Whitecaps just needed to play and win. So the team consisted of MLS journeyman and mediocre European footballers. Neither of which came with a set vision of the team, nor with any sense of being leaders.
Manneh was faced with developing with teammates that weren’t able to guide his attitude or abilities on the field. And the result has been player that only ever learned that speed is enough to compete at the MLS level.
He was beset with a team of newcomers. And a revolving door of coaches. He had no guidance. He had team aesthetic structure.
He had speed.
Manneh is a story of the first generation of the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was dreadful football and a poor team. And by team I refer to an environment where young players are educated into footballing, and older players are the stalwarts of the footballing culture of the club. Manneh was left to rely on his physical attributes and was never placed in a situation that challenged him mentally.
As the team was desperate to appear attacking, Manneh’s speed drove the simplistic tactics and created an ego in Manneh that he has not been able to overcome.
Kekuta Manneh was a young player in need of guidance on the field but was instead forced into the simulacra of football. The understanding of football in these two countries continues to be infantile. Where speed and power should be seen as mere attributes of a player, we are forced to endure a mediocre talent take the pitch and present the appearance of football.
Manneh needing guidance and accountability on the field but being cast iron into an emerging team like the Whitecaps was a dreadful mistake for him, which resulted in an inadequate player.
He’s still young and may yet learn the game under different circumstances.