Just 18 years old, Kekuta Manneh is one of the most exciting prospects to enter the MLS in quite some time and has the possibly the highest upside and potential of any soccer player in the 2013 MLS Draft. Hailing from the African nation of Gambia, Manneh is both quick and highly composed in front of goal. Since his arrival to America playing for Texas semi-pro developmental teams like the Texas Rush, Lonestar SC, and the Austin Aztex, Manneh has scored tons of goals.
At just age 18 with so much skill, Manneh has actually trained with the Chelsea youth team and has also been scouted by Arsenal. These are two of the top teams in the English Premier League and typically only recruit the best players in the world. However, Manneh enlisted in the MLS draft and was selected 4th overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps.
At Vancouver, Kekuta Manneh will team up with an exciting batch of young forwards that includes Jamaican speedster Darren Mattocks and Mexican American, Omar Salgado. Forming a young trio with burning speed, the Whitecaps should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the MLS this year, and they could surprise the league with a strong offensive unit.
The Vancouver Whitecaps just squeaked into the MLS Cup Playoffs last season but were ousted by eventual champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy. However, with David Beckham’s departure, the Galaxy may suffer a bit of a setback leaving the Western Conference of the league wide open for a newcomer.
Perhaps suggestions of a dominating year for Kekuta Manneh may be a bit premature considering the forward is just 18 years old and entering his first serious play at the professional level, but one must suspect that Manneh’s ability to take over the MLS is more a matter of when than if. Manneh is one of the most composed youngsters around in front of goal.
Don Gemmel, the technical director of the Rush Soccer club described Manneh as “the best pure finisher I have ever coached”. Simply said, this is the type of player that takes his chances and creates many as well with his impressive speed. Perhaps it is too early to make the comparison, but he sounds like a young Thierry Henry. The Whitecaps won’t be facing Henry and the New York Red Bulls until June, but by that time perhaps Kekuta Manneh will be an integral part of the lineup.
Overall the Whitecaps will need to start scoring some more goals. Defensively, they have a great veteran leader in Jay DeMerit, but players like Mattocks, Salgado, and now Manneh will need to take the next step for a team that only scored 35 goals last season.
The MLS will need to be a bit patient with Kekuta Manneh as the striker is just 18 years old, and might take a few years to become a world-class striker, but if he can develop and learn at the Vancouver Whitecaps, Manneh may become a premier striker that puts American soccer development on the map.