VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC rookie Kekuta Manneh has the soccer world talking.
The 18-year-old Gambian has received no shortage of attention after his hat-trick against Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field last Wednesday, and the hype surrounding the speedy forward is only sure to build given his performance earned him Major League Soccer's Player of the Week honours on Monday.
Now, the challenge for the 'Caps is to celebrate that achievement, while keeping their hot prospect's feet on the ground ahead of two must-win clashes against Colorado Rapids.
“You know, you don't want to get too carried away,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Monday. “He had a great game there, but he's got to keep improving and he's got to keep developing. If he's doing that every week, then you can say all these [positive] things. But he had a great game, and now it's about what he does in the next game.
“I think, especially young players, always have to keep being reminded that what they just did isn't that important anymore, but what they do next is, so hopefully he can do well in the next game.”
The club's Scottish tactician provided a bit of background to last week's breakout game as well, letting reporters in on his precocious young talent's confidence before such a vital derby clash.
“It was kind of funny, because on the drive down to Seattle, I was in [a coffee shop] with him and Camilo,” Rennie said. “And I was like, 'you know, do you guys think you can get a partnership going for tomorrow?'
“And Kekuta was like, 'Coach, we got this.' And it was kind of funny, just a young kid who's got that much confidence. But he does, and you never know what's going to happen in a game like that, but he certainly gave us more than we probably could have even hoped for.”
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As for the player himself, he's trying to enjoy the moment while making sure he remembers he still has a lot to prove, and a lot yet still to learn.
“It's the past,” Manneh said of his hat-trick. “It's already gone. We can't dwell on it much longer. We just need to concentrate on the next game – that's the most important one.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.