VANCOUVER, BC - There are some games and some performances that write a player into a club's folklore. Kekuta Manneh's hat-trick in Vancouver Whitecaps FC's 4-1 demolition of Seattle last October was one such moment.
It was a coming of age display from a then-18-year-old Manneh, who had been used sparingly in his rookie season up to that point, and it was a performance that put him on the radar. Looking back on that night from seven months ago still brings a smile to his face, especially now as he and the 'Caps prepare to take on Sounders FC again at BC Place on Saturday (4 p.m. PT; TSN2).
"It's definitely a moment to remember and it's given me a lot of confidence coming in to this year," Manneh told MLSsoccer.com. "It gave me a lot to think about. I believe in myself more and I feel that I can do a lot more than I did. It helped me to grow as a player and as a person on and off the pitch."
Plenty of eyes will be on the Gambian ahead of this weekend's first meeting of the season between Vancouver and Seattle, so it would be natural if Manneh felt some sort of pressure to put in another game-changing display. But he isn't, and instead, he is opting to take it all in stride.
"That was done last year. It would be great to emulate it this year, to score a hat-trick or more, but that's going to be real difficult," Manneh said. "I scored a hat-trick against them, so they'll be a little bit more careful with me attacking-wise.
"There's going to be a little bit of pressure, but really I've left that behind me. It's gone. ... It helped me get my confidence, but I'm going to try and do more this game and hopefully score another hat-trick."
That relaxed attitude is exactly what Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson wants to see from all of his players, no matter the magnitude of the match.
"I've said to Kekuta, it's fish-and-chip paper," Robinson said. "After you score a hat-trick in Seattle, the next day people move on. So it's important you remind people how good a player you are. We'll see on Saturday how good he is."
Manneh has proven to be quite good and important to Vancouver's cause in the early part of this season. The speedster has scored three goals and assisted on another while playing in all of the Whitecaps FC's 10 games to date.
Still, Manneh knows there are things to work on if he wants to take his game to another level.
"You don't want to be a one-trick pony. You want to have different moves and different ideas to be a big player and not just speed," Manneh said. "You've got to have a better first strike and you've got to be really good technically. Speed is definitely not the only thing you need because people can really read you and you need a lot more than just the speed - ball control and dribbling.
"I feel that all those attributes contribute to the game. As a forward you need all of that and that's what I'm working on."
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.