Not too many Vancouver Whitecaps FC players emerged from Sunday's 1-1 draw with Chivas USA covered in glory, but substitute Kekuta Manneh won't be viewed as anything other than the catalyst who salvaged a point with his 81st-minute equalizer.
Manneh, who was named the Budweiser Man of the Match, said he was happy to be back on the field after a back issue caused him to miss a month of the preseason.
Manneh scores his first goal of the 2014 MLS season
“It feels great, for me individually, getting minutes and helping the team get a point on the road," Manneh told reporters after the match. “It’s always been my objective, coming into the season, to be a big part of the team, help the team get wins and points.”
Coming on with an hour played, and his team down a goal, the Gambian speedster immediately caused problems for a Chivas backline which looked quite comfortable before his introduction.
First, he nutmegged Eric Avila on the left, before forcing Dan Kennedy into a save. Then, five minutes later, he zinged a shot that went just beyond the upper right 90 of Kennedy's goal, slipping as he struck the ball.
With just less than 10 minutes to play, the 19-year-old found the game tying goal, in no small part to the work of Darren Mattocks, who won the ball, drove to the end line, and then found Manneh surging forward.
“I saw Mattocks, I know his strengths, obviously he’s got speed and he’s got strength and he has a really good reaction,” Manneh said of the play. “When they gave him the ball, I knew he was obviously going to get to the box, and he’ll lay it back, so I just ran and stopped at the edge of the box and he pulled it back and just got it in.”
While Manneh shared the disappointment many of his teammates expressed on the night, he was quick to credit a resolute Chivas backline and look to the fact that any point claimed on the road in this league is difficult to earn.
“I felt like we did well, but we didn’t do enough to win the game,” Manneh said. “It was a tie and it was very disappointing. On our end, we felt that we could have gotten three points in the game, and we had chances, but we didn’t complete them in the end.
“But I thought it was a good performance from the team. It was a hard game on the road and we got a point. That’s a positive thing, but we didn’t win the game, so that’s disappointing.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.
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