Kekuta Manneh unsure on MLS future

Gambia-born winger Kekuta Manneh has admitted his future beyond the end of the Major League Soccer season with Columbus Crew remains up in the air.

The 22-year-old, who was traded to Columbus by Vancouver earlier this year, is in the final year of his contract and was unable to come to terms on a new deal with the Whitecaps.

The Caps did not want to see the former Steve Biko forward walk away in the offseason and get nothing in return, so they looked for a trade partner and Crew took the risk.

Manneh returned to BC Place for the first time since the trade last month, contributing a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw and was his best game in what has been an up-and-season in Columbus and one where he received words of encouragement from coach Gregg Berhalter.

“It is frustrating, difficult and confusing to think that you’re a part of the team when you’re not getting involved. But we talked about it and, it doesn’t matter what it is. I’m here to play football,” he said of his limited opportunities with The Black & Gold.

Since the March 30 trade, Manneh, who has played in 17 of the team’s 32 games, starting just nine added: “There’s some really, really good players here. Competition for places is tough. It’s good football for development, but I don’t want to put myself in that situation. I’m 22 years old. I need to play week in, week out.”

The winger has four goals and three assists in some quality minutes but it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride since the trade and because of his inconsistent playing time, the chance of Kekuta becoming a five-month loan for Crew instead of agreeing to a new contract has increased.

“I can’t be in an environment where I’m left frustrated,” he continued. “I love this game way too much. Even if I have to go a step down to be able to get regular minutes, be happy week in, week out, this game makes me happy. It’s definitely something I will consider making my decision. I need to be in an environment where I need to play week in, week out like Vancouver. I want to be playing. I don’t know. It’s tough but you always want to keep all your options open.”

Come the offseason, the Bakau-born has a difficult decision to make whether to re-sign with Crew and MLS, which means Columbus would send its first-round MLS SuperDraft pick to Vancouver as part of the trade, or look to move on to another league, potentially in Europe.

“I just want to finish this season right now, help the team achieve its goal and make the playoffs,” he said. “I know if we make the playoffs we’ll have a good chance of making the MLS Cup Final – I just want to finish the season and then think about the future.”