Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani Stick It to Former Clubs as Vancouver and Columbus Share Points

Months after making midseason moves, both Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani left an indelible mark on Saturday’s game against their former clubs.

In front of 20,592 at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew SC played to a 2-2 draw after Tchani scored a stoppage time equalizer to rescue a point for the home side. It came after Manneh appeared to break the home faithful’s hearts with a goal and an assist for Columbus.

Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani Stick It to Former Clubs as Vancouver and Columbus Share Points

A few extenuating circumstances necessitated Gregg Berhalter making some changes to the starting XI from Sunday’s 1-1 home tie with Sporting KC.

Both Lalas Abubakar and Harrison Afful made their first starts on the back line since August 19th. Abubakar replaced Jonathan Mensah, out due to yellow card accumulation. Afful came in for Hector Jimenez who moved to left back in place of Jukka Raitala who returned to Finland for the birth of his child.

Further up the field, a much more intriguing player got the nod for Crew SC given the opponent. Manneh made his first appearance in the starting XI in over a month. The dynamic winger spent his first four MLS seasons with Vancouver before a trade that sent him to Columbus and Tchani to the ‘Caps.

The home side drew first blood early on. In the 15th minute, Fredy Montero came onto a ball from Yordy Reyna, splitting the Crew SC centerbacks in the process. He calmly slotted it underneath goalkeeper Zack Steffen for his 12th of the year. At first glance, Montero appeared offside but VAR ruled he was in line with the last defender.

It didn’t take long for Columbus to respond. And it was the former Whitecap Manneh who played provider. He turned right back Jacob Nerwinski inside out with some deft stepover moves, giving him space to send in a cross. The ball came to Ola Kamara in stride who flicked it with the outside of his foot and past David Ousted for the equalizer.

With the goal, Kamara temporarily moved into a tie for fourth in MLS with 16 goals. He’s currently even with Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez, who registered his second straight hat trick earlier on Saturday in a 3-3 tie with Orlando City SC. The Norwegian number nine also equaled his output from all of 2016 with the tally.

Right out of the locker room for the second half, Crew SC dodged a bullet. An in-form Reyna, who has three goals and one assist in his last four starts, nearly bagged another. The Peruvian attacker made a few impressive moves in dribbling past Abubakar, then tried to beat Steffen far post. But his shot glanced off the post.

Vancouver would later rue that missed opportunity. After assisting on the first goal, it was Manneh’s turn to truly break the hearts of his former team. In the 63rd minute, Manneh took a pass from Wil Trapp, dribbled towards goal and let loose a laser from outside the box that Ousted had no chance of saving.

Trapp continues to demonstrate his ever improving quality as a deep-lying playmaker. With the helper, the Columbus native registered his fifth assist of the season. That ranks as the best total of his career.

The match transitioned into stoppage time with Crew SC defending their advantage. If they could hold on, they’d leapfrog the Chicago Fire into third in the Eastern Conference for the time being. But Tchani, who spent the previous six years of his career in Columbus, had other ideas. His tap in at the death stole two points from his former team.

With the result, Crew SC’s unbeaten streak extends to six games. A road draw at a venue thousands of miles away from home certainly has the feel of a favorable outcome. But conceding a goal two minutes away from sealing just the team’s second win in Vancouver and first since July 6, 2011 carries with it a stinging sensation.

After this week’s west coast road trip, the Black and Gold return to MAPFRE Stadium for the next two matches. First up is their second and final meeting of the year with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, September 23rd. Seven days later, they face D.C. United in the final home game of the 2017 campaign.

Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Communications

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