‘One of the biggest signings in CPL history’: Pacific FC sign Kekuta Manneh
Pacific FC

Kekuta Manneh has joined Pacific FC ahead of the 2023 Canadian Premier League season.

Manneh, a veteran of Major League Soccer with 171 appearances to his name, comes to the Island to make his mark in British Columbia once again and reunites with Head Coach James Merriman, who was a coach in Vancouver’s Pre-Residency and Academy Centre during the winger’s time with the Whitecaps.

“He’s one of the biggest signings in the Canadian Premier League’s short history,” says Merriman. “He will absolutely have a great impact on our team. Kekuta is an incredibly humble character and I look forward to the season working with him.”

“Since the first day of training with our team, Scoots has clearly shown his motivation to help us win. He’s ambitious and wants to enjoy his football again.”

The 28-year-old is remembered fondly in the province after the four seasons he spent with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. From 2013 to 2017, Manneh made 123 appearances for the ‘Caps in all competitions, scoring 23 goals and adding 12 assists.

Manneh started his career in The Gambia, his birth country, before being spotted as a 15-year-old at a local tournament and moving to the United States to play for Texas Rush and then Lonestar Soccer Club in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a former youth development focused league. Manneh then moved to the Austin Aztex of the Premier Development League (now USL League 2) where he spent a single season.

The next stage of Manneh’s career began when he signed a Generation Adidas contract as an 18-year-old, which made him eligible to be drafted in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. During the draft, Vancouver traded up to select Manneh with the fourth overall pick.

During the 2013 MLS season, Manneh’s rookie year, the exciting winger produced a standout campaign. Manneh made 20 appearances, scored six goals and laid on two assists for the ‘Caps, and his most memorable contribution came when he became the youngest player in MLS history to score a hat-trick after he put three past Seattle Sounders FC on October 9. It was also the first MLS hat-trick in Vancouver’s club history.

Manneh enjoyed three more fruitful seasons with Vancouver, highlighted by scoring the Cascadia Cup-clinching goal in a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC in late 2014, starting both legs of the Whitecaps’ conference semifinal tie in 2015, and being named to the MLS 24 Under-24 list for the third consecutive season in 2016.

At the end of his Whitecaps’ tenure, Manneh moved to Columbus Crew in 2017 where he made 24 total appearances as the club reached the Eastern Conference Final. He finished the season with four goals and three assists for the Crew.

From there, Manneh moved away from Major League Soccer, first landing with Mexican side Pachuca of Liga MX in 2018 before moving to Europe to join FC St. Gallen of Switzerland for the 2018/2019 season.

In February 2019, Manneh returned to the US to join expansion team FC Cincinnati as they entered their inaugural season. Playing as both a left-winger and centre-forward, Manneh made 32 appearances over one and a half seasons, contributing five goals and three assists. After the “MLS is Back” portion of the 2020 season, Manneh was traded from Cincinnati to New England Revolution as New England bolstered their squad and looked to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Manneh’s career in the United States came full circle when he arrived back in Texas, where he originally moved as a 15-year-old, ahead of the 2021 MLS season. In January of that year, he joined Austin FC as they prepared for their inaugural season in Major League Soccer. Manneh went on to make 16 appearances for the club during his lone season back in the Lone Star state.

The most recent season of Manneh’s career was spent with San Antonio FC of the USL Championship.

Now, Manneh arrives on the Island ready to make his mark in Canadian soccer circles once again. The quick and skillful attacker is an instinctive goal scorer capable of opening up the opposition’s defence on his own. He’s able to play across the front line and will mesh well with Pacific FC’s other forwards such as Easton Ongaro and Josh Heard.

Manneh also arrives in the Canadian Premier League as the player with the most appearances in Major League Soccer to his name. Passing Forge FC’s Ashtone Morgan for that honour.

“I’ve played with a lot of people who have played for this club,” says Manneh. “I have been in touch with them and watched their games over the years. The excitement of the fans and the direction the team is going in is something I wanted to be a part of. It all was really, really exciting to me, so that all factored into the decision to come here.”

Pacific FC’s squad for 2023 now stands at 21 players as the club’s season opener against new local rival Vancouver FC is just under two weeks away.