Years from now, Kekuta Manneh should not have much trouble remembering his first MLS goal.
His first assist for the Vancouver Whitecaps won’t be forgotten soon, either.
The 18-year-old Gambian midfielder scored and assisted on the winner — just three minutes apart — as he helped the Whitecaps earn a dramatic come-from-behind 2-2 tie with FC Dallas on Saturday.
League-leading Dallas (6-1-2) remained unbeaten in six games. The Whitecaps (2-3-3) remained unbeaten in three games at home, but have gone six games overall without a win.
“It always feels good to score,” said Manneh. “It’s my first professional goal, so I’m really excited about that.”
While his 72nd-minute goal was memorable, the assist was more meaningful. Camilo drew the Whitecaps even in the 75th minute as he put in a Manneh pass off Dallas defender Jair Benitez. Although the ball went in off a Dallas player, the goal was still credited to Camilo.
The Whitecaps rallied from a 2-0 early second-half deficit. Manneh, who was Vancouver’s top draft choice, fourth overall this year, excelled after subbing into the game during the 54th
“It definitely boosts my morale and my confidence,” said Manneh.
He atoned for a shaky effort in his last game at B.C. Place Stadium — Vancouver’s season opener — when he was pulled at halftime. After the benching, Manneh worried that he would not play much because the Whitecaps had several experienced and foreign players in the lineup.
The presumption was correct. Heading into Saturday’s game, he had logged only 83 minutes and has now toiled for a total of 129.
“It affected me a little bit,” said Manneh of his benching in the season opener. “I thought, at the time, it was hard to come in and perform.”
Matt Hedges was credited with a goal for Dallas while the visitors also capitalized on a Vancouver own goal. Brazilian midfielder Michel helped set up both Dallas goals.
Despite the dramatic comeback, which resulted after Dallas was reduced to 10 men due a red card to defender Jackson, the Whitecaps were not exactly ecstatic with the result.
Vancouver had 27 attempts on goal compared to 13 for Dallas. The Whitecaps also had nine shots on target while Dallas only mustered four.
“I think we deserved more,” said Camilo. “We let them have a couple chances. Hopefully, the next game we can win.”
“Give the Whitecaps credit,” said Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman. “They fought very hard, put a lot of people forward, created numerous opportunities and, unfortunately we had a man down, had a 2-0 lead and survived a tie.”
Manneh, who had subbed in for Jun Marques Davidson, pulled the Caps within one as he put in Tommy Heinemann’s low header to him off Camilo’s rebound. Heinemann’s assist came only two minutes after he subbed into the game for Daigo Kobayashi.
Camilo called Manneh’s effort “brilliant.”
“He scored a goal, made an assist and was very sharp on the ball,” said Camilo. “He’s such a young boy, and the confidence is back.”
“He’s got the world at his feet, and that’s not bragging,” added Vancouver defender Andy O’Brien. “If you look at his upside, he’s a very attractive talent, and he demonstrated today what he’s capable of.”
The Whitecaps made amends as they delivered a strong reponse to the league’s top club after suffering a 2-0 road loss to Dallas last weekend. Dallas won that contest with ease as Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie made several lineup changes for which he criticized himself later.
“It was a pressure game today,” said O’Brien. “We were disappointed with how we performed against Dallas away. But we’re pleased that we got something out of the game and, arguably, could have won the game at the end.”
Three minutes after Camilo’s goal, Dallas was reduced to 10 men as Jackson was ejected for a backhand slap to Vancouver defender Alain Rochat’s face during a challenge. The Whitecaps had a number of chances to take the lead, but could not beat Dallas goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, who had an outstanding game while making seven saves.
But until Manneh and Camilo’s heroics, the scoreboard offered little doubt about the outcome.
Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon preserved the tie as he dove to block a Blaz Perez shot from the top of the Vancouver 18-yard box in added time. Cannon’s save helped the Whitecaps complete their second successful rally after they overcame a deficit to beat Edmonton in the first leg of the Amway Canadian championship.
The tie also bodes well as the Caps prepare for the second leg at home Wednesday against Edmonton.
“Ultimately, we showed heart today — and desire,” said Whitecaps defender Brad Rusin.
Notes: Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks had several excellent scoring chances, including one on which he hit the post, as he made his first MLS start since March 30 against Chivas USA in Los Angeles. ... Fernandez received a yellow card in the 81st minute after he was too slow to take a goal kick. ... Dallas lost midfielder Andrew Jacobson to an injury in the 41st minute. He was replaced by Je-Vaughn Watson. ... Former Whitecaps star Eric Hassli dressed as a reserve, but did not play for Dallas. ...Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller missed his fourth consecutive game with a hamstring strain. He was also away for another one with the Scottish national team. ... Vancouver striker Omar Salgado and Dallas defender Kellyn Acosta were away with the U.S. under-20 team. ... Whitecaps striker Corey Hertzog has resumed light training after suffering a concussion in practice April 17.