Kekuta Manneh, the Gambian striker selected fourth overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, was the star of the show in the evening match on the opening day of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston. Just eighteen years old, the forward dominated against USL Pro opposition, torching the hometown Charleston Battery for two first-half goals in the Whitecaps’ 3-2 victory. The victory moved Vancouver to a perfect 4-0-0 in the preseason.
Manneh thought he had scored his first goal in a Vancouver uniform in the 2nd minute, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. Two minutes later, the Gambian left no doubt as he created space and blasted a shot past Battery goalkeeper Kevin Klasila for the early 1-0 lead.
Klasila would deny Manneh in the 24th minute, getting a hand on another wicked drive from the striker. Four minutes later the keeper wouldn’t be as lucky. Receiving a great pass from 2012 MLS rookie scoring leader Darren Mattocks, Manneh outwitted Klasila to earn his second goal and put Vancouver up 2-0.
The Whitecaps would have several more chances before the half, but Charleston staved off the rest of the opportunities to remain down 2-0 at the half. The deficit was manageable, at least until the second half commenced.
Newly-signed Japanese midfielder Daigo Kobayashi put the game out of reach six minutes after the break. Tracking a beautiful cross from South Korean defender Young-Pyo Lee, Kobayashi expertly chopped a volley out of the air that left Klasila with absolutely no chance of preventing the third.
Nicki Patterson and second-half substitute Dane Kelly would pull Vancouver back within one with late goals, but their efforts in the final twenty minutes were not enough to repair the damage of the first 50 minutes. The Whitecaps will try to make it 5-0-0 in the preseason when they take on the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday in a rematch of their earlier duel in Tucson; Charleston will look to rebound in the following match against the Chicago Fire.