Just a few years ago, Kekuta Manneh was considered one of the most exciting young players in MLS. But a year after playing out his contract and leaving on a free transfer, the Gambian-born
prodigy is headed back to MLS, signing with expansion team FC Cincinnati.
Manneh, 24, played just one Liga MX game at Pachuca and seven games for St. Gallen in Switzerland's Super League. With his contract at St. Gallen set to expire in June, Swiss daily Tagblatt reported that sporting director Alain Sutter, who played in MLS for the Dallas Burn, allowed
Manneh to leave on a free transfer.
FC Cincinnati had to pay Columbus Crew $250,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and $50,000 in General Allocation Money for Manneh's MLS rights. It could
send an additional $100,000 in Allocation Money ($50,000 in TAM and $50,000 in GAM) if certain performance thresholds are met.
The No. 4 pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, Manneh scored 26
goals and added 15 assists in 120 regular-season appearances during his five MLS seasons. He was traded by Vancouver to the Crew at the start of his fifth MLS season in 2017. FC Cincinnati is loaded
with central midfielders, but he will give it a boost on the outside.
“We are excited to bring Kekuta to Cincinnati,” FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch said in a statement.
“His pace and skill on the ball will add a dynamic element to our group when attacking in the final third. He has had success in MLS and we know he will embrace the unique challenge of joining
an expansion team."
Koch knows Manneh from having served as the Whitecaps FC 2 coach in 2015-16. Manneh will also join fellow Gambian and former Whitecaps teammate Pa-Modou Kah in
Cincinnati. Kah is a member of Koch's FCC technical staff.
Manneh attended the U.S. national team's January camp in 2017 and became eligible to play for the USA when he turned 23 in
December 2017. FIFA rules require foreign-born players to wait until five years after their 18th birthday before they can play for their adopted home. He attended the camp before the match against
Paraguay in March 2018 but was not on the game-day roster.
Manneh, who was born in Gambia and moved to the United States on a sports exchange program with Rush Soccer as a teenager, was
the No. 4 pick by Vancouver in the 2013 SuperDraft out of high school in Texas.
FC Cincinnati 2019 Roster (31 players): Goalkeepers (3): Jimmy Hague (Michigan State Univ.), Spencer Richey (Vancouver), Przemyslaw Tyton (Dep.
Coruna/ESP). Defender (10):Mathieu Deplagne (Troyes/FRA), Greg Garza (Atlanta United), Logan Gdula (Wake Forest Univ.), Nick Hagglund (Toronto FC), Justin
Hoyte, Forrest Lasso, Hassan Ndam (NY Red Bulls), Alvas Powell (Portland), Blake Smith, Kendall Waston (Vancouver) Midfielders (15): Fatai Alashe, Nazmi Albadawi,
Eric Alexander (Houston), Frankie Amaya (UCLA), Leonardo Bertone (Young Boys/SUI), Corben Bone,Allan Cruz (Herediano/CRC), Rashawn Dally (Quinnipiac Univ.),
Roland Lamah (FC Dallas), Emmanuel Ledesma, Kekuta Manneh (St. Gallen/SUI), Tommy McCabe (Univ. of Notre Dame), Jimmy McLaughlin, Caleb Stanko (Freiburg/GER), Victor
Ulloa (FC Dallas). Forwards (3): Fanendo Adi, Darren Mattocks (D.C. United), Emery Welshman.