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The Larger Value of (Striker) Pa Modou Kah to the Vancouver Whitecaps

An examination of the contributions of Pa Modou Kah on and off the field, beyond his prolific scoring of late.

I think that every Whitecaps’ fan can agree that Pa Modou Kah has had an unbelievable run of form the last few weeks, with three goals in two games, and steady play in defense. However, this discussion will look past those contributions and look at the bigger picture of what Kah brings and the valuable role he plays on and off the field.

When Kah was brought in prior to the season there was some confusion among Whitecaps’ faithful. It appeared that Kah was the replacement for Andy O’Brien and/or Johnny Leveron. A big fan of Leveron, I was not too keen on the veteran Kah being brought in at the expensive of Johnny. Whether a fan of the two central defenders Kah was set to replace or not, Kah’s role was unclear. He had struggled the previous season and had a reputation of shutting off at different points during the run of play. Moreover, he was prone to receiving yellow cards for his reckless play. This was a major concern given that we all knew Waston’s size would result in plenty of cards as well; warranted or not. Behind those two, the central defense depth was of MAJOR concern. Sure, there was the previous season’s draft pick Christian Dean and this year’s selection, Tim Parker, however, Dean had yet to play centrally and Parker was coming from the college system, which has a reputation of not properly preparing players for a successful pro career. Then there was the new unknown Diego Rodriguez. He was touted as a strong, smart defender. However, he was also young and coming to a new league, country, and culture. While he had other South American players to lean on, it was unclear how long it would take him to assimilate. After a few strong performances to begin the season, Rodriguez has been a bit underwhelming since his ‘crotch-grab’ suspension. In his playing time since returning from injury, Rodriguez has looked shaky at best. Perhaps forcing it too much knowing he has to perform given the competition? But I digress…

Regardless to the role Kah was ‘promised’ on his signing, I am sure he has played more than what was expected by himself and the Whitecaps. There were certainly moments near the beginning where fans were ripping out their hair and yelling ‘Kahhhhhhh’ with negative emotions attached. His low point, arguably, was the game against Columbus Crew. The Crew appeared to funnel the first ball to Kah and then press, feeling that he could be easily dispossessed. They were correct, and Kah, believing he was a skilled midfielder, was responsible for some very poor turnovers and subsequent goals. I will remind fans that this was the game after he was responsible for the handball in the box. So, yeah….not a good time for Kah. Despite the inexperience of Parker, fans were quick to jump on Kah and run him out of town, feeling ANY option was better. However, Carl Robinson rightfully stuck with Kah, understanding his value. I would not be surprised though if Robbo had a bit of a talk with Kah, following that game and the next, about ‘doing too much’.

While I have noted the three goals in his past two games already, the contributions of Kah extend far beyond that. Despite his rough stretch of games early in the season, there was a lot to like about Kah. Recall in the first game of the year his Morales-esque 60 yard pass to setup Rivero for his first goal as a Whitecap. Although the consistency of Kah’s distribution – more importantly his decision making – may be questioned, when he is on, his distribution is fantastic. That is invaluable out of the back, given the speed of the Whitecaps attackers.

Beyond his offensive production, Kah has been a vocal, strong leader on the field. With guys like Waston and Ousted in the back, maybe having a vocal Kah is not as necessary, but he is always communicating on the field and managing the positions of his teammates. He has also been there to stick up for his teammates. I cannot recall the game, but I remember Manneh being shoved into the end advertising, and seeing Kah come storming in to defend his teammate and get in the face of the opposing player. While I am sure that Manneh can take care of himself, it was important to see Kah go to battle for his new teammates. He quickly showed that he WAS a Whitecap and his priority was his teammates. He was a veteran on the field and it was his responsibility to be there for his team.

Speaking of Kah’s veteran presence, his contributions to the development of players and the unity of the team has been invaluable. It can certainly be said that when a team is winning that gregarious player can help keep the team loose, while when they are losing he can be the annoying guy who won’t shut-up and is letting the team down on the field. Winning fuels happiness undoubtedly. However, for those that have ever listened to post-game interviews, you can often hear Kah in the background laughing it up or joking with his teammates. It is clear that he is a leader on the team and plays an important role in keeping the team relaxed, but focused, and guiding the young players. Again, if you have watched him when he is not playing or during a practice, you see a man that knows his role that extends beyond his defensive responsibility.

This commentary is not to have a love-fest for Kah. He certainly has his faults and limitations, and if the season was not going so well, there very well might be a commentary discussing the complete opposite. However, we need to base our discussion on what is reality. Right now, the Whitecaps are winning, and Kah is a major contributor to that winning on and off the field and it is time that he is lauded for his contributions. We were (rightfully) quick to lash out at his poor start, but, in the same breath, we need to be willing to acknowledge the positive rebound.

What are your thoughts on the contributions of Kah to the Whitecaps this season and what do you see as his role going forward?