When the local club begins a season far, far below expectations, whether they are realistic or not, it’s never surprising to see a shake-up early on. But at 1 pm this afternoon, the Whitecaps’ sent a jolt throughout the fault lines lying under the Pacific northwest, trading fan-favorite Kekuta Manneh to the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew.
With the trade, the Whitecaps have acquired Tony Tchani, a 6’4” Cameroonian midfielder with seven years of MLS experience. In addition, the Whitecaps will also receive $225,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and $75,000 in General Allocation Money, as well as the following signing scenarios detailed at whitecapsfc.com:
In the event Crew SC signs Manneh, who is in the last year of his contract, to a new contract, then Vancouver will also receive Columbus' natural first round MLS SuperDraft selection in the immediately following draft. Furthermore, Whitecaps FC will receive additional General Allocation Money if Manneh is traded by Columbus prior to December 31, 2018 and Vancouver will retain a percentage of any future transfer fee if Manneh is transferred outside of MLS.
So, if Columbus benefits from Manneh’s employ in any way (save from winning the MLS Cup), the Whitecaps will receive some kind of retribution.
In Manneh, the Whitecaps are losing their fourth overall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft, a dynamic attacking forward who was sometimes more renowned for his “speed” rating in EA’s FIFA games than he was for his goal scoring. When he was on, Manneh was capable of breakouts like this...
But when he wasn’t on the attack? Well...
That’s Manneh trailing behind San Jose’s goal scorer by about six or seven feet, in a match from this past month.
Admittedly, the game was nothing but a mess for everyone involved after the twenty-third minute, but you won’t endear yourself to anyone by not playing defense once the team is reduced to ten men. This rings particularly true when you find yourself competing for a starting spot with the likes of Christian Bolanos, Alphonso Davies, Marcel De Jong, Brek Shea, and Cristian Techera.
It’s very possible that he squeezed himself out of the roster into the role of the expendable.
In Tchani, the Whitecaps receive a primarily defensive central midfielder, a second-overall draftee in the 2010 SuperDraft, regularly starting with Will Trapp over the past few seasons, 112 starts out of 130 appearance with the most significant being in the 2015 MLS Cup final.
The fact that Tchani operates primarily out of the center of the pitch certainly factored into the transaction:
"We have acquired an experienced, athletic, box-to-box player in Tony, who will help solidify our midfield," said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. "Tony is someone I enjoyed working with during my time in New York and I'm excited to have him join our group.”
Further to this, its arguable that the Whitecaps have been lacking in the center, being unable to find anyone to form a long-term partnership with Matias Laba.
So, how has he performed in 2017? Well, he hasn’t. After four matches, Tchani has not featured on any of the Crew’s game day rosters, left out in favor of newcomers Mohammed Abu and Artur.
Nevertheless, Tchani will certainly fill a void for the Whitecaps in the center of the pitch, but was it correct to sacrifice Manneh’s ever-elusive “potential”? We’ll see how things play out between now and September 16th, when the Crew pay a visit in Vancouver.