On a Saturday where Vancouver Whitecaps hosted their alumni for a pregame charity match, it would be a former teammate who came back to haunt the ‘Caps in the MLS match that followed, with Kekuta Manneh grabbing an assist and then scoring the go-ahead goal that looked to have clinched three points for Columbus Crew before Tony Tchani caused his own former team some woe with a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw.
The two team’s top goal scorers would find the net in the first half with Fredy Montero getting his 12th of the year, while Ola Kamara levelled things up soon after, picking up his 16th goal for the second straight season.
Manneh almost struck in the opening minutes of the match with a sharp angled shot from just inside the box that was smothered by David Ousted.
The scoring started soon after with the ‘Caps getting on the board first when Fredy Montero, with a great setup work from Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera, was able to beat the offside trap to score to beat Zack Steffen in the 15th minute.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) September 16, 2017
The lead wasn’t to last long.
Ola Kamara responded four minutes later, getting his foot in front of Tim Parker to convert a cross from Manneh to tie things up and silence the home crowd.
There were a number of chances in the first half for the visitors to take the lead with Kamara just missing on a volley and Federico Higuain being stopped from distance.
The ‘Caps came close to retaking the lead immediately after the break with Reyna intercepting an errant pass but his shot bounced off the post.
Manneh would make his former teammates regret the missed chance in the 63rd minute as he picked up the ball from a teammate, strolled in 15 yards and fired a blistering shot from 30 yards past a diving Ousted to give the Crew the lead.
— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) September 17, 2017
Vancouver almost equalized with less than ten minutes to go in regular time but once again Reyna was foiled by the woodwork as his header found the post. Not the best of birthdays for the Peruvian playmaker.
It looked like the unbeaten streak of five games would be coming to an end, but then the ball fell at the feet of Tony Tchani in injury time and the former Crew stalwart helped his current team salvage a point by poking the ball into the net.
His fourth of the season, and a very “fitting” ending as Carl Robinson described things later.
Tony Tchani levels it in extra time!!! https://t.co/DoJggN2rmm
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) September 17, 2017
With the point, and other results going in their favour, Vancouver remains in top spot in the West and have picked 14 out of a possible 18 points in their last six games (4W, 2D). Both Vancouver and Columbus extended their unbeaten runs to six matches with the draw.
The attack was once again led by duo of Montero and Reyna with the latter being the most dangerous Whitecap on the pitch.
Despite being the centre of the Crew’s attention, the diminutive Peruvian proved that he will be key in Vancouver’s run into the playoffs.
They will return to BC Place in a weeks time when they face bottom of the table Colorado Rapids in their penultimate regular season home game.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 2 Columbus Crew
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey (Erik Hurtado 80); Aly Ghazal, Tony Tchani; Cristian Techera (Alphonso Davies 60), Yordy Reyna, Brek Shea (Bernie Ibini 72); Fredy Montero [Substitutes not used: Stefan Marinovic, Andrew Jacobson, Nicolás Mezquida, Marcel de Jong]
COLUMBUS: Zack Steffen; Harrison Afful, Josh Williams, Lalas Abubakar, Hector Jimenez; Wil Trapp, Mohammed Abu (Artur 46); Pedro Santos (Alex Crognale 83), Federico Higuain, Kekuta Manneh (Justin Meram 70); Ola Kamara [Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver, Adam Jahn, Niko Hansen, Connor Maloney]
Thoughts on the match:
“Not bad. Not bad in certain areas. I thought we were a little bit …we weren’t sharp enough, and I thought that might be the case after the third game in a week. We were, maybe eighty per cent playing, and I think that worked to their favour, because they’re a very good possession orientated team, they like to lull you, and obviously slow the tempo of the game down. When they got the goal ahead, obviously that’s what they did for twenty odd minutes or so. I think we deserved a point based on the chances we had. Yordy [Reyna] hits the post twice, should score, maybe both of them. But until I see it again, I’m happy with a point. I’ll take it.”
On the late goal to get the draw:
“It shows great character that this group has got, great attitude, never say die attitude. Can we be better? Yes of course we can. We know that, individually [and] collectively. But when you’re not sharp, your mind is tired, emotions are tired, and I think we were. It’s important you grind, and when I say grind I mean fight, scrap, do all the fundamentals off the ball that you need to do to try to gain momentum when you do have the ball, and that’s what we did, especially in those last ten minutes. And if there would have been another five minutes I think the momentum was with us, and we probably could have got another goal. So I’m please, really pleased with the guys.”
On both Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani scoring after being traded for one another:
“I think it’s fitting. I know that Kekuta can do. I said I’ve had a great relationship with the boy, and I think he showed today moments of brilliance. Having said that, I think Jake Nerwinski was excellent against him. He probably let one cross in today in the first half where Kekuta obviously managed to set up the goal for Kamara. The second, I think we allowed him space to do that, but I’ve seen it time and time again in training. I didn’t want to see it again today, but I did, so credit to the boy. We get along great, so happy for him, but happy for Tony as well. Tony’s come up big for us a number of times this year. He might not get the plaudits that maybe Kekuta does, but he certainly should today.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It was a tough game. I thought we could have played better in both halves. I thought we pushed on in the second half. We’ve come back in numerous games this season, so I’m never worried about our team quitting if we go behind. We’re a team that pushes on and really gets better if we’re down, knowing that we need to push. Guys coming on always make a difference, and I thought Bernie [Ibini] did, I thought Alphonso [Davies] did, and Erik [Hurtado. It was a game that we needed to battle and he gets in there and mixes it up with everybody. So it was nice to get a point out of it. Three games in a week is never easy, and I thought we managed to do well. To get seven points is always a positive.”
On the strength of the squad:
“It’s because of our depth, and because of our character. The coaching staff has brought in guys here that have good character, that aren’t worried about selfish plays or getting the goal. They’re worried about getting points for the team, and battling it through, and we’ve got guys that can do that. So we’re disappointed in the draw at home, we always shoot for three points, and we’ll do that next week. But at the end of the day, seven points in three games within the week, I think is a huge positive. And we’ve got another game in hand, so we’ll just keep pushing on.”
On both Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani scoring:
“It just goes to show that players that you pick up, whether you give up a quality player like Kekuta is, or you bring in a quality player like Tony is, they’re positive for their team. And Kekuta had a great game, I’ve seen him do that stuff before. But then again, we brought in a guy that is a huge positive for our team in Tony, and you saw that tonight. So I think fans are always worried about who got the better end of a trade, and it goes to show that I think both teams, both players are good players, and they do positive things for their club.”
On the emotions of scoring against his former team:
“When I scored, I didn’t realize that I was playing against my former team. I took three steps and realized, just stop and respect, because I was there six years, not just like a year. I felt like I owed [them] a lot of respect.”
On playing his former team:
“I’m not a guy that really tries to put added pressure on myself. Those games can either go very well or very bad. So I just needed to make sure I do the little things right, just to make sure I complete my passes, defending the way my coach asks, and not try to add pressure and not try to overdo it.”
On if this was his most satisfying goal this season:
“I wouldn’t say the most satisfying, but I think it’s something that we needed after playing three games in a week. Just getting that one point was very good for us.”
On the momentum and trying to get maximum points this week:
“For sure. I feel like we missed a lot of chances. I think they played better soccer than us, they had more possession, but we created more chances than them.”
On if he felt he needed to score after Kekuta scored:
“I don’t think so, because we’re two different type of players. I’m a centre-mid player and he’s an attacking guy, so he gets more chances than I do. The few times that I get into the box, I try to make the best of my chances.”
COLUMBUS CREW SC
On Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani both scoring after being traded for one another:
“I think it’s nice. I’m happy for both those guys. Obviously particularly happy for Kekuta, for the warm reception by the fans, but not only that, the performance. I talked to him about how important he is to this team and about he is going to be able to make an impact down the stretch, and he showed it. I’m really happy for his performance tonight.”
On if he is happy with a point:
“I don’t think we’re happy with a point. If you look in the dressing room, the guys aren’t happy. We wanted to prove a point. It came back through the grapevine that they’re calling us a soft team, and they’re going to be physical with us, and it would be interesting to see the thoughts now after the game, because I didn’t see it that way at all. I think we controlled the match, we defended well with the set pieces which we knew was a big strength of theirs. And we looked the more aggressive team, we looked the team that wanted to attack and wanted to score goals. So we’re disappointed at the end that they got the goal, but we’ll keep our heads up and keep working.”
On Kekuta Manneh:
“He’s a game-changer. His profile is a guy that in any instant can change the course of the game through his ability. It’s nice to see him get the opportunity, but then take advantage of it.”
On their chances in the Eastern Conference and being a darkhorse:
“I don’t think we’re interested in what everyone has to say. We believe in our group, guys believe in each other, and we keep our heads down and we keep working. You know Toronto’s had an exceptional year, one for the history books, and they’re the team everyone’s trying to catch. But we’ll take it game by game and keep our heads down and keep working.”
On Ola Kamara:
“I think Ola’s an outstanding striker. I think if people watched our games they would see how good he is. Very good movement off the ball, very good finisher, very good work rate. In my eyes, he’s one of the top strikers in MLS, but I get to coach him. I think if people were watching enough they’d be able to see the same thing.”
On returning to play in Vancouver:
“I was really excited coming back to Vancouver. This city gave me everything I had and everything I am today. I basically grew up here and I consider it as a home for me. So it was a bit emotional coming down, and different too being in different colours. But it was fun, the whole trip was fun. We came down Wednesday and the boys enjoyed the city, I showed them around, and I met some old friends. But I thought it was good. It feels a little bit weird. It was different, but we enjoyed it. It’s good to be back.”
On being more motivated than usual:
“Not really. I just thought our game plan was for me to succeed today. This team is very tactical. They wanted me to be that player that carried the team today, and that’s what we did. I saw they had me one-v-one, and I thought that played to my strengths, that’s what I’m all about. Let me play free and get me the ball in positions to run at the players. That’s what the coach did, and he did it that whole week. So that was our game plan, and we thought we could have success with that. I happened to be that player, and it could have been someone else, but the coach chose me. And I thought that happened, and I was fortunate enough to get an assist and score a goal, so I’m really pleased with the performance. But take away nothing from the guys’ performance, it’s been unbelievable. Playing against a big team like the Whitecaps, physical team. You look at our height and it’s crazy, I think only one person is over six-foot tall besides the goalkeeper on the field. So I thought we dealt with that very well. I’m really proud of the guys and I thought we gave everything we had and were very unlucky not to get a result here. But I thought it was a good game overall.”
On his start in Columbus:
“It’s tough. Life in a different city and different country, I thought it was tough. The team, the system is different. Everything is to perfection. Sometimes you can get caught up. It took me a while to get adjusted to the system, and play a different system than Vancouver that I was playing in for four or five years. Having to go to a different system, it was tough for me to break into the team. I think it took me a while, but now I think I’m caught up to speed and I’m seeing the benefit. The way the team wants to play, and the team is adjusting to me with my style of play, and I’m adjusting to the team’s style of play. So I think it’s working now. Now it’s just getting opportunities and to help the team achieve their goals.”