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Kekuta Manneh remains in Columbus Crew SC’s plans

The winger will get his chance when the time is right.

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the question on every Columbus Crew SC fan’s mind following this weekend: What is going on with Kekuta Manneh?

The Black & Gold traded Tony Tchani, $225,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and $75,000 in General Allocation Money for the winger nearly a month ago and he is yet to see the field. Meanwhile, Tchani has played in three games for the Vancouver Whitecaps, starting two.

Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter made it clear there was a fitness discrepancy between Manneh and his new teammates that was keeping him off the field. But after three weeks of training and extra conditioning, and making the game-day roster two weeks ago, those in Columbus believed Manneh would make his debut last weekend against the New York Red Bulls.

Then Manneh put out this tweet — since deleted — on Saturday morning:

The location of this tweet was Obetz, OH, the home of the team’s EAS Training Center, meaning Manneh did not travel, and therefore would not play, against the Red Bulls.

Following the game, a 2-0 loss for Crew SC, Berhalter had the following to say when asked about Manneh’s situation.

“It’s tough picking an 18 every week to be honest,” he said. “You know, those are decisions that we base it largely on the opponent, who we think is going to be most effective against a certain opponent. With Kekuta, he’s a little bit behind from a fitness standpoint.”

For the second consecutive week, Berhalter started Justin Meram and rookie Niko Hansen at either winger position to play alongside Ola Kamara and Federico Higuain in the Black & Gold’s attack. This week though, the head coach elected for target forward Adam Jahn on the bench over Manneh.

With the addition of Manneh along with the emerge of Hansen, a first-round draft selection, Crew SC now has depth in its attacking options. Because of this, Berhalter is going to have to make decisions like this one each week and someone will be left out.

As the head coach mentioned, his team selection is often about the opponent and he felt that the bigger-bodied Jahn, who has more experience in the system, was the better choice going against New York.

As for Manneh going forward, he was acquired for a reason. Just because he has not yet made his debut does not mean he will not feature in Berhalter’s plans going forward.

“He’s a guy that he’s worked extremely hard and he has a great attitude,” he said of Manneh. “He’s going to make an impact; it’s just a question of when.”