Two weeks ago, Kekuta Manneh was just trying to make a play in practice. He won the ball in a small-sided scrimmage and took a shot. What happened to the Columbus Crew SC winger next scared him.
“When it happened, I knew right away something had happened,” the winger remembered. “I tried to play on it and I lasted like 20 seconds I think. I was hopping, hopping. I was like, this is not good.”
The doctors knew just from the touch that Manneh had broken his fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. He had surgery and, although it was initially thought he could return by the end of the season, Manneh did not, missing 15 matches.
“But I came back strong,” he said.
“It’s fully healed now and it’s good. It doesn’t really bother me at all.”
Fast-forward back to two weeks ago and Manneh’s shot went all wrong. He struck the bottom of teammate Artur’s foot on his follow through and felt pain in his own once again.
“I had him really, really good. I guess I had myself really good,” the 22 year old said. “It was painful, but I didn’t want to step out. I wanted to keep training, do all the extra stuff I need to do.”
Manneh eventually had to come out of the drill and he went home to rest his foot. While watching the NBA Finals that night, he didn’t notice much pain. That is until he stood up to go to bed.
“I couldn’t walk,” Manneh said. “I felt it and was like, ‘What is this?’ It swelled up a little bit. I didn’t think anything bad about it. Maybe ice it and then I’ll go to bed and come in tomorrow and it will be good.”
Manneh dealt with the same pain the next day when he tried to walk. He managed to get to practice and the Columbus medical staff looked at him. They couldn’t tell anything so they sent the winger to get an X-ray, and the results didn’t seem good.
The fear was that Manneh had torn some ligaments in his foot, another injury that would force him out for the year. He didn’t want to believe that and the doctors said he should let the swelling go down and they would schedule another X-ray.
“When they said you potentially could be out for the whole season, the way it looked, I was like, there’s no way,” Manneh said. “I was just in my car, sitting there after that, I was like, ‘There’s no way I can be out again for three to four months.’”
Manneh was in a walking boot at training the next day and head coach Gregg Berhalter said the team thought it was a bone bruise, but had to wait for the results of the scan to be sure.
As he waited the week for the scan, Manneh began to feel better. A lot better.
“They put me in a boot, but when I was at my place, I took my boot off and walked around it felt great,” he said. “I came, I told the doctors, ‘Look, this feels really great. I think I can train today.’ He said, ‘We can’t let you train until we do another scan to make sure everything is good.’”
On Monday, Manneh went in for the scan and the results were much better. He was cleared to return to training.
Manneh was back at practice on Tuesday, but participated in only a limited fashion just to be cautious. Crew SC were off on Wednesday, but Manneh was full go on Thursday in training and is happy to be back on the field with his teammates.
“I wanted to be out there, but unfortunately, the circumstances, I couldn’t,” he said. “I was sitting out there and I watched the game against Cincinnati and the Atlanta game and I wanted to be on the field so bad. I thought I could have helped the team. So that was frustrating me a lot.
“So when I come back, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to kind of catch up on the week that I missed. Today I was a bit excited and running everywhere and trying to make things happen. I felt like I’d been out for a month or so. That’s what it felt like to me just missing those two games.”
Since joining the Black & Gold on March 30 in a trade with the Whitecaps, Manneh has made only five appearances and three starts. At first, he was getting conditioned in order to play in Columbus’ offense and now he’s looking to fight his way into the lineup.
The injury was a setback, but now healthy, Manneh is looking forward to getting back on the field, both the practice and game variety.
“I think there’s still a lot more [to show],” he said of his abilities. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve played probably five games in like 10 weeks. So I think still there’s more to come. I haven’t really got started yet.”