The super-sub did it again on Saturday. Kekuta Manneh unleashed a 25-yard bomb that even the cat-like Jaime Penedo couldn't catch up to. The Panamanian keeper wasn't even close to it. The goal earned the Whitecaps a point in a game they had to chase twice.
It's becoming a predictable theme; when Manneh is on, things happen. Defenders don't like playing him because they don't know what he's going to do. Heck, even the Gambian teenager might not know what he's going to do. And while those defenders are being twisted into pretzels, players like Mattocks and Miller are getting residual opportunities.
It begs the questions then: why can't Kekuta be on from minute one more regularly, and in what role does he give Vancouver the best opportunity to win?
When he came on to start the second half Saturday, Manneh lined up in behind the strikers as a number 10. It was a move that may have actually been inspired by Liverpool's Raheem Stirling and the Jamaican's performance against Man City the week before. Sterling's goal against Norwich this past Sunday must have looked very familiar to Whitecaps fans; a 19-year old speedster, weaving through defenders before unleashing a canon that seemed to explode off his boot.
Manneh also spent part of Saturday on the left side in a proper 4-4-2. Again, he didn't look uncomfortable there.
Still in his building phase, Carl Robinson is not going to be anchored to one system or one lineup. But it's getter harder and harder for the rookie coach to quantify leaving Manneh out from the start. The manager's de facto justification is the teenager's defensive liability. It's also hard to argue having an ace up your sleeve in the event your team falls behind, like it did three times in two weeks against the LA Galaxy.
I can't help but wonder what the Whitecaps would look like, especially at home, if Miller and Mattocks have Manneh in behind them, with any combination of Morales, Laba and whoever else in the midfield diamond. It would be a high risk, high reward lineup, but one that no team in MLS would want to defend against. Not to mention, it would be darn fun to watch. Maybe, in the context of this past weekend's affair, the Whitecaps would have been the team showing the early initiative. Perhaps the Galaxy might have been more sensitive to pushing numbers forward knowing that any turnover could lead to punishing counters.
The team poised to win the Premier League seems perfectly comfortable conceding two goals a game, because they know they can score three or more.
We're getting to the point where not starting Manneh is like leaving your Ferrari in the garage on a sunny day; especially if you know that Ferrari will eventually be up for sale.
Might as well get the most out of it while you can.