Rookie Manneh steals show with two goals, Kobayashi with the other
CHARLESTON, SC - Two first half goals from rookie Kekuta Manneh and a brilliant second-half volley from Daigo Kobayashi proved enough for Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they held off hosts Charleston Battery 3-2 in their opening match of the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup. The win improves Vancouver's preseason record to a perfect 4-0.
Starting as part of an experienced squad, Manneh and Kobayashi scored their first goals as members of the Blue and White in the win.
Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie was pleased by the play of his squad.
"The first 60 minutes of the game were very good from our perspective," commented Rennie. "We saw good movement and good penetration and scored goals early. I thought we started the second half well, but as this was the first time some of the guys played 90 minutes, they were obviously tired in the last thirty minutes. Overall, we're very happy. We got 90 minutes of fitness and some things we can improve on."
Just four minutes in, 2013 MLS SuperDraft fourth overall pick Kekuta Manneh created space and fired home his first goal of the preseason. This was just after he had a goal called back in the second minute of play for being offside.
Manneh picked up his second goal of the match at 28 minutes after receiving a great pass from 2012 MLS rookie scoring leader Darren Mattocks, who himself had a great scoring chance at 36 minutes.
At 43 minutes, Jose Cuevas gave Charleston their best chance of the match in the first half when he was in alone against "Caps keeper Brad Knighton. However, Cuevas missed well wide and the match finished 2-0 at the break.
In the second half, Charleston came out with terrific pace, but were unable to score in the opening minutes despite having several chances.
In the 51st minute, Daigo Kobayashi was able to add another goal to the "Caps tally as he picked up a great pass from Y.P. Lee and hit a tremendous technical volley past Charleston keeper Kevin Klasila.
Later in the half, Manneh had a beautiful opportunity to complete his hat trick when he was in alone against Klasila, but he was stopped by the Carolina keeper.
Shortly after, midfielder/forward Nicki Patterson netted Charleston's first goal of the match with a strike to the top-left corner of the net. Nine minutes later, Battery striker Dane Kelly found some space and put a curling shot past Knighton to reduce Vancouver's lead to one.
The final ten minutes proved to be action packed, with Charleston pushing for the equalizer. However, the "Caps defense held tight and Vancouver secured the win by a score of 3-2.
Whitecaps FC will hope to continue their strong preseason run Sunday afternoon against College of Charleston. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. PT at Patriots Point Athletic Complex. Follow @WhitecapsMatch for in-match updates.
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