The Vancouver Whitecaps pulled the trigger on a significant trade today, sending Kekuka Manneh to Columbus for Tony Tchani, $225,000 in TAM and $75,000 in GAM.
The move is a difficult one to fully handicap until we know what the Caps plan to do with the allocation. We can assume that they are looking to address the attack with a TAM player, but the Caps have surprised us before. The GAM is also likely tied into bringing someone in, with the TAM largely covering the transfer.
In moving Manneh, Vancouver have parted ways with one of the league's biggest enigmas. There have been days where he has looked like a potential Best XI player in the league and there are days when he was mostly invisible. However, his speed down the wings was a big part of what the Caps did on attack and there isn't an obvious way to replace that without assuming that a 16-year-old is ready to play 34 games in MLS without a mental or physical break-down. That's a lot to ask of Alphonso Davies.
Tchani isn't the same player. You can likely assume he'll line up beside Matias Laba and give the Caps a fairly tidy looking cover in front of the back-line. Tchani is also a decent passer and, if Davies or someone else steps up to create similar width as Manneh did, then he could turn out to be a nice piece.
Still, it's hard to ignore the Golden Rule of evaluating a trade -- who got the best player? That would be Columbus. The only caveat to that is whether said player is going to stay for the long run and there is indication that Manneh is looking longingly at Europe. His stay in Ohio may not be long. There are reports that the Caps negotiated a sell on clause in the trade and will receive some of the allocation money provided if the Crew do sell him.
Bottom line: The Whitecaps haven't looked right since about July of last year. Manneh was a huge part of their identity as a club and it might just have been time to shift gears. The Crew, meanwhile, think of themselves as a contending team in 2017 so a short term rental makes sense for them. Until we see what the Caps do with the money, let's call this one a draw.