Could Philadelphia be a landing spot for Kekuta Manneh?

The Philadelphia Union are at a crossroads. As another underwhelming season winds down, they will prepare to enter the offseason with more questions than answers. With a significant amount of payroll coming off of the books, the Union will also have quite a bit of capital to address those questions. One of the biggest is will the team commit to a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 hybrid or stick with the tried and true (but not at all good) 4-2-3-1. 

That question alone will shape the offseason as their targets for a Designated Player deal will be different. In the 4-3-3, a tricky winger who can do it all is needed to upgrade the spot that will likely be vacated by Chris Pontius. In a 4-2-3-1, a true number 10 is needed to pull the strings in the attack. 

Personally, I think that a top notch number 10 will be out of the Union's price range even with the money that they'll have coming off of the books. Top 10's cost a pretty penny and given the history of Jay Sugarman, the Union won't shell out enough to bring in an electric 10 to revitalize Talen Energy Stadium. But, that's okay, the Philadelphia Union already have two guys in the midfield who are capable of pulling the strings in the midfield and both are under contract next year. 

Haris Medunjaian and Alejandro Bedoya are perfectly suited to spread the ball around an orchestrate attacks from deep but the Union only have one winger capable of taking advantage of their skill set is Fafà Picault. The issue is that Picault is one-dimensional, while his diagonal runs were dangerous to begin the season, teams have caught on by now. The Philadelphia Union need someone else to balance out the attack and thanks to decisions by the Colombus Crew that person may be available this offseason.

Manneh joined the Crew in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps near the beginning of the season, but life in Columbus hasn't been what was expected. Even with the Crew shipping Ethan Finlay off to Minnesota United, Manneh has struggled to get into the Colombus side. On the season, he has played in 17 games, starting nine for the Crew. Even with the limited appearances, Manneh was able to net four goals while collecting three assists for the Crew.

Manneh will be out of contract at the end of the season and his only route to return to the Crew would have been if Pipa Higuain would be departing so that Justin Meram can slot centrally. With Higuain returning, there isn't much room for Manneh in the Crew lineup which is where the Philadelphia Union could win out. Manneh is still an extremely talented winger who made the MLS 24 Under 24 listing of the best talents under the age of 24 in the league.

Manneh could be had at a cut-price and it would be a good idea for the Union to pursue a deal. Even if he is paid Designated Player money, the inter-league move wouldn't require a Designated Player transfer fee. Manneh has also become a US citizen and won't take up and international spot on the team. Manneh, Sapong and Picault would form a front three that could rival most teams in the league and that's before the depth options of Marcus Epps and Fabian Herbers are even discussed.

The interplay between the wings would be beautiful to watch and would allow the Union to focus most of their resources on improving the defense which should be the real focus heading into 2018. On the market, the team can do a lot worse than Kekuta Manneh especially looking at past history. This is the offseason for making a statement and signing Manneh would be a good place to start.