Kamara Comes Up Huge Against Old Team
- Updated: July 9, 2016
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Goals haven’t come easily for Kei Kamara since he was—much to his surprise—traded from the Columbus Crew to the New England Revolution on May 12th. One of the top scorers in MLS over the past few seasons, Kamara had just two goals in seven MLS matches for the Revolution going into the match, with both goals coming in a 3-2 losing effort in Montreal last weekend.
On Saturday, while the Sierra Leone striker only got his name on the scoresheet once, the striker played a huge role in all three of the Revolution’s goals, as his new side beat his old one 3-1. Kamara took five shots in the match, putting two on frame and also won four aerial duels – two times as many as any other player on the pitch – while being highly involved with 38 touches.
“It’s not a game that I thought was ever going to happen”, said Kamara, who helped lead the Crew to an MLS Cup appearance last season. “When I was part of that team I just saw myself there and the only time that I saw myself playing against those guys was just when we do scrimmages at training. There were three [games against them] marked on the calendar and a lot of people were just making me aware that you get to play them this many times. For me, it was a fun game.”
Kamara played a key role in the game’s opener in just the third minute, challenging two Crew defenders for a cross and forcing a misplayed clearance right to Lee Nguyen. Nguyen made no mistake, volleying in a shot to give the Revolution an early lead.
“It was a great cross from Chris [Tierney],” said Kamara. “I actually thought I was going to get my head on it, but game plan was don’t let Kei get his head on anything and it worked out perfect. The ball went back outside and when it left Lee’s foot it felt good.”
“That’s Kei Kamara for you,” said midfielder Kelyn Rowe. “He’s a goal scorer and he’s always going to be around the box. He’s a terrific forward and that’s why we have him. He’s really coming into his own here. I think he’s getting a lot more connections with Lee [Nguyen], with Teal [Bunbury] and myself and guys pushing forward. You can see him. We’re finding him in good spots, he’s putting himself in good spots and he’s finishing chances.”
Half an hour later, Kamara would set up the second goal after getting the ball from Nguyen in the left side of the box. This time Kamara attempted to slip a pass through to Rowe and saw his cross redirected in by Wil Trapp for an own goal with Rowe challenging.
“Obviously when you play against your former team there is going to be motivation because you know them and everyone knows what happened to have us get him,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “But there was a lot more at stake than that. I think this week we were challenging the guys for their own performance and starting the game the right way and having that mentality. I think a lot of our focus was on us and it really wasn’t on Columbus and Kei, it was just about us getting out there and doing the best we could do.”
The star forward then had his best chance of the match to get a goal against his former side. Teal Bunbury rounded Crew ‘keeper Steve Clark and sent a searching pass through the box towards Kamara. The Revolution striker got on the end of it, but saw two shots blocked by former New England defender Michael Parkhurst, with the second then clanging off the crossbar after the block.
“I can’t lie, as forward I want to score and playing against your old team you want to score,” said Kamara. “When I had that one chance that I hit, got blocked, hit, got blocked and went off the crossbar, then I said ‘forget it, let’s just try to get this win.’ I tried to forget it.”
Kamara’s chances weren’t done yet, however, as he finally got the goal he craved in the 71st minute after the Crew defense failed to deal with a cross and two defenders collided, leaving the ball at Kamara’s feet where he finished from close range.
“I wanted to score a goal at home – they gave me a Happy Meal, I have to eat it,” said Kamara, referencing the relative easiness of his goal. “That was great. Tony [Tchani] kept telling me that and I said, ‘yeah, if you give somebody a Happy Meal, if you can’t finish it, you’re not worth a Happy Meal’, and to me I love that. For that to be my first goal here in front of this crowd, that was amazing.”
The performance is what the Revolution expected from Kamara when they traded for the player that had scored 22 goals in MLS last season. Now the team will look for more of the same when they return to action with a trip to Real Salt Lake next Saturday.
“I thought he was awesome tonight,” said Heaps. “When [Kamara] works hard and when Lee [Nguyen] works hard everyone else works a little harder because they know those are our key main attacking players and the way they closed down tonight, the way they pressured and the way they were involved in the attack, that’s two way playing for us. We ask a lot of [Kamara]… he’s played a lot of minutes lately and hasn’t even batted an eye… He was perfect tonight in terms of what he did defensively for us and offensively I was glad that he got that goal.”