FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – At 2-1 up midway through the second half of Saturday night’s game, Kei Kamara was more than satisfied. He’d had a hand in both New England Revolution goals and, more importantly, his side was in line for a key victory over his former Columbus Crew SC teammates.
But when Kamara put his own name on the scoresheet with a 71st-minute insurance strike? That was just the icing on top of a memorable night and a slump-busting 3-1 win for the Revolution.
“It’s not a game I ever thought was going to happen,” Kamara admitted two months after being traded away from Columbus, where he scored 22 goals last year and was a finalist for league MVP. “When I was part of that team, I just saw myself there. The only time I saw myself playing against those guys was when we scrimmaged at training.
“A lot of people were making me aware that I get to play them [three] times. For me, it was a fun game.”
Kamara may have three chances to face his former team this regular season, but he waited just three minutes to make an impact on Saturday night. He attracted the attention of two Columbus defenders on a Chris Tierney cross in the early stages, and although he couldn’t direct a header on target himself, that left plenty of space for Lee Nguyen to settle and shoot from the top of the box.
Nguyen made no mistake, burying his effort into the upper left corner and giving the Revolution a precious third-minute lead.
“It was a great cross from Chris,” Kamara said. “I actually thought I was going to get my head on it, but [Columbus’] game plan was ‘Don’t let Kei get his head on anything.’ It worked out perfect. That ball went back outside and when it left Lee’s foot, it felt good.”
Kamara was at it again in the 34th minute, taking a pass from Nguyen down the left wing and drilling a low cross into the box toward Kelyn Rowe. The pass was a millimeter behind Rowe, but the backtracking Wil Trapp could do nothing but direct the ball into his own net to double the Revolution’s lead.
All that was left for Kamara to do was score himself, and he thought he’d done so in the 56th minute. Teal Bunbury’s cutback found him free six yards from goal, but he was stunned to see Michael Parkhurst block consecutive shots, including a second that rebounded straight up off the crossbar.
At that point, Kamara momentarily gave up his quest for a goal against his former team.
“I can’t lie; as a forward, I want to score. And playing against your old team, you want to score,” Kamara said. “But when I had that chance that I hit, got blocked, hit, got blocked and went off the crossbar, I said, ‘Forget it, let’s just try to get this win.’
“I tried to forget it, but it didn’t happen.”
Kamara needed to wait just 15 minutes for another golden chance, and this time, he made no mistake. With the ball rolling off Bunbury’s foot inside the box, a pair of Crew SC defenders conspired to crash into each other, leaving Kamara with the nothing to do but smash the ball into the back of the net.
In typical Kei fashion, he let his former teammates know how grateful he was for the opportunity.
“They gave me a Happy Meal. I have to eat it,” Kamara said with a smile. “If you give somebody a Happy Meal, if you can’t finish it, then you’re not worth a Happy Meal. To me, I love that. For that to be my first goal here in front of this crowd, it was amazing.”
While the chance fell fortuitously for Kamara, he admitted that the finish wasn’t a gimme.
“The easy goals I score are the goals I score with my head. Those are the easy goals,” he said. “The goals that come on my foot are really, really tough.”
Simple finish or not, Kamara’s goal was the perfect capper on a perfect night for the former Columbus forward. Make no mistake; he cherished the goal on a personal level.
But Kamara’s not just blowing smoke when he says that goals aren’t his end game. Only one thing could’ve meant more to Kamara than a goal on Saturday night, and that was a win.
“The team hasn’t really gotten what we wanted from games (recently), and I told myself that I can’t make it all be about how much I want it,” Kamara said. “It’s got to be about how much we want it.”