CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – After scoring his second preseason goal in the New England Revolution’s second preseason game on Friday afternoon – a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls – Kei Kamara revealed the secret to his current form.
“It’s not me, it’s the bun,” Kamara joked. “I just keep knocking it off the bun.”
Kamara didn’t give all the credit for his pair of headed goals to his hairstyle, though; he also praised the service he’s gotten from his teammates. In Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Minnesota United, he nodded home Donnie Smith’s left-wing cross. On Friday, he rose highest to power home Lee Nguyen’s corner kick.
Those types of connections are a positive sign for Kamara, who spent much of the 2016 season adjusting to New England’s system and working tirelessly to form chemistry with his teammates.
Early indications in 2017 are that the chemistry is there.
“Last year I joined the team a bit late, but as the season went on I started connecting more with the guys,” Kamara said. “It’s good now that we’re connecting and building and them knowing my strengths.”
“He’s pretty good. He scores the soccer goals,” joked Kelyn Rowe. “He’s obviously gotten a lot more comfortable with us. Two goals in two games; we’re hoping that transfers over into the season.”
The goals have been a boon – and Kamara will be expected to score after registering 34 goals combined the past two seasons – but head coach Jay Heaps has been more impressed with the striker’s overall play and his commitment to the club’s philosophy on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think it’s important that he gets confident scoring goals, and he’s scored them in different ways; the other day was out of the run of play, and this one was off a set piece,” Heaps said. “But I really like what he’s bringing. The goals are going to come if he plays the way he’s playing.
“He’s great on the ball right now. He’s working hard defensively, and he’s creating things from defensive pressure and that’s key for us.”
Kamara called the preseason “a slow buildup,” and he’ll aim to continue building through the next four weeks ahead of the Revolution’s March 4 opener in Colorado.
But early returns have been good, and if the goals keep coming, Kamara won’t complain.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly game or not, it’s about winning,” Kamara said of preseason. “You can’t win games without goals, so I’m happy to be on the end of those crosses.”
Fitness continues to be a focus as trio goes 60 minutes vs. Red Bulls
While no one played more than 45 minutes in the Revolution’s preseason opener against Minnesota on Tuesday, three players went a full hour on Friday as fitness continues to increase.
The midfield trio of Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe played into the second half of the Revolution’s win over New York, marking an important step for players ahead of the Desert Diamond Cup, where they’ll start to approach full 90-minute performances.
“I was just talking to Scotty Caldwell,” Rowe said after the game. “We felt really good, and felt like we could go more. But then when you’re done you can feel those tired legs.
“It’s good to have it and I think we’re going to push a couple more guys as we keep going on.”
Kamara: “Not conceding goals means we’re doing something good”
Heaps and the Revolution’s coaching staff have placed a heavy emphasis on defensive shape in the opening weeks of preseason, and their work on the training ground appears to be bearing some fruit after the Revs shut out the Red Bulls on Friday.
It’s still a work-in-progress just two weeks into camp – not to mention that the Revs’ entire starting backline against New York was comprised of trialists and unsigned draftees – but there are early signs that the players are understanding the coaching staff’s vision.
“We had good performances in both halves,” Heaps said. “Some things were better in the first half, some things were better in the second half. But overall, really pleased with the individual performance.
“I think they put together what we were asking them to do defensively. A couple let-downs here and there, but overall, a good performance.”
Kamara, who hasn’t been on the field for a goal against yet this preseason, summed it up succinctly.
“Not conceding goals means we’re doing something good,” he said.
Camp heads to Tucson on Monday ahead of Tuesday friendly against Sporting KC
New England’s time in Casa Grande will come to a close early next week, when they’ll head to Tucson for a brief preview of their extended stay later in the month. The Revs will only be in Tucson long enough to take on Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday before heading back to Foxborough for a brief respite.