FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Kei Kamara never thought he'd leave Columbus Crew SC. But on Saturday, he found himself pitted against the same team he helped guide to last year's MLS Cup final.
On a night in which the spotlight was cast squarely on him, the newest member of the New England Revolution did not disappoint. Not only did he factor in his team's first two goals, but he bagged one of his own late to send the Revs to a convincing 3-1 win over Columbus.
While the prospect of facing his former teammates may have seemed impossible before he was traded to the Revolution in May, Kamara insisted that he wasn't looking for revenge on Saturday.
"There were three [games against Columbus] marked on the calendar, and a lot of people were just making me aware of that, [saying], 'Hey, you get to play them this many times,'" Kamara said. "But for me, it was [just like] any other game."
The 31-year-old striker, who played for four different MLS clubs before he landed in New England two months ago, was no doubt looking to score on Saturday. But he admitted he wasn't as nervy for it as he was when he faced another one of his former clubs -- Sporting Kansas City -- as a member of Crew SC last year.
"That day, it was like, I wanted it all," Kamara said. "My nerves -- I couldn't keep myself down at all. Today, I was focused, the team really hasn't gotten what we wanted from games. I told myself I can't make it all be about how much I want it. It's gotta be about how much we want it."
If there was any question about Kamara's team-first mindset, one only needs to look at how he played a hand in the goals that preceded his 71st minute tally.
With coach Jay Heaps emphasizing the need for a strong start in Saturday's clash, the Revolution attack barreled into the final third intent to get the jump on Columbus. On a ball lofted from Chris Tierney, Kamara drew two defenders before the ball squirted to an unmarked Lee Nguyen, who blasted it into the back of the net in the third minute.
"We were challenging guys for their own performance and starting the game the right way," Heaps said. "A lot of the focus was on us, and it really wasn't on Columbus and Kei, it was just about us going out there doing the best we could do."
Kamara's commitment to the team's goal was evident once more in the 34th minute. On a quick break into Columbus territory, the Revolution striker crossed it into the box for Kelyn Rowe, who darted forward to meet it. Although Wil Trapp beat Rowe to the ball, the Crew midfielder inadvertently knocked it into his own net.
"I thought he was awesome tonight," Heaps said of Kamara. "He worked hard, and when he works hard, and Lee works hard, everyone else works a little harder because those are our key attacking players. The way that they closed down tonight, the way they pressured, and the way that they were involved in the attack -- that's two-way playing for us."
As unselfish as Kamara may have played, he still yearned to find the back of the net. But not because of who the opponent was. First and foremost, he wanted to score his first goal in front of the home crowd.
He got that chance in the 71st minute. After Teal Bunbury's run into the area was stopped cold by a pair of Crew defenders, the ball squirted to Kamara. With a free chance -- which Kamara coined "a happy meal" -- to score, he predictably buried it with ease.
"I can't lie, as a forward I want to score, and when you play against your old team, you want to score," said Kamara, who had two opportunities prior to his goal to score. "I was just happy to be there at the right time."
Right place, right time, and in a Revolution uniform. Not the way Kamara probably would've predicted it less than three months ago.
"When I was part of that team, I just saw myself there [indefinitely]," Kamara said. "The only time I saw myself playing against those guys was when we scrimmaged in training."