Over the past couple of weeks there has been no shortage of speculation in regards to the high profile trade of Kei Kamara from the Columbus Crew. That is old news and thankfully the two matches since the trade have provided an opportunity to actually see the Columbus side ‘post Kamara’ (Kei that is).
Unfortunately for the Crew faithful though, it might seem more like living the plot of Groundhog Day than watching their favorite soccer team. 180 minutes of soccer with a new striker and a couple of other lineup changes, and everything seems exactly like before as the Crew carve out chances, but just can’t score.
The Crew traveled to Toronto on Saturday and things seemed to be starting well. Columbus was dominating possession, creating legitimate chances on goal and keeping Toronto in a less than threatening gear going forward. Federico Higuain was in good form and his crosses/corners found the head and feet of Kamara a number of times in the first half, but none of the chances were converted by the Norwegian.
It must be said though, one headed shot would certainly have been a goal had it not been for a heroic save from Toronto goalkeeper, Clint Irwin.
Another recent inclusion in the starting lineup the past couple weeks, Cedrick Mabwati, also made an impact in the first half. He was a constant threat down the flanks for Columbus, wriggling his way through the opposition to provide service and often take the shots himself. No surprise to most Crew fans, many have been calling for him since week one, but nonetheless he seems to be a much bigger part of Gregg Berhalter’s new side than he was before.
The second half picked up where the first left off as Columbus had no problem making their way through the Toronto defense as Justin Meram had a cheeky chip attempt denied by the woodwork and Higuain’s follow up saved by a goal line clearance, just five minutes into the half.
Time and time again the Crew drove forward and time and time again they were denied. Toronto did manage to see a bit more of the ball and look a little more dangerous, but even the Toronto commentators had to admit “this does not look like a team that sits ninth in the East and hasn’t won on the road yet.” In the end though, the majority of possession, twice as many shots, and almost three times as many of those on target could not get the three points for the Crew as it finished 0-0 at BMO stadium.
As a quick preface to my opinion on Ola so far, Irwin had a great game in goal for Toronto. He made a number of stops which would have left the net bulging on a ‘normal’ day and credit where credit is due. He seemed to have one of those days where all the opposition can do is shrug their shoulders and think “well, I guess today is just not our day”. I legitimately believe that those performances exist.
It becomes a problem though when I’m saying this every other week. When that starts to happen as often as it has, a closer look must be taken at those who are trying to score the goals.
Since getting into the starting eleven in Columbus, Ola Kamara has been, how do I say this, “meh”? For someone who is supposed to be the focal point of a teams attack, he has been pretty lackluster. Not bad, just entirely mediocre. He certainly works hard and does seem to make runs into dangerous positions, but, and I can’t believe I’m still saying this, he just can’t seem to find the finished product to get off the mark in the MLS.
Kamara doesn’t seem to have that killer instinct that great strikers seem to possess and just makes the wrong split second decisions in the heat of the moment, both things that can seriously hinder the effectiveness of a forward. It is still early though.
The bright side of the matter is that time is still on the Crew’s side. It is still early in the year and Kamara has plenty of time to find his place in the attack and gel with the rest of his teammates.
Furthermore, Higuain seems to be no worse for the wear after his spat with Kei and the service should be there for Ola to capitalize on. I do believe that if the Crew can keep their performances at this level, the goals will come. Along with plenty of created chances, Ola knows that he plays in front of a stout Columbus defense that is as stingy as the attack has been impotent, with Steve Clark deputizing between the posts.
I’ll stay optimistic for the time being, but if I’m saying the same thing after a 0-0 draw to the Fire in August, someone just please put me out of my misery.