Rapids' Hill goes from unemployment to leading goalscorer

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It’s hard to believe, but the Colorado Rapids’ leading scorer was unemployed 10 weeks ago.

Rapids midfielder Kamani Hill (above right) has made the sudden and astonishing transition from feel-good story to offensive juggernaut in just two months, and following his US Open Cup strike on Tuesday night against Tampa Bay, the Bay Area native is now tied with midfielder Jaime Castrillón for the Rapids’ team lead with four goals.

Before signing with the Rapids on March 28, Hill had spent his previous five years nomadically traveling Europe searching for a contributing role anywhere and everywhere, with no success and little in the way of prospects.

But since scoring in his Colorado debut April 1, Hill hasn’t stopped, despite starting in just two total matches this season. The versatile midfielder/striker has found a home with the Rapids, and his teammates are taking notice.

“He always gives us a spark,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com following Saturday’s 3-2 comeback win vs. Montreal. “He nearly creates goals when he chips it to the back post, and he makes it difficult for the defenders to play out at the end.”

There might not be a better example of Hill’s impact than the Montreal game, when he came on for Tony Cascio and nearly scored just seconds after his 74th-minute introduction. The UCLA product reversed the course of a game that appeared to be headed for a 2-2 draw when he came on and set up the play Castrillón eventually finished for the winner. It was Hill’s energy that helped spark the 10-man Rapids to score the winner in the 83rd minute, and Colorado coach Oscar Pareja was far from shy in praising the substitute after the match.

“He brought a lot of energy, and normally Kamani brings that to the game,” Pareja said. “He’s a technical player, and he’s a player that is difficult to play against because he holds the ball so well. And that was what we needed in that moment in the game. And he was sharp as well, and came in and worked hard for us. It was a great performance.”

Hill’s energy will take a well-earned respite as the Rapids are off until June 5 at Sporting KC in US Open Cup play.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.