Boehm: With help from Kamara, Alphonso Davies aims to make 2018 his year

On first glance, Alphonso Davies and Kei Kamara might not resemble your typical Hollywood duo.

Kamara, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ showcase offseason acquisition, is at the tail end of his prime, a charismatic, outspoken – and according to some, disruptive – striker on his fifth MLS team who turns 34 later this year. He’s nearly twice the age of Vancouver’s teenage phenomenon, Davies, a quiet, strapping prospect who’s turned the heads of scouts from some of the biggest clubs in the world since making his Whitecaps debut as a 15-year-old.

But the two share West African roots and similar made-for-TV backstories of emigration, adaptation and triumph over adversity. One way or another, they hit it off during preseason, and the results were devastating for the Montreal Impact at BC Place on Sunday.

“I think Fonzie's got a dance partner now,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, using the nickname Davies’ teammates long ago bestowed on him, after his team’s 2-1 win, a result banked via goals from the aforementioned duo. “Kei's a character, and a good character for Fonzie and that's what we need. It's important he teaches him, as well, from a player perspective. But they've got a good chemistry.”

It was celebration time when Davies served up the cross that Kamara thumped home to break the deadlock in the 63rd minute. The festivities – roared on by the largest opening-day crowd in Whitecaps history – were multiplied when Davies finally scored his first MLS goal seven minutes later, sparking a “Black Panther”-inspired routine between the two scorers.

“Ahh, yes, Wakanda,” said Kamara with a smile postgame.

The Sierra Leone international has occasionally butted heads with teammates and coaches over his well-traveled career. But he now finds himself in a different sort of situation in British Columbia, asked to not merely score, but also help shepherd one of the league’s top young prospects towards his full potential.

“No no, if I have to be a mentor to him, they're going to have to pay me for that,” joked Kamara when asked about mentoring Davies, perhaps a playful nod to his own reputation. “No, but I want to be an example for him, I want to be somebody he can learn from him, seeing me day in and day out, see how I work.”

Davies' flashes of brilliance have been stoking anticipation for a year and a half now. But over the winter Robinson, who has steadfastly pumped the brakes on this particular hype train whenever possible, demanded that he match his end product on the field to the excitement about his potential. The teenager certainly followed orders in the first 90 minutes of 2018. Davies successfully completed six of his eight dribbles on the night, levels of both quantity and quality on the ball that would've ranked among the league's best single-game performances last season.

“He’s a good player. He’s a very, very good young player,” said Robinson on Sunday. “There are very good young players all over; it’s important that you manage them correctly. But when he does that, you want him to play every minute. And he done his work today, he put a shift in. We know he’s got quality, and it’s about consistency, because young players go up and down – senior players go up and down in their form [too] – so it’s important that we manage him correctly. But he’s got himself off to a very good start.”