VANCOUVER, B.C. — For all the rebuilding that Carl Robinson has done with his Vancouver Whitecaps side these past few years, the position that’s been a consistent thorn in his side has been that of striker.
Goals have come, but not when they've mattered the most. Fredy Montero had his best-ever year in MLS with the Whitecaps last season, but with his loan deal ending, the search for a hopefully more permanent solution was on once again.
The Whitecaps hope to have finally found it with the addition of Kei Kamara, who arrived in a trade with the New England Revolution on Dec. 10. The Sierra Leone striker has a proven track record in his 11 seasons in the league, and he's already making it clear that he's not just moving to Vancouver to score goals.
He wants an MLS Cup.
"The club were in the playoffs and just getting in to the playoffs is not enough," Kamara told Vancouver reporters Wednesday. "Me also as a player, I've been in the playoffs, I've been in the final, but that's never enough.
"What's enough is really bigger than that, which is winning a championship. Coming here, I don't want to put too much pressure on myself or my teammates, but that's what you play for."
Kamara gives Vancouver what they've been missing for a couple of seasons now – a big target man to get on the end of crosses and someone with the ability to play the lone striker role when required.
The Whitecaps style of play certainly feels better suited to Kamara than what he had in New England – a fact not lost on the striker.
"When I came back, I think I finished with 22 goals for Columbus [in 2015], so I don't know if that style fitted in with Columbus or not," joked Kamara, who scored 19 goals over the past two seasons with the Revs. "It's different [with New England]. It doesn't work out in every relationship. I had a girlfriend before my wife and that didn't work out, so… But New England didn't work out, now I'm here and I'm looking forward to making it work over here."
But as a big-name, big-money Designated Player, Kamara also knows that the expectations will be high to perform immediately – and if he doesn't, his honeymoon period in Vancouver may be short.
Of course, that doesn’t seem to faze him in the slightest.
"Bring on the pressure," Kamara said. "I love playing under pressure. … I'm ready for that. I played in England. If there's any criticism in soccer in general, it's bigger over there than in any other place. It's good. Players should be players, and coaches and clubs should be held accountable for if it's not going well. That's the pressure that you want to have as players, or as an organization."
And if he's not living up to his part of the bargain, Kamara's fully prepared for the consequences.
"For me, if I'm not scoring goals, put me on the bench," he said. "It shows me that I'm not doing well and I need to work a little bit harder. I can't wait. If the pressure's going to come from the city, then that's great because then the city knows that when you're winning games, everybody's going to fill out the stadium. We look forward to that."