Matchday

Kei Kamara nears Landon Donovan in MLS goals chart after match-winning brace

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Two goals from Kei Kamara sealed Chicago Fire FC's first home win of the 2023 season Saturday night, a 2-1 victory over previously-undefeated Minnesota United FC, at Soldier Field.

That first-half brace increased Kamara's career tally of MLS regular-season goals to 142, remaining third on the league's all-time scoring list and moving just three behind Landon Donovan (145). The league and US men's national team legend holds second place after last playing for the LA Galaxy in 2016. 

Even though the 38-year-old Kamara could soon surpass Donovan, he was all about the collective when reflecting postgame.

"What did I like about the way I played tonight? Um, I helped the team," he chuckled. "I knew their backline, they’re strong. I knew that I have to be a body, an outlet for the guys when the ball comes forward I have to hold it, lay it off. And just be a problem for as much as I can do during the game."

Now in his 18th MLS season, Kamara, after a trade from CF Montréal in February, is helping spark a club that last made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017. They're up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference after Matchday 7 results, and head coach Ezra Hendrickson is quick to credit Kamara for his role in their early fortunes.

"He's a leader, man," Hendrickson remarked. "He's in the locker room. He's been enormous for us. We have a fairly young group. They call him 'grandpa', 'cause most of these guys are 19, 20. But he's always there... He's been a great addition to the team, beyond just his goalscoring. What he does in the locker room and on the pitch, as far as leading the team, has been very tremendous for us."

While Kamara hesitated to focus on his own personal records, he is clearly aware of the rarified air he occupies and the company with which he sits.

"Jaime [Moreno] or Jeff Cunningham and all those guys are guys I really respect and obviously look up to," he pointed out, noting a special shared history with San Jose Earthquakes legend Chris Wondolowski, whose 171 regular-season goals top the all-time scoring chart. Both Kamara and Wondolowski played in the lower divisions of the American soccer pyramid at the start of their careers.

"Chris Wondolowski, I’ve always said, he’s a player that played Division II soccer in America. Me and him were the only guys that played Division II soccer, so for us to be up in the list like that, it’s really good and it’s a big, big achievement. I enjoy it."

With a home matchup against 2022 Eastern Conference champions Philadelphia Union next weekend, Kamara and this Chicago Fire group are hungry to continue building momentum and get back to the playoffs. Whatever his role in the team, Kamara is ready.

"I’m here to help," he stated. "When the time comes for me to play, I’m going to be ready."