FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Saturday night was as good a time as any for Kei Kamara to bag his first career MLS hat trick.
His showing led the New England Revolution to a 4-0 home win over Orlando City SC, keeping them within striking distance of the playoffs. And while it took 11 seasons, 279 regular-season games and six different clubs, the 33-year-old striker at long last has his much-desired three-goal performance.
“I’m 33. I think it came at the right time – it just had to be a few threes in your age before you can get that,” Kamara said. “It’s a relief as a striker. It was just one of those days where I felt good in warm-ups. I think I was scoring from the warm-up… every ball was just going into the back of the net. I was like, ‘Wow, this just feels like a special day today.’”
A special day indeed, one which saw Kamara volley home the opener in the 26th-minute, then bag a pair of insurance tallies on breakaways in the second half. But what loomed large, outside of Kamara’s star night, was the Revs keeping their playoff hopes alive.
After back-to-back losses at New York City FC and then D.C. United, Saturday’s win moved New England within four points of Atlanta for the East’s sixth and final playoff berth. They have two matches remaining against both Atlanta and seventh-place Montreal, starting with next Saturday’s home contest against the Impact.
The opportunity to continue to climb towards the playoff line wasn’t lost on left back Chris Tierney.
“We’re already looking forward to next week,” Tierney said. “This win isn’t really going to matter if we don’t take care of business next week. This is the position we’ve put ourselves in and we’re aware of where we’re at and know we need to win these games, especially against these in-conference teams that are battling right around us for that last playoff spot.”
Kamara will draw most of the attention, but he wasn’t the only Revolution player to shine on Saturday night. Midfielder Lee Nguyen made a bit of MLS history against Orlando, with his four assists tying the league’s all-time record. Winger Krisztian Nemeth made his Revs debut as a late sub and used his first touches with New England to record an assist on Teal Bunbury’s stoppage time strike. Goalkeeper Cody Cropper looked good, too, making three saves to record his third straight home shutout and seventh clean-sheet of the year.
“A good night for the boys in blue, huh?,” said Nguyen. “But no, it was a team effort, honestly. Any time we keep a clean-sheet, it’s going to give us a chance. Credit to all the guys for putting in the shift.”