FRISCO, Tex. – Entering their first US Open Cup final since 2007, the New England Revolution may be without one of their most important players.
The club's 32-year-old forward Kei Kamara has missed the last two games for New England due to both international duty and most recently a hip injury – something head coach Jay Heaps said was a precautionary move over the weekend in anticipation of Tuesday’s Open Cup final against FC Dallas (10 pm ET, ESPN2 | MLS LIVE in Canada).
“We want to see how he’s doing. I think right now he’s progressing,” Heaps said at his pregame press conference, adding that they’d evaluate his chance to play at the team’s final training session Monday evening. “We held him out Saturday night more precautionary because he had such a long trip to play for his country. But we’re assessing how every player came through from Saturday night. Obviously this is a quick turnaround.”
While losing a player like Kamara poses obvious problems for any team, the Revolution have done quite well in his absence, winning two straight games in decisive fashion over top MLS teams – 2-0 over Colorado and 3-1 over NYCFC.
Heaps pointed to a variety of reasons for the uptick in his team’s production, the biggest being on the defensive side no longer giving up “soft goals.”
“You can live with giving up great goals when teams break you down, but what hurts is when you give up soft goals,” he said. “I think there’s been a real commitment to make sure we get those out the best we can, and everyone’s doing it front to back, goalkeeper to center forward. Everyone’s working to defend and keep a tight shape and make sure when we have our opportunities to score, opportunities to play, we take those as well.”
One who has taken advantage of those opportunities is Juan Agudelo, the 23-year-old US international who has been playing Kamara’s minutes. Agudelo has scored a goal in each of the last two games, adding an assist in the win over NYCFC.
Since May, Agudelo has started seven games and scored a goal in four of them.
“Great players love to play with other great players,” midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “Whether it’s Kei or Juan up top, I like to play with them both because they’re both great. Unfortunately, Kei suffered a minor injury and we’d obviously love to have him out there because he’s a big help for us. But right now, we’re trying to fight with the squad we have. Hopefully Kei can get back soon so he can help us out.”