MONTREAL – What happens when two best friends face each other in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs?
When Dominic Oduro and Kei Kamara were drafted in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft -- Kamara with the #9 pick to Columbus, Oduro #22 to FC Dallas -- they struck a friendship that has lasted through the last decade despite their various travels and relocations. Since that draft, they have only been teammates once, with the Houston Dynamo in 2009. Yet Oduro was Kamara's best man at his wedding last year.
But now, their respective teams, the Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew SC, will meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, which begin when Kamara and Crew SC come to Stade Saputo on Sunday (7 pm ET, FS1, TSN1, RDS2). And the banter has begun.
“We kind of trash-talked a little bit via text,” Oduro said, a playful smile lighting up his face. “We’re going to be doing some talking again today. He’s ready. I told him that I was going to kick his butt. And I spelled it out for him: B-U-T-T. Told him to spell-check it.
"He’s probably going to do that and get back to me.”
Then again, it's been hard for Oduro to find much to rib his friend about this year. Kamara has had a dream season for Crew SC, who finished in second place in the East. Kamara led the Audi Golden Boot race for most of the season, and finished the year with a career-high 22 goals. He was tied for goals with Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco in the scoring charts, and lost the scoring title due to Giovinco's superior number of assists (16-8).
Given his friendship with Kamara, Oduro knows what makes him so dangerous, something he'll surely pass on to his teammates.
“He’s strong,” Oduro said. “He’s very athletic. He’s good in the air. He’s different from [Jozy] Altidore and the other guys that we played. He’s very mobile, too, for his size. He’s one guy that we should really want to watch out for.”
In Thursday's 3-0 drubbing of Toronto FC in the Knockout Round, Montreal strategized to stop Giovinco by denying midfielders Benoît Cheyrou and Michael Bradley the time and the space to feed him the ball. It worked. The same strategy could work for Kamara, by denying Crew SC playmaker Federico Higuain – with some caveats.
“Unlike Toronto, the Crew like to keep the ball,” Oduro said. “They are a team that really possesses the ball, and they have Higuaín, who bounces everywhere to get the ball. Outside backs are always up front, trying to whip balls in. As much as you want to make that comparison, you still have to sit back a little bit and analyze that.
“They go to teams’ homes and they dominate. It’s not something that you can easily take out of the equation. It could be our plan, but I’m pretty sure that we have our geniuses up there – Mauro [Biello] and the coaching staff – trying to figure something out. We’ll leave it to them.”