Crew SC saw "focus and fire" in Ola Kamara coming into game vs. RSL

SANDY, Utah -- It wasn’t heavy legs that was going to do in Columbus Crew SC in Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake, it would have been buckling under the early second half pressure and losing their minds after going from up 1-0 to 2-1 down in a matter of minutes.

“When you come out of the break you want a good 10-15 minutes and instead they got the good 15 minutes,” Columbus striker Ola Kamara said. “It’s tough, but I think we reacted well. We didn’t lose our minds. We still stuck to the plan and we got a result out of it at the end.”

Kamara scored both of Crew SC’s goals on Saturday. He found an open spot in the box and put away a pass from Connor Maloney for the 1-0 lead in the 15th minute and scored on a rebound off the crossbar to tie the game at 2-2 in the 60th minute, seven minutes after Salt Lake took the lead.

It was a long week for Crew SC, with three games in eight days. They split two against Philadelphia, but in preparing for RSL, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter saw there was something different about Kamara.

“You have moments where you talk to guys and you say, ‘Hey are you ready to play?’ and they all tell you yes, but that’s not always the case. With Ola, we saw the focus and the fire in him coming into this game. He desperately wanted to be part of this game and he showed it from minute one,” Berhalter said.

Playing in their third game in a week and doing so at altitude in the late afternoon heat meant Columbus was prepared to spend time defending and looking for opportunities on the counter. That meant Kamara had to be ready for his chances and had to be the 11th man behind the ball in defending against the RSL attack.

“I feel like we analyzed the game well,” Kamara said. “We knew what kind of chances we could get. I knew how I could get my chances. The guys were tired, but we were grinding it out. I was proud of how we fought the whole game.”

In last year’s game against Salt Lake, Kamara netted a hat trick and on Saturday he had his brace, but also could have duplicated his effort from a year ago. In the 70th and 71st minutes, Kamara couldn’t keep his shots on frame, including an effort 1v1 with goalkeeper Nick Rimando that he pushed wide of goal. Kamara admitted he probably should have had the hat trick and gave his team all three points, but for what the game was, he was satisfied with the draw.

How Kamara plays against opposing defenses is a big reason for his success not only against RSL but also for his 11 goals so far this season.

“His movement is excellent,” Berhalter said. “I think he gives a lot of defenses issues. His movement off the ball is outstanding. He’s always looking to get behind the line. His finishing is pretty good as well. When he gets a chance I’d say 9 out of 10 are going to go in.”