CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will be no pushovers this year, they signaled in their 2018 MLS season opener Sunday night. And the most convincing element in the 2-1 triumph over visiting Portland came from their most vital offseason pickup.
Ola Kamara scored a striker's goal to start LA toward three points, but he did so much more up top as the Galaxy showed off a newfangled attack after struggling to hit the net in their last-in-the-league campaign last season.
The Norwegian forward, acquired in January from Columbus Crew SC for Gyasi Zardes and allocation money, enjoyed a dream debut, chesting home a header from fellow newcomer Rolf Feltscher in the 32nd minute, then connected things up front as LA created at least a half-dozen chances before holding off the Timbers down the stretch.
He might have scored another, putting the game away, had he not been flagged offside on a Sebastian Lletget through ball in the 76th. But he was ecstatic about the one he finished.
“It was a fantastic feeling, of course,” he told media after the game. “I had a couple small possibilities in the beginning, when I got a good cross from Romain [Alessandrini]. I was a little bit angry that I didn't score, and it was a very nice feeling to score on the next one.”
It was huge for the Galaxy, who made it 2-0 two minutes later when Alessandrini outfought Liam Ridgwell for a ball above the six-yard box, then put away the rebound after hitting the right post with his first attempt.
LA struggled to score last year and got virtually nothing from a thin forward line. Among many needs, finding a goalscorer was essential. It appears LA have found their man.
We're gonna like this guy. pic.twitter.com/W3JGuhIdFP— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 5, 2018
“You can see how he's constantly a threat the get behind the opponent's defense,” Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said in his postgame news conference. “And he also combined well and laid some people on.”
His connections with Alessandrini, Giovani Dos Santos, Emmanuel Boateng and later with Lletget are cause for great optimism, especially considering that Alessandrini appeared to injure his hamstring, which figures to make Kamara even more important in the weeks ahead.
“He's always trying to find the pockets in there,” Boateng said of Kamara. “Everywhere the ball bounces, he's trying to get there. He's always looking to run in behind or just be an option when we have the ball, so it makes it easy.”
Kamara, who scored 34 regular-season goals in two seasons with Crew SC, made the players around him better, too.
“Now we have Ola, who makes great runs in behind,” captain Ashley Cole said. “Gio find him, Alessandrini finds him, and he kind of takes the pressure off Ema. Now Ema's getting space to go one on one.”
“I didn't feel it,” he said. “When I saw the ball go in, I didn't feel nothing. [Getting that goal] was such a great feeling. Unbelievable.”