VANCOUVER, B.C. – With Kei Kamara bagging three goals and two assists from his five appearances so far this season, it seemed that Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson had finally found the target man he'd been search for these past few seasons.
Everything seemed to be going well, but then as Whitecaps training came to a close on Thursday afternoon, Kamara hit the deck, screaming in pain and frustration. After staying down for several minutes, he was helped off the pitch, walking gingerly but giving a thumbs up to his teammates and telling them he was okay.
He wasn't, at least not the next day. The veteran striker was forced to miss Vancouver's 2-0 loss to LAFC on Friday night with a groin injury, and the short term prognosis remains cloudy.
"He had an MRI [Friday], so I haven't got the results yet," Robinson told reporters after Friday's loss to LAFC. "I think he'll be [out for] a period of time."
Kamara's loss was clearly felt on Friday night. Vancouver could only manage eight shots against LAFC, mustering just three on target and lacking any impetus up front. A concern in every sense, but if Kamara is going to miss some serious game time, that becomes a serious worry.
"Well I could say it didn’t affect [the result], but clearly I’d be lying or not telling the truth," Robinson said of Kamara's absence. "I think the way we play or the formation we play when Kei is in, and what he does off the field to bring the group together is important. I think we huffed and puffed up front."
Vancouver's lack of creativity this season has to be another major concern. While Kamara has made the most of the chances afforded to him, the Whitecaps' delivery has been severely lacking to start the season, especially when it comes to set pieces, an area where the team dominated their opponents in last year.
"It’s not ideal," Robinson readily admits. "But we’re going to go through periods this year where you don’t create a number of chances, and we’ve had them in two consecutive games. We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and try and do it again. Whether it’s trying a different formation, whether it’s a tweak in personnel."
But as the injuries start to mount in the attacking core, those tweaks may become less optimal.
Kamara's absence is exacerbated by the fact that Venezuelan striker Anthony Blondell was also forced to miss the LAFC game through a concussion suffered late in the loss at Real Salt Lake. The timeline for his return is unknown.
With Yordy Reyna just returning from a foot contusion and so far looking a shadow of the player he was last season, and with Jordon Mutch also on the sidelines injured, might Robinson have to look at bringing in some new faces to help out?
"We're always looking to bring in players," Robinson stated. "We try to strengthen our team as often as we can. I'm not going to bring players in for the sake of it. They have to be better than what we have.
"But we'll have to look at that depending on how bad Kei's injury is, which I'll probably know a little bit more about next week."