In advance of Saturday's Major League Soccer clash between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew, much has been made about the presence of Kei Kamara in the New England lineup.
Kamara, who played 41 matches in a Columbus shirt, isn't worried about facing his former side. The 31-year-old forward is more focused on earning three points to get the Revolution back on track.
"It’s not Kei Kamara vs. Columbus Crew," Kamara told Bleacher Report. "It’s the Revs against the Columbus Crew."
"I do have one or two good relationships with the players over there, but it’s only been a couple of months since I left the team," Kamara said. "It’s about me being focused. It’s not really too much about what goes on outside or anything else. If my team can get three points out of the day, it’s going to make me a lot more happier."
The approach may stun some outsiders given the tense situation in which the forward left Columbus. Kamara was shipped to New England five days after arguing with Federico Higuain over who should take a penalty in the Crew's home match with the Montreal Impact.
At the time of the deal, Columbus boss Gregg Berhalter told Andrew King of MLSSoccer.com that the trade was not made because of an isolated incident.
“It was not solely about this weekend, and that’s an important point,” Berhalter said. “We’ve been evaluating this, and this is something we had to decide, for the culture of the club, what direction we were going to go in. But it was not based on this weekend alone.”
Since the Kamara trade, New England has a record of 3-4-0, while Columbus is 1-2-4. Kamara scored his first two league goals in a Revolution shirt on last Saturday at Stade Saputo in a 3-2 defeat to the Montreal Impact.
As much as scoring meant to him, Kamara was still a little frustrated that his brace came in a defeat.
"I’m a goal scorer so everybody wanted to see me score a goal," Kamara said. "I just want to be a part of a winning streak more than scoring goals and not getting wins, but it’s nice to get those goals out of the way."
New England enters Saturday's home match with the Crew just one point behind the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference despite its current three-game losing streak. All the Revs need to boost themselves into the top six of the East is a winning streak.
“That’s the thing about the whole season, it’s really all about the playoffs," Kamara said. "It’s all about how many winning streaks you put together to give you points to get yourself in the playoff positions. Right now we’re struggling but we’re not far off. One or two wins definitely gets us back into it. It’s really key for us. We’re looking forward to the game we have to play."
As the chemistry continues to grow between Kamara and the rest of the talented New England attack, wins are sure to come the club's way. Kamara admitted he's still trying to develop a perfect chemistry with players like Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe while adapting to Jay Heaps' system.
“They have a good attacking squad over here," Kamara said. "For me it’s just about making that chemistry click a little bit more faster with these guys because they’ve done well throughout the years and I’m just trying to blend in with them."
"It’s going to take me time to adjust and get used to it," Kamara said. "Obviously I played a whole season (in Columbus) so I had a lot of time to adapt to it there. Right now it's about me adapting to the system and clicking really fast with these guys because it’s about getting ourselves in a playoff position."
Heaps' approach to the game is one Kamara respects due to the manager's time as a player in MLS and the reputation he's built during his time in charge. Heaps has guided the Revolution to three consecutive postseasons and a berth in the 2014 MLS Cup final, where the Revs lost to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"He’s made a difference here and it’s shown over the last couple of years of what he’s done with the guys in the playoffs," Kamara said. "For me it’s a respect for somebody I’ve played against. At the same time, I’ve seen him on the sideline for a number of years now. It’s a respect level when I come in here and obey what the system is and the style he wants me to help the team with."
Once everything clicks between Kamara and his teammates, the Revolution could be poised to go on a run that boosts them toward the top of the East. In order to start a needed winning streak in New England, Kamara and the Revs must win at home against Columbus in a league where home wins can determine your playoff fate.
“Every win is going to count," Kamara said. "We’re halfway into the season so there’s a lot more games. It’s really about maximizing points from those home games. Everybody’s going to get wins in their house. We have to maximize the points we have to get in our house right now."
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.