Impact’s Oduro and Crew’s Kamara Ready to go Head to Head

Impact’s Oduro and Crew’s Kamara Ready to go Head to Head

Main Pic: Montreal Impact’s Patrice Bernier celebrates after scoring against the Toronto FC during first half Major League Soccer sudden death playoff game in Montreal on October 29, 2015. The Montreal Impact have only two days to rest and prepare for their first appearance in the MLS semifinals on Sunday, when they play host to the Columbus Crew. But the Impact are on a high after eliminating rival Toronto FC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

MONTREAL — When it was confirmed that Montreal would play Columbus in an MLS semifinal, Impact forward Dominic Oduro exchanged texts with Crew counterpart Kei Kamara.

“I was giving him a bit of smack talk,” Oduro said. “I told him I was going to kick his butt and I spelled it for him. I told him to spellcheck it.”

Oduro and Kamara have been friends since the 2006 MLS draft, when Kamara went ninth overall to Columbus and Oduro was taken 22nd overall by Dallas. Oduro was best man at Kamara’s wedding two years ago.

But they will be rivals when the Impact play host to the Crew on Sunday night in the first leg of the two-game, total goals semifinal at Saputo Stadium. The second leg is Nov. 8 in Columbus.

Kamara has emerged as a scoring star with the Crew. His 22 goals tied Sebastian Giovinco for the MLS lead, although the Toronto FC spark plug took golden boot honours with more assists this season.

The TFC player to whom Kamara is most often compared is big forward Jozy Altidore.

“He’s strong, very athletic,” Oduro said of Kamara. “He’s good in the air and he’s very mobile for his size.

“He’s a guy we’ll have to watch out for. (Federico) Higuain too, but Kei is the main target. Columbus likes to whip the ball in and look for Kei.”

While Kamara is a fixture in the Columbus starting 11, Oduro has a more fluid role with Montreal. Before Didier Drogba took over in early September, Oduro was often the Impact’s lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 set-up, with teammates playing long balls to use his great speed.

He can also play on the right wing. His eight goals puts him third on the team behind Drogba (12) and Ignacio Piatti (10).

Lately, Oduro has most often been used off the bench, but he gives coach Mauro Biello plenty of options.

“Dom has come in as a starter and off the bench and done well,” said Biello. “For me, he’s multifunctional.

“We can use him in different situations. His speed is a big threat and if we can use that to our advantage, we’re going to do it.”

Oduro also stands out for his spiky hairdos, which he dyes in different patterns to suit the occasion.

The 30-year-old Ghana native has bounced around MLS since his draft year, suiting up for New York, Houston, Chicago, Columbus (in 2013-14) and Toronto before Montreal acquired him from TFC in January for allocation money.

Kamara, 31, of Sierra Leone, has had a similar career, playing for Columbus, Kansas City and Houston before stints in England with Norwich and Middlesbrough. When he returned to the U.S., Columbus had first dibs and grabbed him for the 2015 campaign.

He responded with the best season of his career. Kamara will be a candidate for MLS player of the year, although Giovinco looks to be the frontrunner.

Asked who he would choose, Oduro said: “He’s my best friend. He also respects Giovinco. As much as I’d like to give it to Kei I think he also admits that Giovinco has done a great job, so we’ll just leave it like that.”

Had Drogba arrived earlier, the 37-year-old would also be in the mix. The former Chelsea star has 12 goals in 12 games and will no doubt be the focus of the Crew’s defensive plans.

Drogba looks to have lifted the Impact on his shoulders on and off the field. They are 8-2-2 with him and he has also brought seemingly endless energy and confidence.

“The Didier Effect is unbelievable,” said Oduro.

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