VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps will have to pull themselves out of a two-game losing skid without the services of star striker Kei Kamara.
Head coach Carl Robinson said Kamara will miss at least the next three Major League Soccer games due to a groin injury. Kamara probably won’t be back in the Whitecaps’ lineup until a May 11 game against the Houston Dynamo at BC Place Stadium.
"It’s not ideal," Robinson said after the Whitecaps’ practice Monday. "Any team that losses a key player, and Kei is a key player for us, is going to be affected.
"Losing Kei is a big blow, but we have to find solutions now to deal without him."
Venezuelan striker Anthony Blondell, who missed the last game due to concussion, is expected to replace Kamara when the Whitecaps play Sporting Kansas City on the road Friday.
Kamara suffered the injury with about five minutes left in training last Thursday. He didn’t dress for Vancouver 2-0 loss against Los Angeles FC Friday night at BC Place.
"When I went down it was kind of shock to myself," said Kamara. "I feel a lot better today than when I first went down like I had been hit by a sniper."
The 33-year-old from Sierra Leone was one of the Whitecaps’ biggest off-season acquisitions when he was obtained in a trade from New England. In 12 MLS seasons he’s scored 101 goals. In five games this year with Vancouver, Kamara has scored three goals and assisted on two others.
The Whitecaps struggled to produce offence Friday night without Kamara on the field. Frustrated fans booed the players left the field after the match.
"I was as disappointed as every one of those supporters in the stadium," said Robinson. "We were disappointed. We will get back to work."
At six-foot-three and 190 pounds, Kamara brings presence and experience to the Whitecaps. He has the ability to hold the ball and his size makes him a target for crosses into the box. The attention he commands from defences opens spaces for other players.
Blondell is roughly the same size as Karama but at 23 is younger. He led the Venezuelan Primera Division with 24 goals last year and had six assists in 39 appearances.
"We know he’s a hard-working player," said Robinson.
Kamara is known for his leadership abilities and work ethic. Unlike some goal scores, he ranges across the entire field during a game.
He doubts his style will change when he returns from injury.
"I have to help out," he said. "That’s part of my game, defensively, offensively, moving around the field, holding the ball.
"Just scoring goals is kind of boring somethings."
The Whitecaps (3-3-1) are tied for second place with the L.A. Galaxy in the MLS’s Western Conference. Both teams have 10 points, but the Galaxy have played one less game.
The loss against LAFC was the first time in 40 MLS games the Whitecaps had lost back-to-back games. Vancouver lost 2-1 on the road to Real Salt Lake the previous week.
Given the fans negative reaction to his team’s play, Robinson was asked after the game if he has any concerns about his job security.
"I’m the manager of this football club," said the former Wales international. "I’ll continue to come to work every day and work as hard as I can and try to get the best out of my players."
Bob Lenarduzzi, the Whitecaps president, dismissed any suggestion Robinson’s job was in danger.
"The idea of Carl’s job being in jeopardy, that’s not even something that has crossed our minds," said Lenarduzzi.
In his fifth season as Vancouver’s head coach Robinson has a 56-51-36 record in MLS regular-season play. The team has made the playoffs three of the last four years and the conference semifinals in 2015 and 2017. Since 2014, the Whitecaps’ 22 wins on the road is the most by any MLS team.
The Whitecaps have 11 new players this year and already have travelled 22,990 kilometres to four away games (2-2-0).
"We have a good blend of youth and experience and are still optimistic about the prospects for the season," said Lenarduzzi.
"Friday’s game brought a reaction that seems excessive. What we do appreciate is our fans have responded this season."