Kei Kamara will not play for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Friday night, but he will still affect the game.
Kamara’s absence for the second straight contest, due to a groin injury, will force Vancouver coach Carl Robinson to juggle his lineup — again — as the Whitecaps (3-3-1) visit Sporting Kansas City (4-1-2).
“It’s not ideal,” Robinson told reporters this week after a training session. “Any team that loses 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.”
Robinson has chastised himself for poor lineup decisions that resulted in a 2-0 loss to expansion side Los Angeles FC last week after Kamara, the team’s top striker, was unexpectedly sidelined for a few weeks after getting hurt in the closing minutes of a practice.
Venezuelan striker Anthony Blondell is slated to replace Kamara. Blondell returns to the lineup after missing the last game with a concussion.
Kamara’s absence last week was obvious as the Whitecaps delivered a mediocre effort in the loss to LAFC and were booed as they left their home pitch.
“We were upset (about) how we played,” Caps defender Jake Nerwinski told reporters. “We want to make the fans happy. We are going to come back out and, hopefully, get some road points.”
The Whitecaps have won the last four Major League Soccer meetings with Kansas City. Vancouver ended Sporting’s 24-game home unbeaten streak last season. But Sporting is unbeaten in six straight games this season.
“It is a big game,” Kansas City defender Matt Besler told reporters. “We always say that ... but if you look at the standings, we’re right up there at the top with Vancouver.”
SKC sits first in the Western Conference while Vancouver is third.
The Caps are notorious for a counter-attacking style that was absent last weekend. Sporting coach Peter Vermes wants his player to be wary of its potential return.
“We can’t give up the ball in critical areas of the field,” Vermes told Sporting’s website.
The Whitecaps signed 16-year-old midfielder Simon Colyn, a residency team player, to an MLS contract Thursday. Colyn, a Langley, B.C., native becomes the club’s third homegrown teenager, along with Alphonso Davies and David Norman Jr.
—Field Level Media