Kamani Hill making most of latest chance

Goal against Montreal Impact a sign that midfielder still has what it takes in MLS

Kamani Hill vs Montreal, May 24

Photo Credit: 
Bart Young / Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Kamani Hill spent the last decade traveling the world looking for the opportunity he’s now getting in 2014. The Colorado Rapids midfielder is getting a long, healthy look in the Rapids lineup under new coach Pablo Mastroeni, and if Saturday night is anything to go by, he’s making the most of it.

In Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Montreal Impact, Hill netted a terrific second half goal, curling a delightful chip around Montreal ‘keeper Troy Perkins and into the back of the net. It was fitting for the Cal-Berkeley product, who had little to show statistically for a string of strong performances leading up to Saturday night. But in the 54th minute, his goal doubled his side’s team and left his coach impressed postgame.

“Kamani’s really been busting his tail since preseason began,” Mastroeni told reporters on Saturday. “Kamani continues to impress as the weeks go on, he’s a clinical finisher in training. He’s a guy that bangs in goals left and right.”

The versatile 28-year-old was an afterthought in 2013, barely getting even a sniff under former coach Oscar Pareja, who originally brought on the Bay Area native in April of 2012 after years of traversing Europe in search of elusive playing time. When Hill first joined the Rapids in 2012, he was on the periphery of Pareja’s eye, scoring five goals in 19 MLS games (three starts).

But 2013, by Hill’s admission, was a difficult one, where he made just six appearances with no goals in two starts as he fell behind in the pecking order at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Early in preseason, however, Hill began to attract Mastroeni’s attention through impressive performances in scrimmages and practices, and he’s earned increased playing time this season as a result.

In addition, veteran playmaker Vicente Sanchez is out injured and Dillon Powers is not 100 percent yet, giving Hill even more of a chance to earn valuable time.

“You've got to keep shooting to score. You hit it ten times and you get two or three,” Hill said postgame on Saturday. “[I’m] just happy to be on the field and get the opportunity to take those shots. Hopefully, I'll just keep doing it, and hopefully get some more goals.”

Hill says he plays the game with an extra chip on his shoulder, the result of a five-year expedition through Germany, Portugal and Norway in search of a chance to prove his worth. Now enjoying his first shot in two years, the former U.S. national teamer (he earned two caps in 2007 while with German side VfL Wolfsburg) has little intent of letting go.

“Last year was difficult for me. I didn't see the field that much, but this year I think there's a really strong spirit within the group,” Hill said. “I think that's bringing everybody up. Everybody is included in the team and everybody is working hard for each other.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.