COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – After scoring four goals in his first two months as a member of the Colorado Rapids, the last place midfield super-sub Kamani Hill expected to find himself was riding the bench.
But that’s exactly where Hill has found himself over the course of the last two months, mustering just 47 total minutes in MLS play since a May 26 win over Montreal. However, that could soon be changing after Hill’s impressive performance in a 2-1 friendly win over Swansea City on Tuesday night, where his 14th-minute strike outside the penalty box went off the post and in and proved to be the decisive tally in Colorado’s first-ever win over an English Premier League side.
“Kamani’s getting back to his level,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said after the victory. “I have to accept that sometimes I miss things. I don’t have any arrogance [about] accepting it, sometimes you miss things with them because this is coming so quickly. I say to them, ‘Your job is to prove me wrong’. All the time. And I would no doubt accept it if I see players that are stepping up and say, ‘You know what, you have to play.’”
Hill, who signed with the Rapids in late March after bouncing around Europe for six seasons, provided an instant impact in his first month in Colorado, scoring in his debut April 1 against Chicago and netting twice against Chivas USA April 28. He also scored in the team's Open Cup win in Tampa. But the sudden demotion – at one point, Hill didn’t play for five straight games in June and July – came as a surprise to the Bay Area native.
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“[It was] obviously frustrating,” Hill told MLSsoccer.com. “You want to play all the time as a player. I’m not the coach. The coach decides who plays so [I am] just waiting for the opportunity.”
Hill’s versatility allowed him to play in nearly every game during his first two months in Commerce City. Able to play both midfield and striker, the former VfL Wolfsburg player played at both positions in a mostly bench role, but Pareja said that he wanted to keep Hill fresh for the second half of the season.
“We started noticing on Kamani after his last couple games when he came in that he was struggling a little bit with his fitness and losing some confidence in that moment,” Pareja said. “I just decided to give him a break. The time was healthy for him, so, I can see that he’s getting back again. And remember that some of these guys are coming from a different season. Kamani was coming from not playing, so all those things matter at the end.”
As for Hill, his goal Tuesday night was simply to make his case to warrant a spot back in Pareja’s rotation.
“I hope so,” Hill said of whether he accomplished his goal. “But, everybody sees the game differently. So we’ll see.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.