VANCOUVER — Veteran Kei Kamara has played 11 seasons in Major League Soccer and scored over 100 goals, so he knows something special when he sees it.
In his short time with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Kamara has already come to realize there is something exceptional about Alphonso Davies. The teenaged winger scored his first career MLS goal and set up another by Kamara as the Whitecaps defeated the Montreal Impact 2-1 on Sunday in the opening game of the season for both teams.
"He's good," Kamara said about Davies. "I've watched him before I came to this team. I appreciate the way he plays.
"He's still a young boy. He did really well tonight."
Davies, who doesn't turn 18 until November but is already in his third season with the Whitecaps, scored in the 70th minute off a pass from Cristian Techera. Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush got his fingers on the ball, but it rolled into the net.
Just seven minutes earlier Davies had sent a crossing pass that Kamara, a two-time MLS all-star who Vancouver acquired in an off-season trade from New England, headed into the Montreal goal. Kamara was mobbed by his teammates and made the sign of a heart to the cheering crowd of 27,837 at BC Place Stadium.
Davies, who had one assist in 26 games with Vancouver last year, was thrilled to finally score a goal.
"It was exciting," he said. "It was a big weight off my shoulders to get a first goal.
"It took a while."
Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana and moved to Canada at age five. He and the 33-year-old Kamara have developed a chemistry both on and off the field.
"We hit it off on the right foot," said Davies. "When he first came in we got used to each other quickly. During training we practise crossing and finishing all the time.
"I didn't hesitate when I saw him in the box to put it in there for him."
Kamara has no problem being a mentor for Davies.
"I want to be an example for him," he said. "I want to be somebody he can learn from and see how I work. I do talk to him on and off the field.
"I don't want to put too much pressure on him, expect too much from him. That will make him crumble. Let him enjoy it."
Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson is also careful in his praise of Davies.
"He's a good young player," said Robinson. "There are very good young players all over. It's important you mange him correctly.
"He did his work today. We know he's got quality. It's about consistency. Young players go up and down. It's important to manage him correctly, but he's got himself off to a very good start."
Forward Matteo Mancosu scored in the 81st minute for Montreal. He connected on a header from the side of the net after a long pass from Daniel Lovitz. Mancosu had a chance to tie the game in the 85th minute, sending a ball just wide of the goal.
Montreal coach Remi Garde was pleased with the way his team played, especially since the Impact came to Vancouver with a roster riddled with injuries.
"I think the result is quite fair to be honest," he said. "In the middle of the (second) half we had troubles. We didn't play well, and we conceded two goals in a row.
"When you are two-nil down it's difficult to come back. But I liked the character with which my team played. We came back, and we frightened the opponent until the end."
The Whitecaps controlled most of the play during the first half, but their efforts were not rewarded on the scoreboard.
In the 28th minute, Kamara plucked the ball off the feet of Montreal midfielder Samuel Piette, then launched a right-footed shot that Bush stopped.
In the 18th minute Yordy Reyna drew a free kick after being knocked down by defender Victor Cabrera. Techera took the kick, narrowly missing at the side of the net.
A few minutes later Davies made a pretty pass that set up Reyna outside the box. His right-footed shot was wide to the left.
NOTES: The crowd was the largest for any Whitecaps season-opening game. … During the off-season 17 players were moved from the Whitecaps roster. …It was the third MLS season-opening match between Vancouver and Montreal. The Whitecaps have won two of those games. …During the second half Olympians from the Pyeongchang Games, including Cassie Sharpe, gold medallist in ski halfpipe, Meghan Agosta, of the silver-medal winning women's hockey team, and figure skater Patrick Chan, were recognized.
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press