Archer, Kamara forge friendship despite obstacles
Two student-athletes came to the Banks in the summer of 2008 sharing a common interest: a love for the game of soccer.
Both were talented forwards — two of the highest sought-after talents in the Northeast.
Although they come from vastly different walks of life, the friendship between Sam Archer and Ibrahim Kamara may have been forged due to the love of a game, but now transcends far greater.
"I think of him as my little son," Kamara said of Archer. "During a game, we have great combinations. We know when one of us is going forward so the other one can stay back. He's been my best friend on and off the field since I came here as a freshman."
Kamara came to the United States when he was 13 years old after spending his early years in his native Sierra Leone.
As a teenager, Kamara and his mother left the war-torn country and settled in North Brunswick to start a new life. Once he came stateside, Kamara thrived at soccer and became just the fifth player in New Jersey history to be named to the All-State team three years in a row.
Archer's journey to the Banks stayed on the East coast, but was still a tumultuous one with stops in Long Island, Massachusetts and his hometown of Queens.
But it is the duo's electric style on the field — not their pasts — that produced chemistry on the pitch that sparks the Rutgers men's soccer team's offensive firepower.
"We both came in as freshmen and I guess we just took a liking to each other," Archer said. "How we play on the field is similar and we just have that understanding. So with that understanding and our type of play, we've been best friends on and off the field."
The two combined for three goals and two assists as freshmen, when the Scarlet Knights went 6-9-3.
In their sophomore seasons, when the two were expected to make big strides and become large contributors, only one hit the ground running.
Kamara took the reigns of the Knights' offense in his second season, leading the squad with seven goals en route to a Third-team All Big East selection.
While Kamara took off, Archer sputtered out of the gates.
The quick-footed forward tripped over obstacles such as injuries and academic ineligibilities, allowing him to only start three games.
"Man, you're bringing up bad memories," said Archer of his sophomore slump. "I guess you can say I was in a little bit of a depression last year. I mean, soccer is my life — it's what I love. So not being on the field really killed me last year. That's all my drive for this year."
The resignation of former head coach Bob Reasso, along with the hiring of an offensive-minded coach in Dan Donigan, resurrected Archer's once stagnant career.
"As soon as the new coaching staff came in, I was back," Archer said. "I was back to being me. I was back to playing how I love to play.
"It was definitely a struggle last year. That's always in the back of my head this year. I want to prove that I am good enough to play. I need to be doing what I do, scoring goals and helping the team win."
Now rejuvenated, Archer scored twice thus far in 2010.
His first goal of the season served as the game winner against Long Island and his second goal in as many games tied the match against Hartford at one goal apiece.
Rutgers went on to win the game in overtime.
Through six games, Donigan likes the speed and scoring ability that Archer showed.
"Sammy is a guy that's got tremendous pace, tremendous one v. one ability and he's got finishing ability," he said.
Archer and Kamara combined for three goals and 22 shots in the season's early going. On the pitch, the two work flawlessly in sync, working give-and-go combos and spreading the field for other Knights pushing forward.
"Me and Ib at practice — we're always together," Archer said. "We're always looking for each other and we have good combinations."
The talented pair and the rest of the Rutgers (3-2-1) offense hit a snag last time on Yurcak Field, as Marquette shut out the Knights for just the second time this season in a 1-0 loss.
The defeat came at the tail end of a five-game homestand and the Knights' next shot at redemption comes this afternoon in Philadelphia with a matinee against Temple.
The Owls (1-4-2) come into the match off a loss of their own — a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Siena.
For the Knights to leap this hurdle, the offense needs to get back to creating chances and holding possession. It's a job with two perfect candidates, two friends with one love for soccer and two friends who know exactly what it means to overcome obstacles.