Now, I don’t know much about MLS, but trading your top scorer coming off a season where he tied the league lead for most goals all because he got into an argument about who would take a penalty in what should’ve been a blow-out seems really, really weird to me. And yet these appear to be the facts of the curious case of Kei Kamara and the Columbus Crew.
To understand today’s news that Kamara has been traded to the New England Revolution, you have to go back to last weekend. In a game against the Montreal Impact (aside: some really rad team names in this league), the Crew had a 3-1 lead in the 51st minute which they hoped to extend via the penalty they’d just been awarded. Kamara, who had already scored two of his team’s goals on the day, wanted to take it to cap his hat-trick. Teammate Federico Higuaín wanted it for himself. The dispute was not resolved smoothly:
Higuaín ultimately did take and score the penalty, but the damage was done. Somehow the Crew completely fell apart for the remainder of the match and ended up drawing the Impact, 4-4.
Kamara was still upset about the incident after the game, and said some things about it to the press. From ESPN FC:
“We scored a lot of goals, but there was no team play,” Kamara told local TV after the game. “And that completely explains the way me and Federico behaved on the penalty kick.”
“A team who stays together will win games. A team that doesn’t, not gonna win games,” Kamara said.
“And that’s horrible. We are home, we go up that much and to give that many, it’s horrible.”
SI quoted Kamara going even further regarding the penalty and Higuaín’s general comportment:
“That’s selfish,” Kamara said following the match. “That’s not teammates. That’s selfishness.
“I haven’t really had to depend on [Higuain] at all. How long have I been here? How many goals have I scored? How many have come from his assists? One, maybe two. I don’t depend on him. I depend on Ethan [Finlay], I depend on my outside backs to pass me balls.”
I’m gathering here that Kamara’s maybe not the chillest guy to play with.
That last Kamara quote above comes from an article where SI’s Grant Wahl reported that the Crew were so bothered by Kamara’s postgame comments that they had already decided to trade the guy. Again, this is a proven, good (in MLS) striker coming off a career year. And they wanted to cut bait.
Something about the situation felt a little off, though. This seemed more like something you fix by getting the two players together, forcing them to apologize and shake hands, and then move on from. The Crew’s light official sanction—they gave Kamara a one-game suspension—seemed to support this.
Yet Kamara was still peeved at even this. From ESPN FC, here’s what he said about being suspended in an interview:
“[Coach Gregg Berhalter] told me that this morning, and obviously I didn’t agree to it all,” Kamara said. “I won’t agree to it. But he’s the boss, and if he says, ‘We don’t need you for the weekend. You’re going to have to sit out for the weekend,’ there’s nothing I can do about that.
“I said what is on my mind and in my head.”
That was only yesterday. Today, just ahead of the trade deadline, the Crew actually did sneak Kamara out the door and into New England. MLS rules being what they are, I don’t really understand what the Revolution gave up to get Kamara, but it apparently wasn’t much—just two different kinds of allocation money (don’t ask), a first- and a second-round draft pick, and an international roster spot. Not even a single player changed hands.
In summary, I think we’ve learned that 1) Kamara must be a monumental shithead if he is that good (in MLS) and yet still got shipped out in a matter of days for a petty argument; 2) the Crew probably disliked Kamara for a while and used this as a pretext to get rid of him—which is made even stranger when considering that they gave him a new, lucrative contract before this season; and 3) MLS’s player exchange rules and practices make very little intuitive sense. Weird happenings in a weird league.