Columbus Crew’s Gregg Berhalter on Kei Kamara signing: “We see him as leading the charge”

Kamara, who began his MLS career with the Crew in 2006, is undoubtedly a move for the future, as his release from Middlesbrough came after the beginning of August, disqualifying him from playing in MLS in 2014.

OBETZ, Ohio – After a summer of speculation, Kei Kamara is back in Columbus.

The Crew officially used their top allocation spot on the former Sporting Kansas City and Middlesbrough man Tuesday, a move that head coach Gregg Berhalter said had been coming for some time, even as far back as when the Crew were flirting with USMNT midfielder Mix Diskerud.

“We had been communicating for a long time about allocation ranking, and we were searching for players and identifying players to fit that role,” Berhalter told the press after Crew training. “At the time, we were talking to Mix and looking at other players as well. He’s a guy that we identified early on as being a guy that could potentially help the team.”

Kamara, who began his MLS career with the Crew in 2006, is undoubtedly a move for the future, as his release from Middlesbrough came after the beginning of August, disqualifying him from playing in MLS in 2014. But Berhalter said the Crew still have eyes on the present.

“Everyone is excited; the players are excited. And although we’re announcing these moves for the future, we’re purely focused on today and Saturday,” he said. “That’s important. We’re not losing sight of where we want to go this season.”

Berhalter didn’t want to speculate about why Kamara was interested in the Crew, but said that the Sierra Leone native bought into what the Crew are trying to build.

“After having conversations with him, we told him about our project and what we were doing and he was on board,” Berhalter said. “He was excited about it.”

Part of that process to convince Kamara was selling him on Columbus over his former club in Kansas City, where he spent five years.

“That was his club,” Berhalter said. “And what we’re trying to do is say, ‘OK, here’s a different thing. It’s a new thing, and it’s something that we think is a worthwhile project for you.’

“We see him as leading the charge in terms of what this brand is about,” he continued. “We’ve been working hard this year defining what we are as a group, and we’re going to continue to add to that entity to define it more clearly.”

Kamara scored 38 goals in 107 matches for Kansas City and largely played on the wing. But Berhalter said he sees his new signing up top in Columbus.

“First of all, I think he’s a proven goal scorer in this league,” Berhalter said. “He played wide for Kansas City, but we see him more as a number nine. That’s the position he’s most comfortable in. He’s a goal scorer, he’s a hard worker, he’s a leader, he’s good in the locker room. So I think he has a lot of attributes that make him very valuable.”

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