Sporting Kansas City weren't actively looking to deal away Kei Kamara.
But when Middlesbrough offered a chance for some salary cap space and a chunk of allocation money to spend in the offseason, Sporting took it – at the cost of a proven scorer who was always a threat in the air.
“Obviously, it's never an easy decision when you're making the choice to sell a player,” manager Peter Vermes said during a conference call on Monday, after Boro made the deadline-beating deal for the Sierra Leone international. “At the same time, it's part of the international soccer business. It wasn't an easy one, but at the same time I think it was a decision between both parties that was the likely choices.”
The deal happened quickly and largely under the radar, until English outlets began reporting on Monday morning that a transfer to the Championship club was imminent.
“It's not like we've been fielding calls like crazy,” Vermes said. “There was another club that was interested, but it wasn't to the point where we felt comfortable doing a deal for many different reasons. It wasn't just the number. Then this one came up, and I don't want to say really quick, but a little quicker than normal – just over the last four or five days here.”
Sporting have used Graham Zusi extensively on the right wing already this year, beginning with Kamara's early-season absence while on loan to Premiership side Norwich City. Still, Vermes said the job of replacing Kamara full-time could be a committee effort.
“It's very difficult to replace a player one for one,” Vermes said. “You always find ways of either making up for that, or you find other players that bring the qualities that they have and have them make an imprint on the team with those qualities. I feel confident in the guys that we have on our roster. Obviously, they're younger and have more to prove.
“Experience may be a place where we'll be lacking from that perspective, but I also think that guys have shown over the years that they're not only serviceable but can be a real handful.”
Kamara's absence could also spell more time for C.J. Sapong, who has struggled for much of the year but came off the bench to deliver the final assist on Zusi's late game-winner in Saturday's 2-1 home win over Colorado.
“When you talk about aerial presence, C.J. has incredible aerial presence,” Vermes said. “So in some respects, we still have somebody with a lot of the qualities that Kei has, but Kei just has more experience.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.