It will be the first time Kamara has played in Columbus since Crew SC traded him away in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal that sent him to the New England Revolution just six months after the club nearly won an MLS Cup with the striker as their star.
Thanks to a very public disagreement with fellow Designated Player Federico Higuain after a penalty kick fiasco and a refusal to apologize to Higuain or head coach Gregg Berhalter for the comments in the days that followed, Kamara was shipped to New England.
Berhalter made the bad blood clearer after the trade, saying the move was “not based on this weekend alone.”
But Kamara was perhaps the most important piece on a Crew SC team that gave its fans one of the most exhilarating seasons in their history. Kamara led a high-powered attack, scoring 22 goals, the second-most in club history.
He earned recognition as MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year and fell just short of the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
The contrast between Kamara’s contributions and his exit makes for a split opinion from fans. Some called the striker “unprofessional” or a “locker room piece of trash.” Others said he should be welcomed with open arms. Some simply turned to stats, citing the 13 goals his replacement, Ola Kamara, has scored since the trade.
Shawn Justice’s son, Lincoln, earned some internet fame in a moment of grief with his reaction to his favorite team trading away his favorite player.
While Lincoln has moved on to Ola and fan-favorite goalkeeper Brad Stuver, Shawn says he still believes the club “picked the wrong player to get rid of,” and hopes to hear fans cheer for Kei.
“Kei was extremely active and was a good representative of Crew SC off the field,” he said. “While he has his flaws, I think the team would have been better off keeping him.”
Fellow Crew SC fan Jeff Ballard agreed.
“I hope the Nordecke and crowd in general welcomes Kei with open arms,” Ballard said. “He was a great player for the team last season…and was an ambassador for the club off the field, interacting with the community and always there for the fans.”
And while Columbus fans are eager to see Kei – for one reason or another – Berhalter says he thinks the clash is “not a story anymore.”
“That story has played itself out twice already,” he said. “I don’t think it has any legs right now.”