First playoff run living up to expectations for Crew SC forward Ola Kamara

Ola Kamara - Columbus Crew SC - celebrates a goal in front of the camera

OBETZ, Ohio – Ola Kamara is in the midst of his first MLS Cup Playoffs run, and the Norwegian striker is enjoying every minute of it.

Columbus Crew SC’s star scorer has been hoping for his first taste of the playoffs all season, and said the postseason has already lived up to his expectations.

“Especially in Atlanta, it was very exciting,” he said. “It was my first playoff game and it was in front of a big, big crowd, too.”

Like Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter, Kamara said he’s trying to maintain a game-by-game approach, even in the playoffs. But he admitted that there’s a little bit of a heightened feeling this time of year, especially in the first moments of matches.

“Maybe I get a little more adrenaline before the game; that’s always a good feeling,” he said with a smile. “I maybe get a little nervous, and I haven’t been that way for many games. So that tingly feeling in your gut, that’s nice. It’s a nice feeling.”

Kamara’s Norwegian family hasn’t been able to visit to see him in a big match, but he and his longtime girlfriend, Sandra, finally have a consistent babysitter, so she can come see him play. That makes games like Tuesday's 4-1 win against New York City FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals – in which Kamara scored a goal and added an assist – that much more special. 

“My mother can’t fly, so that’s kind of the hard thing of being here – family doesn’t travel so I don’t see them for 11 months,” he said. “But we’ve got a babysitter now, so Sandra can come to the games. So her first playoff game was very nice.”

The striker said he doesn’t like describing his own performance or analyzing why he’s been so successful in MLS – scoring 16 goals last season and another 18 in 2017. But Berhalter has been more than happy to do so, and always describes his striker as an elite reader of the game.

“I think his movement is up there with the best of them in this league,” Berhalter said earlier this season. “He’s very smart, a very intuitive mover off the ball, and it puts him in really good position.”

Despite his skill set and production, Kamara still has yet to be called to the Norwegian national team. At this point, he said he’s all but given up on the call.

“I’ve been confident that I would get called a lot of times,” he said. “I’ve been scoring so many goals the last two years and I’ve been in great shape, and there have been a lot of strikers in Norway not scoring goals. So for me, I’ve been like, ‘Now it’s going to happen. Now it’s going to happen.’ So I don’t know anymore.”

Berhalter, however, remains optimistic, and said he expects Norway to call his striker sooner than later.

“The way we like to see it go is that you perform for your club and you get recognized by your country,” he said. “That’s a great progression, and all he’s been doing is performing. It’s nice that after this performance comes opportunity.”

But for Kamara, the national team isn’t his focus, especially while he’s playing in games that matter more to him in MLS.

“We have bigger games here than [the national team],” he said. “I saw the last home game they had and it was like 10,000 people. That feeling of getting called for your country, you always want to do that. But for me, here, this is more important.

“Sometimes people will say, especially in Norway, ‘Oh, we feel so bad for you.’ But for me, this is the biggest thing.”