OBETZ, Ohio – In what will go down as one of the most high-profile trades in MLS history, Columbus Crew SC on Thursday sent star striker Kei Kamarato conference foe New England Revolution for a historic haul of allocation money and draft picks.
Opinions were divided among Columbus fans when the news broke, and at training Thursday, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said he “can understand potential frustration” that fans might have over the deal.
“We didn’t take this decision lightly; it was a lot of deliberation,” he said. “In the end, we chose what we felt was the best interests of this soccer club – to put us in the best position to win not only this year, but win in the long term.”
Berhalter declined to go into detail as to why Kamara needed to be moved, but admitted the decision came as a result of more than the penalty kick fiasco in Saturday’s 4-4 draw with the Montreal Impact.
He admitted that talks had begun before the weekend, and said things “ramped up” after the incident.
“It was not solely about this weekend, and that’s an important point,” he said. “We’ve been evaluating this, and this is something we had to decide, for the culture of the club, what direction we were going to go in. But it was not based on this weekend alone.”
To go into further detail about Kamara’s transgressions, he said, would be hypocritical.
“For me to give any other information or any other details, it’s exactly what I ask the players not to do – talking about other players in the media,” he said. “So I’m not prepared to do that. What I would say is that we value our culture in this club. We value who we are. We value our playing style.”
Team captain Michael Parkhurst said most of the team had been monitoring the situation on Twitter as trade deadline approached. When no news came last night, many thought Kamara would remain.
Parkhurst didn’t throw Kamara under the bus either, but alluded to the same locker room chemistry Berhalter did.
“For the most part, Kei is a great teammate,” Parkhurst said. “Kei and I had a good relationship while he was here. It wasn’t just a one-off incident. This is a team-first culture. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s going to be for now and always.”
Instead, Columbus didn’t get any players in their trade, and that’s how Berhalter wanted it.
“In my opinion, this is the better way,” he said. “This gives us flexibility to now look at every position and where we can get stronger instead of using all those funds on one guy who may not be the best fit.”
Berhalter did admit that it might have been better to send Kamara to a team in the Western Conference (Crew SC play the Revolution three times this season), but said he’s happy with the marquee matchups the move has set up.
“When you’re thinking about it and you’re trying to be strategic about it, I think it would have been more beneficial to send him to the West,” he said. “But it’s going to make for some great games against New England, that’s for sure. [There will be] a lot of attention around those games.”
Berhalter said he didn’t regret signing Kamara or giving him a Designated Player deal before the season. He said the deal came with the flexibility to move, and appreciated what Crew SC got out of the striker.
“We had almost a Golden Boot last year; we had almost the MVP; we had a Best XI guy,” Berhalter said. “He brought a lot of energy and gave us a lot for that year. So I tend to look at the positive. In sports, it happens where players come and go. It happens where integral players come and go. That’s part of our business, unfortunately.”