HAT TRICK: Ola Kamara breaks through for Columbus Crew SC

COLUMBUS, Ohio—In 189 MLS starts, erstwhile Columbus Crew SC striker Kei Kamara has yet to score a hat trick. And after the MLS veteran was traded away earlier this month, his replacement up top, Norwegian forward Ola Kamara, took just three MLS starts to get his first hat trick, achieving the feat in a 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake Saturday night.


The Norwegian striker – signed from Austria Wien in February – opened his MLS account with three poacher’s strikes to give Columbus the win, finishing each within the opponent’s 6-yard box.


After the match, Kamara said he was due after two scoreless outings as the lead striker in Columbus.


“It was a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “But I felt really good today, before the game. I felt like I was going to score.”


The striker admitted there has been some pressure in replacing one of MLS’s most prolific scorers, but he’s always maintained that he doesn’t mind the expectations.


“I always want to play,” Ola Kamara said. “In soccer, you always have some pressure. But I can live with that.”


Head coach Gregg Berhalter said that before dealing Kei, he knew he could have faith in Ola.


“Watching Ola in training, watching his movements, we felt very comfortable,” Berhalter said. “It’s difficult for a striker when you have that pressure on you, but Ola’s been handling it very well.”


But Berhalter was also quick to credit those with the assists – Justin Meram, Waylon Francis and Federico Higuain.


“His hat trick is a result of the guys tonight, the positions they put him in, and he finished them off nicely,” Berhalter said. “But the team is really looking to get him in good goal-scoring positions, and that’s important.”


And after a 2015 season that earned Columbus recognition as one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, Berhalter said he hopes the four-goal outing marked a return to form.


“I was real happy with the offensive output of this game,” he said. “Creating a lot of good, good scoring chances is important. Looking at some of the scoring discrepancy between last year and this year, it’s been getting good shots on goal. We had enough of them today to get a lot of goals.”


And if Ola gets the same level of service … watch out.


“If I was even sharper today,” Kamara said with a laugh, “I could have scored five or six goals.”