Adrian Heath has long been a fan of Kei Kamara. So much so that's he tried a few times to acquire the well-traveled MLS forward, but his pursuits had been fruitless until now.
Minnesota United acquired Kamara from the Colorado Rapids over the weekend, the 8th MLS team for the league's fifth all-time leading scorer. When player and coach got to speak for the first time on the same side this week, Kamara joked: "Only eight years too late, boss."
Despite the wait, Heath and the Loons feel like they've added real quality to their squad as they push towards the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Kei will bring personality and a physical threat we haven’t got," Heath told media on a virtual press conference Tuesday. "Having been on the receiving end against Kei, you know if the ball gets wide and the ball comes in the box, he’s going to be a problem.”
Kamara has spent the last season and a half in Colorado, where he had 17 goals in 38 games. The 36-year-old doesn't look like he's slowing down, but the Rapids were looking to go in a younger direction. He understood. It's nothing new for Kamara as Minnesota will be his 9th team in MLS and the 11th time in his career he changed teams (including a move to Norwich City as well as having two separate stints for Columbus Crew SC.)
“It was a bit shocking when I figured out my time in Colorado was coming to an end, but everything must come to an end," Kamara said, before adding with a laugh: "It comes for Kei Kamara a little bit more than other players.”
Kamara joins Minnesota as the club are in need of another forward with a few injuries as well as fixture congestion. The Loons have 11 games left between September 23 and November. On top of that, he gives the club an aerially dominant option that few players in the history of MLS have done as well as Kamara.
“When you look at Kei, he’s got great spring and really good timing," Heath said. "In both boxes. … Kei is maybe one of the best headers of the ball in the history of MLS. The secret for us is finding out where he likes it. But I know if we put it in the box, we probably have one of the biggest threats in Major League Soccer.”
The move does add more competition to US youth international forward Mason Toye.
Toye, 21, has started six of Minnesota's games this season. The highly-rated forward has gotten a run of consistent time over the last few weeks, starting each of the club's last five games, but Kamara adds another talented option in attack.
“In regards to Mason, this is the harsh reality in professional football," Heath said. "He might have to sit and wait, watch Kei and learn what it takes to consistently score goals in this league. He’s young, he’s still developing. On my staff, Stewart Kerr was in Vancouver with Kei. He said he did a great job mentoring Alphonso Davies. … It’ll only be positive down the road for Mason having Kei in the building.”
“I’m still waiting on compensation from Alphonso Davies," Kamara jokingly added.
Kamara is expected to be available for selection on Wednesday against the Supporters' Shield leading Crew and hopes to play a part. Minnesota currently sit 4th place in the Western Conference, but so much can change over the next six weeks. The push for a title is something Kamara is relishing.
“Colorado, I had my time there scoring a decent amount of goals," Kamara said. "The vision of going younger is good and I want to be in a place I can win a championship. The way this team has been performing over the last couple of years, it’s looks good. I wanted to be part of it. I’m just happy to be here.”