MLS's most famous heart-shaped hands are moving back to central Ohio.
MLS veteran Kei Kamara, who spent the past year with English Championship club Middlesbrough before being released from his contract in late August, will join the Columbus Crew for the 2015 season, the club announced on Tuesday. The Columbus Dispatch first broke the news after Kamara hinted at the move via Twitter early Tuesday morning, and Crew owner Anthony Precourt provided confirmation later in the day.
Kamara is expected to meet the media in Columbus on Wednesday, when the Crew unveil their new visual and brand identity.
Kamara has been a free agent since parting ways with Boro, and Columbus – the team he began his MLS career with after the Crew took him ninth overall in the 2009 SuperDraft – were in position to sign him via their position atop the MLS allocation order. Kamara was subjected to the allocation order because Kansas City lost their rights to the player when Middlesbrough paid a transfer fee to acquire him last year, per MLS rules.
With 2014 rosters frozen earlier this month, Kamara is not eligible to appear in match play for the Crew until January, but will begin training with the club right away. A well-loved figure in KC, the Sierra Leone international told the Dispatch that head coach Gregg Berhalter's approach won him over and convinced him that Columbus was the best destination for him on his stateside return.
“It’s all the coach,” Kamara told the Dispatch. “I’m a family person, which means the fact that [Berhalter] showed interest not just because of business, but showed interest in calling me and talking to me personally about his idea and what he wants to do over here grabbed my attention. That was one of the most important things. It wasn’t just because they had my rights, really.
- Find more of the latest Crew news at TheCrew.com
“Coming back to the MLS was never really a tough decision to make when I was in that position. It was just about finding the right home. I’ve been here before, so when that came about and I heard about everything that they had planned, I said, ‘I want to be a part of that again. It will be exciting.’”
Kamara has made 193 career MLS regular-season appearances, recording 52 goals and 23 assists. He was Sporting KC's leading scorer in 2010 and 2012. He also logged time with the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes, and spent part of last year on loan at Norwich City during that club's time in the English Premier League.
"Kei is a dynamic attacking player with a history of scoring goals in this League and we feel that he will fit perfectly into our system,” Berhalter said in a statement. “With his on-field performance, leadership, big personality and history of community involvement, Kei embodies the values of the club’s new brand as we move forward.”