In a matter of just 48 hours, the Columbus Crew SC roster picture sharpened significantly.
The club inked deals with three players in two days this week, signing first-round draft pick Rodrigo Saravia and Norwegian striker Ola Kamara and acquiring the services of Egyptian-American defender Amro Tarek on a season-long loan.
In a conference call Thursday, Crew SC head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said the acquisitions are part of a plan to improve an already strong roster that made the MLS Cup Final just two months ago.
“The goal after this year’s final was to come back in 2016 and be a better team, be a better squad, be a deeper squad,” he said. “I certainly think we’re well on our way to do that.”
Berhalter knew Kamara from his coaching days in Sweden, and said the club had scouted him “for quite some time.”
Kamara last played with Molde in the Norwegian league, scoring 14 goals in 29 appearances.
“He’s done extremely well in the Norwegian leagues and has done well in the Europa League,” Berhalter said. “He was able to score some big goals for his club.”
Meanwhile, Tarek is new to Berhalter’s radar.
He said the loan was a “different case” where Betis – the former club of Crew SC winger Cedrick Mabwati – reached out to Columbus. Though the potential transaction arose quickly, Berhalter said Crew SC felt Tarek represented a good young player with potential the team aims to develop.
“We look for value players,” he said. “We look for guys who are performing and who we’re able to get at a good value. That’s the key. Those are some markets where we find we can get some talented players from and they’re willing to come to MLS at good ages when they can still perform.”
Kamara is one of many Berhalter signings to come from Scandanavia. Giancarlo Gonzalez, Mohammed Saeid, Kristinn Steindorsson and Larsen were all playing there when acquired by Berhalter.
The Crew SC coach said he thinks the area is well-scouted and it’s “hard to get top young players” away from the clutches of big mainland European clubs, but there are “certainly good quality players” available in the area.
But with signings like Cedrick, Tarek and Harrison Afful, Berhalter has made it clear that his searches and scouting don’t only involve Scandinavia.
“That’s not to say we’re not looking in other markets as well, whether that be South America or obviously Africa and mainland Europe,” he said.