Alhaji Kamara finally set for DC United debut after long wait on sidelines

WASHINGTON – Forward Alhaji Kamara is expected to appear on his first 18-man roster after joining D.C. United earlier this month. It may seem like a natural and obvious first step for any new signing, but the fact that Kamara is even able to appear in a D.C. United uniform is cause for him to give thanks.

Should he get playing time in D.C.’s visit to Kansas City on Friday (9:30 pm ET, UDN in USA, MLS LIVE in Canada) – whether as a starter or a substitute – it would be his first step on a soccer field since the discovery of a heart condition derailed his European career.

He says just getting into the game would be proving a point.

“I will be really excited, especially like, just to try to show people,” said Kamara, a brawny, imposing 22-year-old Sierra Leone international. “I’m positive about my health. I wouldn’t come to training, I wouldn’t sign for D.C. United if I’m not positive about myself. That’s why I just wanted to be on the field. Play 90 minutes, play 20 minutes, play whatever minutes.”

Kamara last played for defending Swedish champions IFK Norrkoping, scoring 21 goals in all competitions over 48 matches in 2014 and 2015. He had planned to remain there for the 2016 season, but after the discovery of a congenital heart condition in February was deemed too much of a risk by European medical standards, MLS became the most likely option.

“The cardiologist in Sweden, he said to me, the rules in the United States are kind of different,” Kamara recalls. “‘With your situation, I think you have kind of 85 percent to 90 percent [chance] that they can accept you with the new rules in the United States.’ That keeps me [thinking] that I should not give up, I should still have faith that something will happen.”

United announced Kamara’s signing earlier in May after receiving clearance from two U.S.-based cardiologists. And after a few more weeks of training, manager Ben Olsen said Wednesday Kamara would make the 18-man squad that dresses at Children’s Mercy Park on Friday.

D.C. are currently shorthanded at forward, with Alvaro Saborio on Copa America duty with Costa Rica and Chris Rolfe still progressing through the league’s concussion protocol.

“We've got a plan for [Kamara] in place and that's getting him some time in games,” Olsen said. “But we're pushing him along daily to get his lungs bigger.”

Kamara, previously a trialist with the Portland Timbers at age 17, says he’s already taken note of the faster pace and increased physicality in MLS, but he won’t yet say if he believes the league will be a good fit.

“If I can answer that question, I think, it will be after one or two games,” Kamara said. “It all depends the way you fit in your team.”