OBETZ, Ohio – One of Major League Soccer’s most prolific scorers is still flying under the radar, and he’s just fine with that.
Over his first two MLS seasons, Ola Kamara has racked up 30 goals in 47 starts with Columbus Crew SC, a total that trails those of only David Villa, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sebastian Giovinco and Ignacio Piatti in that time period.
But the Norwegian striker said he’s not checking those numbers himself, and isn’t interested in keeping pace with any specific player in MLS.
“I don’t compare myself to anyone else, to be honest,” he said. “I want to score more goals than I did last year; that’s been my thing. That’s not changing. So if a guy suddenly scores 28 goals, that has nothing to do with me. I’m just comparing to myself.”
Kamara is currently on pace to outdo last year's numbers. He has 14 goals so far in 2017, two shy of his output from a season ago, and has six games left in the campaign.
While his stats are impressive, Kamara knows playing in Columbus doesn’t always earn a player many mentions on the marquee.
“When you’re playing for Columbus, you will probably be a little bit underrated,” he said. “You see what [Justin Meram] is doing right now. … If a left winger is scoring 10 goals and has seven assists, in every league you’re probably one of the best players. But in Columbus, people don’t really pay attention to it as much.”
Kamara added that the lack of attention doesn’t bother him, and that his focus is firmly on appearing in his first MLS playoff game. Even as there are talks of an impending contract discussion with Crew SC.
“We know which team we’re playing for,” Kamara said. “We’re really doing it for Columbus and for ourselves. That’s how we work. And maybe by being a little underrated, we can surprise people. And if we make the playoffs, maybe we can reach the final and make something of ourselves.”
Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter has never been shy about praising Kamara. Berhalter admitted his expectations are high for his striker, but said the Norwegian has been meeting them.
“I think his movement is up there with the best of them in this league,” Berhalter said. “He’s very smart, a very intuitive mover off the ball, and it puts him in really good position.”
And Berhalter said he thinks the key to improved national exposure comes down to on-field performance.
“If we win, there will have to be stuff written about us,” he said.
For Kamara, a return to Norway’s national team is far more important than any headlines.
Despite his production in front of goal, the forward hasn’t been called up since 2014. He said he thinks head coach Lars Lagerback has seen his games and must “not be looking for my type of quality in the team.”
Kamara said he’s watched higher-ranked national teams call MLS players, and doesn’t understand why Norway have yet to give him a look while the likes of the United States, Mexico and Spain call in strikers from the league.
Nonetheless, Kamara knows it is out of his control.
“Of course I want to be called up, but when you have 30 goals in  starts, you can’t really do much more,” Kamara said. “So either it has to be a change there about how they’re thinking or something like that. The way I’m performing, I should be on the national team.”