Despite interest from Spain, Ola Kamara says he always wanted to be in LA

CARSON, Calif. – Once Ola Kamara knew late last year that the LA Galaxy were pursuing him, there was nothing he wanted more than to head west.

Major League Soccer’s signature club might have fallen on hard times in 2017, but the allure hadn't dimmed in the least for Kamara.

It all came to fruition over the weekend, when LA sent hometown forward Gyasi Zardes and at least $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to Columbus Crew SC for the Norwegian striker.

Kamara had a chance to go to Spain – two clubs, he says, were interested in his services – but Southern California was where he wanted to be.

“When a club like the LA Galaxy wants you, you're excited about that, and when it went through, I was very happy,” Kamara told reporters after flying from Oslo to Los Angeles to greet fans at the Galaxy's 2018 jersey unveiling Sunday evening at LA Live.

Some might feel similarly when Spanish clubs come calling, but his preference was to remain in the United States.

“I'm really enjoying it over here,” Kamara said. “I think it's a good league. It's a lot of fun, it's a lot of people at the games, it's a good atmosphere and I'm really comfortable in MLS. That's why I wanted to stay.

“Me coming from Europe, I know that [MLS is] undervalued [overseas]. There's a lot of great quality in this league and a lot of good players, and I think people, especially in Europe, will get their eyes open for that soon.”

Kamara is the marquee pickup in Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid's offseason rebuild after LA sunk to the bottom of the league with an 8-18-8 record last year. The club went younger following Bruce Arena's departure, but suffered through injuries and poor depth during last year’s struggles. Schmid has brought in 13 players, a number that includes draft picks, and Monday completed the acquisition of free agent winger Chris Pontius, a Southern California native.


Ola Kamara celebrates while with Crew SC | USA Today Sports Images

Zardes failed to score until the last few weeks of the season after returning from injury, and the Galaxy failed to find another striker to put the ball in the net, relying mostly on French winger Romain Alessandrini.

“I think he's exactly what we need,” said winger Sebastian Lletget, who missed most of last year with a broken foot. “It wasn't a secret that we needed a goal scoring No. 9, and he can be that player for us.”

Kamara scored 16 goals in 2016 and 18 (plus another in the playoffs) last year for Crew SC, leading the club to the Eastern Conference Championship. Only David Villa, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Diego Valeri have scored more MLS goals in the past two years.

“He's a guy who's been a proven goalscorer in this league,” Schmid said after LA's first training session Monday afternoon at StubHub Center. “Anytime you can acquire a player like that, I think it's a plus for you. We think our team is the kind of team that we have guys on the field who can be very good providers. You know, Alessandrini, [Giovani and Jonathan] dos Santos, [Emmanuel] Boateng, Lletget. We have a number of people who are really good providers. So I think Ola's going to get his opportunities.”

Kamara thinks so, too.

“It's a lot of attacking power, and you see these guys, they can provide a lot of chances for me or give me balls where I can score goals and create opportunities, and that's what I'm looking forward to,” he said.

“And, hopefully, we can get some good chemistry so we're creating a lot of attacks and get the supporters excited to see us,” he continued later.

The Galaxy need to open another international spot for Kamara or jettison another foreign player before the roster compliance deadline in March. Kamara is close to getting a green card, which would give him domestic status in the league.

“If the government opened today [after a brief shutdown], that improves our chances of getting green cards for a couple guys,” Schmid said. “Obviously, we've got to be roster-compliant by March, and we hope things will work out by then.”