At age 36 and now in his 14th season with his eighth team, new Loon forward Kei Kamara has his history in Major League Soccer.
And with some more than others.
“I’ve known Kei for a long time,” Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath said.
Now Heath has acquired the league’s No. 5 career goal scorer to help carry a Loons team that, at midseason, is short on fully healthy strikers. The Loons sent a 2022 second-round pick and $150,000 in targeted allocation money in 2022 to Colorado on Saturday for a 6-3 presence who scores goals and plays in the air in both boxes while doing it.
Kamara has scored 129 goals in 352 MLS games since breaking into the league with Columbus in 2006. He scored three in nine games with Colorado this season.
“We know what we’re getting,” Heath said. “I also know we’re getting a big personality.”
Heath’s son Harrison was in Norwich City’s academy in England when Kamara played on loan there seven years ago. Heath himself tried more than once to acquire Kamara during his years in the league with Orlando and now Minnesota United.
“So this goes back a long way,” Heath said. “I have tried a few times to bring him into the club.”
Kamara and Heath spoke by phone on Friday before the deal was approved by the league office on Saturday.
“As he said to me yesterday when I rang him, ‘Only eight years too late, Gaffer,’ ” Heath said.
Kamara is in quarantine from his new club but will be available when he clears it, probably by Wednesday’s game at Columbus.
“His strength and personality is something people have spoke to us about over the last week or so this has been going on,” Heath said. “Delighted that we’ve done the deal. We felt it was something we couldn’t turn down in the current circumstances. We think he’ll be a big, big asset for us.”
Loons goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr endorsed the trade, telling Heath how Kamara’s mentorship in Vancouver two years ago helped mature young American Alphonso Davies into a world-class defender who now plays for Bayern Munich.
A couple of Kamara’s former coaches phoned Heath on Friday as well and told Heath that he’ll be amazed by Kamara’s fitness still at his age.
“What I won’t be amazed about is if we get quality balls in the box, I think he will score goals,” Heath said. “I think he’s going to be a huge threat for us in both boxes.”
Newcomer Emanuel Reynoso on Saturday again showed, in his fifth MLS game, an ability to create with deft passes that in a 2-2 draw at Houston set up Robin Lod’s goal that gave his team a 2-0 lead in first-half stoppage time.
Loons starting striker Luis Amarilla recently received an injection for an injured ankle; he’s likely out as least another week. Veteran Aaron Schoenfeld returned Saturday from a lower calf injury, coming on late in the game as a substitute.
When asked what role he envisions Kamara will play when all of his strikers are fully fit, Heath said, “I see him playing center forward for us. He’s a goal-scoring center forward, and at this moment; that’s what we’re lacking.”
Heath noted the opportunities his team had on the counterattack Saturday, but it didn’t convert more than those two first-half goals by Lod and Kevin Molino.
Heath said he’s hopeful Kamara will help his team convert more of those opportunities created by an attacking midfielder such as Reynoso. He also is hopeful Kamara’s experience and skill will rub off on young striker Mason Toye — currently the team’s only other fully healthy forward — and others.
“I’m hoping there’s a little bit of mentorship and a little bit of understudy from Mason, watching a guy who has scored goals consistently within the league,” Heath said.
• Heath said backup goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh’s exploratory knee surgery on Friday showed damage that “wasn’t as bad as first feared.”
“That’s a bit of a booster for the kid,” Heath said after Saturday’s game. “I think he thought the worst and the season would have been over.”
• Midfielder Jan Gregus is suspended for Wednesday’s game at Columbus, unless his video-reviewed red card is appealed and overturned. That’s unlikely. He was ejected in the 88th minute after a backhanded swing of his arm didn’t connect with an opponent.
Heath said he would review the incident. “We’ll see where that leaves us,” he said.