Depleted by injury up front, Minnesota United went shopping this week for a healthy striker — a rare commodity these days — and came home Friday with MLS’ fifth-leading all-time goal scorer.
A trade with Colorado sent away a draft pick and allocation money and brought back Kei Kamara, a physical presence in both boxes and an accomplished scorer with 129 career goals. He trails only Chris Wondolowski, Landon Donovan, Jeff Cunningham and Jaime Moreno on the league’s all-time list.
On Thursday, Loons coach and top decisionmaker Adrian Heath said he and his staff sought to strengthen a position Heath is not currently happy with. Only Mason Toye is fit. Starter Luis Amarilla and reserve Aaron Schoenfeld are both healing from injury.
“Maybe it’s the short term, maybe it’s long,” he said then. “We don’t know. But we’ll keep looking.”
On Friday, Heath landed a 36-year-old with an expiring contract who played his first MLS game with Columbus when Loons homegrown keeper Fred Emmings was 2 years old.
Both Kamara and new backup goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas — acquired Thursday from Nashville SC — will quarantine from their new teammates before they’re available for the Wednesday game at Columbus Crew.
At 6-3, Kamara brings size, experience and health to an injury-ravaged roster — “a half a team,” Heath said — that also has Ethan Finlay, Ozzie Alonso, Greg Ranjitsingh, Ike Opara and Tyler Miller out.
Amarilla last week received an injection intended to settle down an injured ankle that’s expected to sideline him at least another 10 days or two weeks. Schoenfeld trained this week and could be used in a substitute’s role Saturday at Houston, Heath said Thursday in a video call with reporters.
With those players injured, Toye started the past four regular-season games. He scored the first goal left-footed and on the run in a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas last week at Allianz Field and has scored twice in all competitions this season.
Still, he hasn’t reach the consistency Heath seeks from a young player who has gone to camp with the United States’ under-23 team, which is aimed toward the Tokyo Olympics.
Toye said after scoring against Dallas that he’s finding his way as a starter again.
“I’m still trying to figure a couple things out and get my feet under me and starting games consistently,” Toye said. “I’ve been coming off the bench so much, and that’s really what it is: I’m trying to figure stuff out. This goal has done me a lot of good and I’m going to continue to try and play simple and let the game come to me.
“Obviously, it’s been a big opportunity for me, being our only healthy number nine at the moment. I’m just trying to help the team any way I can and prove when everyone gets healthy that I can be our starter.”
Kamara’s presence adds extra competition when that time does arrive.
Heath suggested Toye has been “overthinking things a little bit at times” and wants him to simplify.
“He has be more regular,” Heath said. “If you look at his game, he has been outstanding in some of the games and looked like the player we hoped he’d become. At other times, he’s not doing the simple things well enough. We work with him. The consistency of his play, it’s got to be better at this moment. It’s either really good or it’s poor, and we need it somewhere in between.
“It can’t be the two extremes. That’s what I’m looking for, something very, very consistent.”