MLS’ fifth all-time goal scorer, Kei Kamara, went to work Monday for Minnesota United, his eighth different employer in 14 seasons. He did so at age 36 with both an expiring contract and intentions to stick around longer.
The Loons acquired him from Colorado on Saturday to fortify their injury-ravaged striker position for now and provide a forceful presence through season’s end.
Kamara awaited COVID-testing clearance Tuesday that would allow him to play with his new team Wednesday against the Columbus Crew.
“I hope so, I don’t know how much,” he said. “I’m ready to play. I’m healthy. I would love to be part of the game.”
Kamara called his departure from Colorado after less than two seasons there “a bit shocking,” even if he’s a traveling man whose longest MLS stop was five seasons in Kansas City, 2009-2013.
“Everything must come to an end at some point,” he said in a Tuesday video conference call with reporters. “It comes to Kei Kamara a little bit more than it does with other players.”
He leaves a Rapids team seeking youth and arrives to a Loons team aimed toward a championship run if it can get fully fit.
That’s why he said he embraces a trade that unites him with coach Adrian Heath, a longtime admirer who tried to acquire Kamara more than once before.
Kamara has scored goals galore but has never won MLS Cup.
“I want to be in a place with a bigger goal, a bigger drive,” Kamara said. “I want to win a championship. The way this team has been performing the past couple years, it looks good to me and I wanted to be part of it.”
The trade unites him as well with former Columbus teammates Ethan Finlay and Aaron Schoenfeld, former Sporting Kansas City teammate Ike Opara and Loons captain Ozzie Alonso, against whom Kamara competed for a decade.
Kamara’s arrival gives the Loons a 6-3 striker who plays in the air at both ends. He trails only Chris Wondolowski, Landon Donovan, Jeff Cunningham and Jaime Moreno on MLS’ all-time goal list. Kamara has scored 129 goals in 352 MLS games, including 14 goals with 28 games with Vancouver in 2018 and 14 in 29 games with Colorado in 2019. He had three goals in nine games with Colorado this season.
Both Heath and Kamara himself call it a fit for a coach who likes his team to play wide and send crossing pass after crossing pass into the 18-yard box.
“It will bring personality and a physical threat that we probably haven’t got,” Heath said.
Kamara also might give what Heath hopes is something of a mentor who can show Mason Toye and other young players what it takes to star in MLS. Loons goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr credits Kamara’s leadership with helping develop young Canadian star Alphonso Davies when all three were in Vancouver two years ago.”
“If anybody wants to say I did help him out, please send me compensation for that,” Kamara said, smiling.
Some of Kamara’s former coaches called Heath and told him he won’t believe how fit Kamara remains at age 36, Heath said.
When asked how he has dodged Father Time, Kamara credits his diet and grueling workouts every winter back home in sweltering Sierra Leone, which he left when he was 16.
“I eat a lot of rice,” Kamara said. “I love that. I’m a person that stays clean to my body. I’m not saying what people put in their body is bad, but I put the right things in my body. I’m obsessed with staying healthy and staying fit.”
His contract expires after this season, but Kamara sees beyond.
“I told myself when I had my 36th birthday, I had four more [seasons] to go,” said Kamara, who turned 36 three weeks ago. “But I walk in here one day and these guys are telling me they want me to be here longer. So we’ll see.”