Kei Kamara’s trip home from Sierra Leone on Wednesday included a speeding motorboat ride to the airport and then a chartered flight back to Minnesota so he can qualify to play Sunday’s MLS playoff game against Colorado.
The Minnesota United striker is one of four Loons starters recalled by their national teams for FIFA international play. He, Finland’s Robin Lod, Slovakia’s Jan Gregus and Madagascar’s Romain Metanire all were expected to miss the first playoff game because of a nine-day quarantine period upon their returns this week.
The way to get all four back and available to play Sunday at Allianz Field: chartered flights home and regular COVID-19 testing.
Those two steps were approved by league officials after consulting with infectious disease experts.
“Thank you, MLS,” Kamara said seated on the plane, in a video he posted to his Instagram account. “I’m enjoying this.”
Kamara and Metanire each finished their African Cup of Nations qualifiers on Tuesday. Gregus was a second-half sub in Slovakia’s 2-0 loss to Czech Republic and Lod started Finland’s 3-1 loss at Wales, both in UEFA Nations League play.
“Those four have been a massive part of our success,” said Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall, who expects to return Sunday after he missed the regular season’s final two games because of injury. “But it feels like we’ve been without three or four starters most of the year. “
After his team won home playoff advantage with a Nov. 8 victory over FC Dallas, Loons coach Adrian Heath called the prospect of losing four players for a playoff game a “disaster, not only for us” but other MLS teams. He lamented a nine-day quarantine period his four players faced back here in Minnesota, which would have made them all available for the Loons’ second playoff game, if there is one.
“It must be a different COVID in Europe, I don’t know,” Heath said.
In his posted video, Kamara spoke in a mostly empty Sierra Leone airport before catching his very own flight.
“At the airport, when you come and there’s like no one here because it [his flight] is something special,” Kamara said. “That’s right, it’s something special.”