At the age of 14, Kei Kamara fled his native Sierra Leone, leaving for Gambia before immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 16.
Fast forward 20 years, and he’s recognized not only as one of the top goal-scorers Major League Soccer has ever seen, but an all-time great. He’s had a career that’s taken him down a path of twists and turns, across the pond and back. The 36 year old has now landed in the land of the cold and frozen north with Minnesota United FC. The Loons are the eighth MLS club he’s joined, tying a league record for the most by a single player.
The addition of Kamara is the fourth transaction the Loons have made during this transfer window, with DP Emmanuel Reynoso, defender Bakaye Dibassy and goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas being the other three. However, the addition of Kamara could prove vital as he may be the final piece of the puzzle the Loons needed for a successful playoff run.
Kamara brings experience, veteran leadership and most importantly: goals. He also brings a mentality that’s focused on the one thing he’s been lacking in his illustrious career: a championship.
“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.”
Arriving on an expiring contract and at the age of 36, Kamara has roughly four months to make a name for himself as a Loon. But coach Adrian Heath already has faith in the league veteran.
“When you look at Kei, he’s got great spring and really good timing,” Heath said in a Zoom meeting reporters Tuesday afternoon. “In both boxes. … Kei is maybe one of the best headers of the ball in the history of MLS. The secret for us is finding out where he likes it. But I know if we put it in the box, we probably have one of the biggest threats in Major League Soccer.”
When Heath and Kamara first met face-to-face following confirmation of the transaction between the two clubs, Kamara joked “only eight years too late, gaffer.”
Heath mentioned to media on the Zoom call that he’s been a fan of Kamara for eight-plus years, including a time when Kamara played with Heath’s son, Harrison, in England for Norwich City during the 2012/13 season.
Kamara, fifth all-time in the goalscoring charts in MLS, sits at 129 goals. However, he’s not far behind those ahead of him. Current all-time leading goalscorer and San Jose Earthquakes talisman, Chris Wondolowski, sits in first with 163 goals. Wondolowski is followed by Landon Donovan at 145, Jeff Cunningham at 134, Jamie Moreno at 133 and then Kamara at 129 goals. Kamara has the opportunity to climb the ranks as one of the league’s best-ever goalscorers as a Loon.
Kamara has spent the past one-and-a-half seasons with the Colorado Rapids, where he tallied 17 goals in 38 games, averaging nearly a goal every-other match for the Rapids. Now, he makes the jump for an eight time to a new MLS club, but it didn’t come without surprise.
“It was a bit shocking when I figured out my time in Colorado was coming to an end, but everything must come to an end,” Kamara said on the same Zoom call. Adding a smirk and a chuckle, “It comes for Kei Kamara a little bit more than other players.”
Major League Soccer announced the final eleven matches of Phase 2 in the league restart Tuesday afternoon, with the Loons being handed 11 more matches in the span of 36 days starting Oct. 3 and ending Nov. 8.
With a congested timeline coming up, the Loons have added a crucial piece to their roster ahead of their Western Conference run amid an injury crisis that has sidelined five starting players. The Loons travel to face 2020 Supporter’s Shield and Eastern Conference leaders, the Columbus Crew, Wednesday evening in a rematch from the MLS is Back tournament in July where the Loons took down the crew in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw after regulation.