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Is Kei Kamara a Fit for Columbus Crew SC?

The Black and Gold are putting a lot of faith in one man up top. Will he be able to reward the team?

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Kei Kamara may be Columbus Crew SC's hope at forward this season, but can he live up to expectations?

When Kamara's signing was announced, head coach Gregg Berhalter pointed to the striker's track record of scoring goals. Statistically, Berhalter's reasoning is sound. Over his MLS career, Kamara scored 52 goals in 193 games, an average of a goal every four games.

Kamara's production really began with Sporting Kansas City in 2010, where he scored double figures for the first time in his career. Over the course of his final four seasons with Kansas City, Kamara scored 37 goals in 107 appearances.

Kamara operated in a different role with Sporting than he will with Crew SC. The Sierra Leone attacker typically lined up on the right-hand side of a three-pronged attack, serving in crosses when the ball was on his side and attacking the back post area when it came from the other wing. His role required more defensive work and he provided the width in the Sporting formation.

For Columbus, Kamara will be the central attacker playing above Federico Higuain. Typically a target striker such as this is a big, strong body who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and can put the ball in the back of the net. Kamara has the height - 6-foot-3 - is dangerous in the air and has proven to have a scoring touch at times.

Despite his increased goal production in Kansas City, Kamara was not the most efficient scorer. In 2010, Kamara took 91 shots, put 33 on goal, and scored 10 times. The following year, he again took 91 shots, but this season, only put 29 on goal and scoring one fewer. In 2012, his best statistical year with a career-high 11 goals and eight assists, Kamara took a ridiculous 134 shots, only putting 36 percent on frame.

Over the course of those three years, which were the best three seasons of his career, 35 percent of Kamara's shots were on goal and 27 percent of those resulted in goals.

By comparison, last season's MLS shot leader, Robbie Keane, put 44 percent of his attempts on net and scored 35 percent of the time while the league's leading scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips, put 52 percent of his shots on goal and scored a remarkable 47 percent of those shots.

Not fair to compare Kamara to the top scorer and the MVP? How about his former teammate, Dom Dwyer, who managed to strike 36 percent of his shots on frame, scoring 46 percent of those?

If Kamara is expected to be a top scorer for this team, his numbers need to be on par with some of the league's best. The question that arises though, is he expected to do be on that level?

When Berhalter acquired Kamara, he knew what he was getting. Kamara isn't the typical lone forward, but maybe that's not what Berhalter really wanted.

Kamara has demonstrated an ability to get on the end of crosses and finish, something the Black and Gold struggled with a year ago. He's also shown an ability to score from long range while on the run. He also developed good combination play with his teammates while playing on the wing in Kansas City.

A year ago, the Black and Gold scored 52 goals without much production from their forward unit. Although some regression is possible in 2015, Kamara is likely to be a step up from Jairo Arrieta, Adam Bedell, and Aaron Schoenfeld as the starter and should help fill any potential drop off.

As he's already done in the preseason, Kamara will make dangerous runs to goal that either free him for a shot or open space for teammates. He will combine with his teammates and help create chances for others - he has 23 career assists - and most importantly, he will be a good teammate in the locker room.

Kamara may not end the season with 20 goals for Crew SC or be in the running for MVP, but he should fit into Berhalter's system, adjust to his new role, and give Columbus an upgrade at the striker position.

Then again, maybe the experienced forward is in store for a career year. We'll have to wait and see.