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Kei Kamara is Giving Columbus Crew SC Exactly What it Needs

Kamara was expected to deliver goals for the Black and Gold and that's what he's done early in the season.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Five games into Gregg Berhalter's first year in charge of Columbus Crew SC saw Federico Higuain as the team's top scorer with four goals. Two of those came from penalty kicks, while the others came from the run of play.

Five games in and the Black and Gold had one goal from a true striker, where the bulk of the scoring should come from.

Fast-forward one year and Columbus' leading scorer through the first five games of the season is a forward, offseason acquisition Kei Kamara. The Sierra Leone striker was brought in to help the forward line that was unable to produce at a high level a year ago, and has lived up to the billing.

"We thought that he would score goals and we like where he's at right now with his goal total," Berhalter said of Kamara.

"So he's exactly where we thought he would be. He's made a really big impact with the group."

Kamara has three goals in his five appearances since returning to MLS and his new role with Crew SC. After playing on the right side of a three-pronged attack for Sporting Kansas City, it was a question how Kamara would fit in the lone striker system Berhalter uses.

The results speak for themselves as he is among the league leaders in goals scored and tied for first in shots over the first month and a half of 2015. Kamara is getting his chances and finishing them, but he admits he's still getting acquainted with the system.

"I feel like I need more time, but we all need more time to really gel. It's not bad so far. It could be better," he explained. "As more games go, we believe that if we believe in the system, believe in what the coaching staff tells us then things will be good."

While playing as the lone striker, Kamara has used the skills he learned out wide in Kansas City to diversify Columbus' attack.

For his second goal of the season against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Kamara slid to that right side, opening space for winger Ethan Finlay to begin the counterattack up the middle. Finlay found his forward out wide, and Kamara put in a dangerous low cross back. When the defender made a good play to keep the midfielder from scoring, Kamara jumped on the loose ball to put it away. A real poacher's goal, but with a winger's setup ability.

"I'm really fortunate to be in those positions because when strikers can score goals like that, it means all the work you're doing is actually working, which is really great," Kamara said.

"I want to be in those positions to score those goals and the harder goals, they'll come later on, but if we can get the easy goals - I don't really want to say easy like that - but if we can get those goals, then definitely it's good because it just keeps the flame burning."

Kamara's experience with Sporting has allowed him to transition nicely into the Crew SC attack. He is able to fluidly move around the front line, creating chances like he did for Finlay, but being on the finishing end of them as well.

Kamara's early-season success has no one under any false allusions. The striker had six shots against the Houston Dynamo in the season opener, numerous chances against the New York Red Bulls, and two shots in the last match against New England, yet came away with no goals. He knows he can improve upon that with time.

The Black and Gold's attack is not a finished product at this point, with only five goals in five games, but the pieces are in place for Berhalter. Unlike a season ago when Columbus was looking for a front man, it seems to have found a reliable striker.