Kei Kamara was at practice today. Kei Kamara still wants a new contract. These aren’t mutually exclusive to the Sierra Leonean forward.
Kamara was active during the brief time that training was opened to assembled media. He was focused and sharp during the 8 v. 8 scrimmage that closed out Monday’s training. He looked in midseason form as he tussled with Gaston Sauro, the defender charged with slowing down the MLS MVP Finalist.
"I’m here, it’s preseason, we all have to get fit." Kamara stated post practice, noting "For me, I’m part of the team and this game is a game I love. I’m not going to sit out and not train."
It's that possibility that the team’s leading scorer might choose to sit has fans jumpy. Kamara posted a picture to Instagram yesterday of a skateboard with a Colorado Rapids crest on it.
The board was a gift from Colorado during last year’s All-Star Break, but that didn’t stop some fans from worrying that the striker was on his way west. Kamara was quick to set the record straight with a tweet.
The whole issue was a misunderstanding according to Kamara. "It was a nice day, yesterday and I decided to ride my skateboard." adding, "I’m here, I’m in Columbus. I’m not looking to go anywhere. I want to stay here and I hope everything gets resolved so I can stay here."
The reaction to a picture underlies how nervous the fanbase is that the key cog to an MLS Cup finals run is unhappy. Crew SC struggled at forward before Kamara. The offense struggled with the platoon of Aaron Schoenfeld, Adam Bedell, and Jairo Arrieta at forward in 2014.
This season, new signing Ola Kamara is untested in MLS and Conor Casey is too old for more than spot starting duty. The offensive load rests on Kei Kamara's shoulders.
Head Coach Gregg Berhalter had no complaints about his star striker on the field, "I think Kei is doing great in training," adding "He looked sharp in that last Friday session in Florida. He’s looking sharp again. He’s focused."
Berhalter refrained from adding any commentary or updates about Kamara’s request for a new deal, but last week, ESPN’s Taylor Twellman remarked during the U.S. v. Iceland match on January 31st that Crew SC had offered Kamara an improved deal.
Twellman didn’t elaborate on the terms of the improved offer, either in either the length or raise that Kamara would see, but it would likely push Kamara into Designated Player territory. Kamara’s guaranteed salary according to the MLS Players Association was $536,666.67. The budget impact was bought down by allocation below the DP threshold.
Kamara was uncertain on the prospects of a new deal "We’re talking and it hasn’t been solved yet." adding "(I’m) waiting to see where the final decision into a new contract this year, at the same time I’m just training."
While currently content to train and focus on being ready for the new season, Kamara can see his stance changing.
"You think about it." Kamara said when the topic of holding out came up. "It’s what everybody in every sport does, sitting out and waiting for something to happen."
"At the same time who does it affect?" Kamara’s question indicating it’s not a decision he’d like to take or take lightly. "Maybe when it comes to that situation then that’s something I could… would do."
With four weeks left until the season starts, Kamara still sees more time to reach a deal, "I don’t think I’m in that situation to be sitting out and not training."
Crew SC fans don’t want to get to that situation either.