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What to Make of the Ongoing Kei Kamara Saga

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Crew SC are yet to come to terms on a deal that their top forward believes he merits. How far will this go on and what can we take from what's been said?

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

We've finally reached the week.

Yes, this means the first game of the MLS regular season is upon us - Columbus Crew SC kickoff Sunday on the road against the Portland Timbers - but that's not the biggest story for the Black & Gold.

Since the start of preseason, forward Kei Kamara has been looking for a renegotiated contract after scoring a team-best 22 goals a year ago and finishing as a finalist for MLS MVP.

With just five days until 2016 begins, no deal has been reached and questions regarding this topic were abundant on Tuesday at Crew SC training, the first day the club was back in town.

What we know: Kamara is currently under contract after signing a three-year deal in October of 2014. The club reportedly offered him a contract that would pay him more than the three other MLS players to have scored at least 22 goals in a season since 2012.

What we don't know is what Kamara is looking for and what he will do if he doesn't receive what he believes to be just compensation before Sunday's match.

As they have throughout this process, both Kamara and head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter were willing to field questions about this saga.

"Kei's been great this preseason," Berhalter said when asked if things are going well with the forward. "The quality of his play and how he's been leading both on and off the field has been fantastic.

"Things are going well. Like I said, I think that we can't ask for anything more than the attitude he's given, the performance he's given. I think he's been fantastic in preseason. His movement off the ball, scoring goals, being dangerous, helping with this defensive work that we're doing. He's checking all the boxes."

The questions though aren't about his play. Kamara scored three of the team's five goals in the preseason and despite arriving late due to jet-lag, has been involved in all of the training since the group got back together.

"Things are always going the way it's going," Kamara said. "I've been in preseason from day one and I've been involved with the team and it's the best part of the season to get ready. There's nothing going to hold me back. I wanted to get ready, be on pace with everybody else, and be ready for the season. We're in the final preparation for the first game of the season and I'm still ready for it."

Sounds good, right? Well, maybe.

Kamara was saying all the right things on Tuesday, except for the things he wasn't. When asked about Berhalter's compliments towards him, he said he is just trying to be a professional for the younger players just like the veterans during his first stint with the Black & Gold.

But when asked if there's any chance he won't get on the plane Friday to fly to Portland, Kamara became coy.

"I can't say none," he said quickly. "I could get sick. Something could happen. Anything could happen."

Anything like a holdout? Kamara would not say.

Instead he continued to focus on being ready for the start of the season, something he says he's looking forward to.

"All I can predict right now is just coming here day-by-day and training and just get ready for the first game," he said.

"We're still talking. I'm sure if it's resolved, everybody will hear it and see it everywhere. At the same time, the main focus for everyone is really the first game of the season and that's the same thing for me. That's the focus."

Sometimes the answers you seek are in what's not said as opposed to what is. Berhalter wouldn't say how negotiations were going and neither would Kamara, just that they are going. The striker wouldn't indicate whether he's planning on holding out if a new deal is not signed by Sunday.

What Crew SC fans should pay attention to is if there's any indication of Kamara traveling with the team Friday or if he stays home. Even if he does go, nothing is set in stone.

Talks could continue right down to Berhalter filling out his lineup sheet before the game.

This narrative has gone on for over a month now and there's little indication it's going to end before the start of the season. Who makes the first move? We'll have to wait and see.