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Kei Kamara and Gregg Berhalter Are Happy With the New Designated Player Deal

The Black & Gold got the deal done with their star forward before the start of the season. Mission accomplished.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a day can make.

On Tuesday, Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter and forward Kei Kamara fielded questions about Kamara's demands for a new contract. On Wednesday, the Black & Gold announced the striker would become the team's second current Designated Player.

"It feels good obviously to finally get a deal done and I'm really happy," Kamara said. "I appreciate the loyalty from the coaching staff and the ownership group to really reward me for what I've done."

Steven Goff of the Washington Post first reported the news that Kamara was in search of a new contract in late January. The question of will the forward hold out if not offered a new deal by the start of the season hung over the team throughout preseason.

The Black & Gold spent a week in Florida training to begin preseason before returning to Columbus for a few days. The team then headed to Tucson, Arizona for the Desert Diamond Cup where Kamara scored three of five goals.

"Like anything, there's multiple discussions that happen. You're working through things," Berhalter explained.

"It's a process that you need to go through and the time of it was that we got back into market and we wanted to finish everything up, make sure everything was buttoned up before we announced it. So just being thorough."

Despite the negotiations going on behind the scenes, Berhalter and Kamara made it a point to keep things professional. Kamara was present for almost all of preseason and continued to perform. The goal was to stay focused on getting ready for the season and not be a distraction.

"I think Kei's been very professional about it since day one. He really has," club captain Michael Parkhurst said. "I know it's difficult when you're talking contracts to focus on the field, but I thought he was great. I never once spoke to Kei about it. I thought he handled it very well."

In Kamara's mind, this was always part of the process. He didn't let it affect his play, or interfere with his teammates, or even change his relationship with his coach despite representing himself in the discussions.

"That's part of the business," he said. "Not many players can say they did it themselves, but it helps when you have a relationship like I have with my head coach who is also the director. We sat down and he knows where I'm coming from, he knows what I can do going forward, and he's seen me for a full year. So it's really good."

These successful negotiations landed Kamara a contract that will double his salary from a year ago where he tied for a league-best 22 goals to begin his second stint with Crew SC.

"This is my eyes is one of the success stories of the MLS," Berhalter said of Kamara. "A guy who's worked his way up and has earned this pay increase and has earned this designation and he means a lot to this league in general."

This agreement, along with Federico Higuain's contract, marks the first time in the club's 21-year history that there will be two Designated Players on Crew SC at one time.

"This absolutely shows commitment from ownership and Mr. Precourt has been nothing but supportive," Berhalter said of the team's owner. "Sometimes things aren't planned. But when a guy has a season like Kei did and he means that much to the community and the club, Mr. Precourt is more than willing to show his commitment to the team and show the desire for success and I think this was a good example of that."

For Kamara, this deal is less about money and more about settling down and putting his roots in Columbus while playing the sport he loves.

"I'm always happy when I'm playing this game," he said. "It's not all about this news coming out now. For me it's a joy.

"So yes, it's a day that I feel really special, but at the same time, no, I'm not content. Winning cups and winning trophies, those are the things that can make you happier."

Of course, Kamara knows he is now an even richer man than he was a week ago. So what does that mean for him going forward?

"Less Chipotle and more steak," he joked. "Hyde Park."