If something happens to Kei Kamara this season, Columbus Crew SC should be in good hands. Kamara's backup, Ola Kamara (no relation) has only played 20 minutes of Major League Soccer action in his first year with the Black & Gold, but in the reserve matches he's featured he has looked very good.
That trend continued on Sunday when Columbus defeated local college side Ohio State 5-2 thanks to four goals from the Norwegian striker.
Kamara demonstrated a knack for being in the right place at the right time, tapping home two chances from crosses and firing another before 30 minutes had elapsed in the scrimmage. Kamara was active and involved in the Crew SC attack and was rewarded with the four finishes.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter had to toy with his lineup a bit, playing a 3-5-2 formation that morphed into a 3-4-3 at times. Kamara played alongside fellow striker Conor Casey, who had an assist on the opening goal, and Cedrick Mabwati when there were three up top.
The Black & Gold back line featured Chad Barson and Amro Tarek as well as midfielder Rodrigo Saravia, who operated at the center of the defense in this contest. In the middle, Hector Jimenez, Emil Larsen, and Cedrick lined up with two players on trial with the club.
Crew SC dominated the game throughout, putting the Buckeyes under pressure frequently. OSU didn't score until the second half when backup goalkeeper Brad Stuver was replaced by third-string option Matt Pacifici. Some miscommunication with the wall on a set piece by the rookie led to the first finish for the Scarlet and Gray and a bad turnover near midfield and a quick counter was the other.
Aside from Kamara's four finishes, Cedrick also found the back of the net. After using his speed to get in behind the Ohio State back line multiple times, the Congolese winger finally finished early in the second half.
While Kamara certainly stole the show at Crew SC's EAS Training Center, he wasn't the only player to perform well. Casey used his size to dominate the central defenders he faced and looked to be back to normal after suffering a concussion in the first game of the season.
Saravia was another player who stood out. Despite playing out of position, he looked calm and collected on the back line and made a few nice tackles. The Guatemalan international was very vocal with his back line and the player in front of him as well. Tarek put in another solid performance. The center back will likely feature for Columbus next week against the Houston Dynamo after a red card was shown to Michael Parkhurst (but will be changed to Tyson Wahl who actually committed the foul).
It is hard to take too much from these scrimmages given the level of competition -- this time another college program -- but it's good to see the reserve players get minutes and perform up to the high standards of the club.