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How did we get here? A timeline of the Kei Kamara trade saga

A week ago, Crew SC's star striker was a key piece to the puzzle and beloved by fans. On Thursday morning he was traded to the New England Revolution. We offer a timeline of the Kei conundrum.

On Thursday morning Kei Kamara was traded from Columbus to New England.
On Thursday morning Kei Kamara was traded from Columbus to New England.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

No phrase was tweeted more frequently in the soccer Twittersphere during the last 12 hours than, "That escalated quickly."

Kei Kamara is gone. The 2015 Golden Boot runner-up (which he wasn't thrilled about, BTW) will pull on a New England Revolution jersey the next time he steps on the field.

Columbus Crew SC fans are left looking at a haul of less tangible pieces they hope will turn into something that will tangibly allow them to forget about a player who, until five days ago, was universally loved among fans of the Black & Gold.

So if the escalation was something more akin to an elevator ride, how did we get to this point? Here's a look, from the start.

Oct. 7, 2014 — Kamara returns to Columbus

After originally being drafted by the Black & Gold in the 2006 draft, Kamara played for the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo before landing at Sporting Kansas City, where he made a name for himself and used it to vault himself to Europe. After two seasons in England with Norwich City and Middlesbrough, a free-agent Kamara found his way back to Major League Soccer and the club that originally made him a pro.

Because of the signing window, Kamara did not play with the team in 2014, but did train with it in preparation for his on-field return for the 2015 season.

March 14, 2015 — Kamara gets his first of the season

In the second game of the season, at home against a revamped Toronto FC squad, the striker got his first of 22 goals. His ensuing celebration was widely talked about, and certainly began endearing him to Columbus fans.

His goal scoring did the rest. A year after the Black & Gold evolved under Gregg Berhalter, Kamara filled a scoring void and took the club to the next level.

Nov. 8, 2015 — Kamara sends Crew SC to MLS Cup

After a 2-1 loss on the road in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final, CCSC had some work to do at home in the second leg. Kamara scored twice in that game, including the decider in the 111th minute in extra time, sealing Columbus' rise to MLS Cup.

Dec. 6, 2015 — MLS Cup — The season ends in disappointment

Kamara scored for the Black & Gold, but it wasn't to be, as a mostly poor performance saw Columbus fall to the Portland Timbers 2-1 in MLS Cup. Following the game, Kamara sat, alone, on the field at MAPFRE Stadium.

The striker later said that, had Crew SC won the championship, he would have retired.

Preseason 2016 — Kamara holds out for more money

After a banner year in which he was a league MVP finalist, Kamara held out from preseason action while in search for more cash. While holdouts can sometimes be divisive, Crew SC fans almost universally came out in support of the striker.

March 3, 2016 — Contract negotiations come to an end

In the final week before the season began, the club announced that the contract dispute had come to an end — Kamara inked a contract extension that made him a designated player and the highest-paid player on the team, locking him up through 2018. It made him the fourth DP in club history, and gave the club two simultaneous DPs for the first time ever.

"This is a great success story of a player that has risen through the MLS ranks, and that rise culminated with one of the best seasons in MLS ever," Gregg Berhalter said at the time. "To me, this is well deserved."

March 6 - April 30, 2016 — The season sputters

Following a run to MLS Cup, expectations were high for the 2016 season. Instead, Columbus sputtered through the first two months and currently sit on the outside of the playoff picture. Kamara scored three goals in the first eight games — not a terrible haul, but a far cry from both expectations and his 2015 output.

May 7, 2016 — Madness against Montreal

The Montreal Impact came to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday, and by the time the game was over Crew-land was a different place. Columbus took a 4-1 lead over the Impact in the second half, only to see that vanish as Montreal left town with a 4-4 draw.

Overshadowing that was an on-field argument between Kamara and fellow DP Federico Higuain after Justin Meram drew a 51st-minute penalty kick. The two stars argued over who would take the PK, with Higuain traditionally the player who takes spot kicks and Kamara with two goals in his pocket and looking for his first career hat trick.

It was a discouraging moment, but Higuain ultimately took the kick and scored the goal. After the lead collapsed, however, things got dark in a hurry.

The postgame press conference saw Kamara let loose, ripping into his teammate, alleging that Higuain tricked him into giving up the PK and essentially calling the No. 10 a spare part in his own personal success.

"To me and to the relationship, to believe in my 10 or in my playmaker, there is none," Kamara said.

May 10, 2016 — The controversy comes to a head

In the days following the draw with Montreal, discussion swirled around the PK controversy. Criticism swelled for Berhalter, who failed to take control of the situation during the argument and who many claimed was losing the locker room. Fans wanted to know what the fallout would be and what the coach would do to reunite a divided locker room.

On Tuesday morning, options began to leak out.

Less than 48 hours before the trade deadline, and suddenly it looked like the gang might be split up.

Berhalter responded to those rumors in true 3G fashion — he at once admitted he had received inquiries into both Kamara and Higuain, while also acting like he didn't understand why anyone would question whether Kamara would be with the team for the next game. Ultimately, he announced that Kamara would serve a one-game suspension and would not take the field this Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.

Kamara voiced his disagreement with the suspension, while also refusing to apologize for his words or actions.

That didn't exactly quash an explosion of online discussion over Kamara's future with the team.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 9 p.m. — Crew SC wraps up friendly against Veracruz

With a Wednesday night friendly against Mexican side Veracruz (a 1-0 win for the Black & Gold), there was little update regarding the trade market. Kamara, as expected under any circumstances, did not play in the friendly.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 10:23 p.m. — Kei tweets

Late Wednesday night, Kamara tweets this...

...feeding the fires of speculation. Is he prepping for life with a new team?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 11:30 p.m. — It has legs

An hour later, things got real in a hurry.

Suddenly, information was coming in from across the country that a deal to send Kamara to the Vancouver Whitecaps for DP forward Octavio Rivero was all but done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 11:59 p.m. — Hold your horses

With the calendar preparing to roll over to Thursday and inch ever closer to the 1 a.m. MLS trade deadline, some shadows of doubt were cast on the Kamara-for-Rivero deal.

It appeared something had gummed up the works at the last minute, and while online chatter about Kamara and the potential deal/no-deal carried on into the wee hours of the morning, for all intents and purposes it appeared that the striker would stay in Columbus and the team would have to iron out its locker room.

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 9:17 a.m. — Not dead yet

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 9:19 a.m. — Bye, bye Kei

Out of the ashes of the MLS trade "deadline" comes a deal. Kei Kamara goes to the New England Revolution in exchange for a financial haul and immense flexibility for Crew SC.

The Kamara saga has come to an end. Fans have been left thoroughly divided, but now the club has an opportunity to move on — and with plenty of flexibility to do so — for better or worse.