No phrase was tweeted more frequently in the soccer Twittersphere during the last 12 hours than, "That escalated quickly."
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with Norwich City and Middlesbrough, a free-agent Kamara found his way back to Major League Soccer and the club that originally made him a pro.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.
That lonely yellow spot on the field is Kei Kamara, the last Crew player on the field, taking the loss very hard. pic.twitter.com/ku70WCTwFA— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) December 6, 2015
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.
Hearing Columbus is trying to trade Kei Kamara pre-deadline, but it's hard to move DPs since so many teams have the maximum 3 DPs already.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 10, 2016
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.
It's just rumors guys...stay calm ♠️ pic.twitter.com/fX0g7SJ0sC— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) May 10, 2016
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.
Both Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain were at the #CrewSC game tonight.— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) May 12, 2016
#CrewSC had made no roster moves as of 20 minutes ago, Gregg Berhalter said.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
Asked if he expected to make a trade by the 1 a.m. deadline, #CrewSC Berhalter said "I have no idea."— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 10:23 p.m. — Kei tweets
Late Wednesday night, Kamara tweets this...
Always in class in my career . pic.twitter.com/xip0JjHgsH— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) May 12, 2016
...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.
League source says dominoes may be aligned for deal sending Kamara to Vancouver. DP Octavio Rivero might be involved. #CrewSC— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
Have heard from sources of both Columbus and Vancouver that there is talks involving Kamara to Whitecaps for Rivero on going right know.— Aaron Campbell (@AaCamp81) May 12, 2016
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.
Two sources close to the situation say Kamara to Vancouver deal is not done at this moment. #CrewSC— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
Latest I'm told on Kamara-Rivero is it is NOT happening. Unclear what went down just before deadline but players HAD been informed of deal— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) May 12, 2016
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
Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) May 12, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016, 9:19 a.m. — Bye, bye Kei
#CrewSC has traded Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
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.
In return, #CrewSC gets TAM, GAM, first-rounder in 2017, second-rounder in 2018, international roster spot and cut of future transfer money.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
#CrewSC will receive around $500,000 in TAM/GAM allocation money in Kamara deal. A huge amount in league with $3.67 million soft cap.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) May 12, 2016
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.