Columbus Crew SC turned into a finely honed machine with Kei Kamara at forward. His typical goal was attacking a cross anywhere in the penalty area and turning that into a chance. With Kei off to New England, Ola Kamara will get a chance to start, but the team will have to adapt. Ola isn't the same threat. He brings a different skill set.
English based journalist Kristan Heneage has seen Ola and was kind enough to offer his thoughts on his game and where he differs from Kei and how the offense might change.
Patrick Guldan: First, probably the obvious. How good is Ola in the air?
Kristan Heneage: I think that, you will struggle to replicate the arial presence Kei has. It's unrivaled in Major League Soccer, and you'll see a slight drop off with Ola.
PG: With Ola not being a target forward, what would you say his strengths are?
KH: Where I would say Ola thrives is his positioning. He's a smart player, and he works incredibly hard for the team. He's not as clinical as I'd like my starting forward to be, but he has more versatility than Kei.
PG: How would you see that working with how Crew SC play?
KH: When I've seen Columbus this season, I keep noticing Kei wants to pull wide, or run in behind the channels. I can't tell if that's a Gregg idea or his own. Either way, Ola can do that, and I'd argue do it better. When he does, I think it frees up space for Federico Higuain to move into.
PG: It sounds like Ola is more mobile striker who may not be a classic 9. How do you think that will work with the rest of the attackers.
KH: Look at Kaka and Cyle Larin. Federico is a classic number 10, and Kei just isn't that Larin type striker. They've moved closer to that with Ola. From that regard, I see why they made the trade.
It sounds like Ola Kamara will be a more flexible attacker who can interchange left, right, and center. He has played at striker and on the right for Crew SC so far, but now will be asked to carry the load of the primary offensive target while integrating into the starting lineup in midseason.
The rest of the Crew SC offense will also have to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of Ola. The same style of whipping in crosses no matter what won't work. However, if they do adapt then Crew SC may be able to produce attacking soccer with a flourish.
Again, a big thank you to Kristan Heneage again for sharing his insights.