It only took Ola Kamara 255 minutes as a starting member of Columbus Crew SC to indelibly etch his name into the franchise's record books.
In a lightning-delayed Saturday night contest against Real Salt Lake, Kamara notched a hat trick—the first in 12 seasons for any Columbus player—in what turned out to be both a wildly entertaining spectacle and an offensively robust 4-3 Crew SC victory.
It was a striker's dream scenario for midfielder Justin Meram and Kamara to co-engineer a 4-1 lead over RSL, even if the visitors would capably storm their way back into the match to make their hosts sweat considerably.
Left back Corey Ashe, also a newly minted starter after winning over Waylon Francis' job, joined Meram in assisting Kamara's first strike in the 17th minute.
No one will remember that the Columbus triumph was technically a come-from-behind victory after midfielder Luke Mulholland opened the scoring in the 13th for Salt Lake, but Kamara's goal was indeed an equalizer. With Crew SC up 3-1 after 70-plus minutes had elapsed, the two squads would go on to snag three goals between them in a 12-minute span to transform the match into a suddenly high-scoring nailbiter.
The box score says Meram didn't find the back of the net, since RSL defender Justen Glad was awarded an own-goal ruling after contesting the Crew SC winger on his creative breakaway counterattacking chance.
But all in attendance will effectively remember it as a Meram goal, as his determination to convert after a dispossession of RSL in midfield couldn't be defended properly by Glad's touch and the ball snuck past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark would also thrill the crowd with a first-half stoppage time save of a Real Salt Lake chance from the penalty spot to keep the 2-1 advantage at the break.
Oddly enough, although Ashe's performance at LB was impressive—with not just the assist but also a shot that deflected off the goalpost—he was subbed out of the game in the 63rd minute and replaced by the man whose job he had taken.
Francis would have an immediate impact.
His wonderfully arced cross in from wide left found Meram, who in turn set up Kamara for his second goal on the evening, leaving us to wonder whether it's a neck-and-neck fight for starting honors at the position once again.
Kamara would score again in the 74th, and then both RSL oblique scoring threats Jordan Allen and Joao Plata would find pay dirt in the 78th and 83rd, respectively.
It took three matches for the newly slotted starting forward Kamara to get his first score in a Black & Gold uniform, and in an odd and coincidental twist, he accomplished the elusive three-goal feat that his identically surnamed predecessor never has.
Kei Kamara was traded by Crew SC to the New England Revolution May 12, just days after an on-field squabble with Federico Higuaín during a match versus the Montreal Impact about who should get to take a Columbus penalty kick. Had the now-departed Kamara gotten to attempt the conversion of that PK, he would have had the hat trick that has now been crossed off of Ola's career bucket list.
More importantly, in managing to net three on the same night against Salt Lake, Ola Kamara may have made enough of a decisive splash to at least temporarily dispel fears Columbus' attack would struggle to fill the void left by Kei.
Defensive discipline, especially late, is still a concern for a Crew SC team that let a win escape its grasp in that aforementioned game against Montreal in similar fashion.
But three points are three points, and Columbus emerged with a victory for the first time in over a month and perhaps restored faith in its retooled offense in the process.
Major League Soccer soon takes a two-week break to make way for the Centennial Copa America tournament in June, but Crew SC has a quick turnaround before a Wednesday matchup with the Union in Philadelphia. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Talen Energy Stadium.