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Penalty Kick Debacle Opens Eyes to Deeper Issues Between Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain

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It was one moment on the field, but it comes from issues of of the pitch.

If you just left MAPFRE Stadium or you finished watching Columbus Crew SC throw away a 4-1 lead only to draw 4-4 from the comfort of your home, you're probably asking one question: What just happened?

The game turned on its head in what should have been a bright moment in the 51st minute after winger Justin Meram was taken down inside the penalty area. Referee Armando Villarreal awarded the Black & Gold the penalty kick and it appeared the chance to take an insurmountable lead over the visiting Montreal Impact.

That's when everything hit the fan.

Kei Kamara scored two goals in the first half. Kei Kamara has never had a hat trick in his MLS career and the opportunity from the spot presented itself golden.

"You have two goals, you're going for a hat trick, a player that's never scored a hat trick in their career," the Columbus forward said postgame. "What do you do? Do you give it to him or do you take it?"

Kamara asked Federico Higuain, who has taken 20 penalty kicks over his tenure with Crew SC and was tied with Guillermo Barros Schelotto for most made in club history, to take the kick. According to Kamara, he was tricked.

"He told me he wanted to give it to Ethan and I said, ‘No problem. Let Ethan score,'" Kei explained. "Ethan says, ‘No, you can have it." Then he [Higuain] says, ‘No, now I get to take it.'"

Houston, we have a problem.

There was a long discussion featuring Kamara, Finlay, and Higuain. So much so that captain Michael Parkhurst came up from his center back position on the advice of his goalkeeper to sort things out.

"It's was a little bit up in the air," Steve Clark said. "I saw the conflict going so I sent Michael in, the captain, to go... sort it out."

What did Parkhurst say when he reached the two, still arguing after several minutes, in the penalty box?

"I just said, ‘Let's get on with it guys. This is embarrassing for the team. Let's just sort it out' and it was sorted out," he explained.

"He's a captain, I respected him," Kamara said of the talk with Parkhurst. "And he told me one on one I took the last one so I have to give him the next one. So that's why I gave it to him."

When it was all said and done, Higuain took the spot kick and converted, but this is nowhere near done.

"That's selfishness," Kamara said of the situation. "That's not teammate. That's selfishness.

"Why did I lose the golden boot last year? How many P.K.s did I score before Giovinco? None."

Kamara was still upset about the incident postgame, but this seems to be something seeded deeper than one goal or one penalty kick. The roots to this issue between the Black & Gold's star striker and their attacking playmaker seem to go back to the beginning.

"I haven't really had to depend on Pipa at all," Kamara said. "How long have I been here? How many goals have I scored? I don't even know how many goals I've scored. Several, right? How many have come from his assists? One, maybe two. So I don't depend on him. I depend on Ethan, I depend on my outside backs to pass me balls.

"Everybody has their personalities and you're going to clash with one or two of them. I never thought it would be a problem because I ignored it before because I don't worry. It's about the team and that's why I'm here. I'm here to win a cup; I'm here to win championships. I want to play for the team, but if you can't win games you ain't going to win cups."

Since Gregg Berhalter took over, there has always been a perception painted of locker room of good friends and camaraderie. There has been a sense that this is a close-knit group of brothers. But the team was also winning.

"It's really tough to get that game out of my head," Kamara said. "That's three points that we just threw away so that's harder than anything else. To me and to the relationship, to believe in my 10 or in my playmaker, there is none. I never had to worry about it. But it's tough to get that game out of my head."

While players like Parkhurst and Clark will -€” and did -€” attempt to paint a picture of a one-off incident between two competitors, it seems there is more to it than that.

Crew SC aren't quite in a free fall, but it's getting close. In order to get back on the ledge before they go too far over, the team needs its striker and playmaker -€” who has provided three assists on Kamara's 27 goals since returning to Columbus -€” on the same page.

If that doesn't happen... Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.