Contract talks? What contract talks?
That was essentially Ola Kamara’s reaction when he saw the ESPN headline claiming the forward’s negotiations with Columbus Crew SC had stalled.
“I’m not talking to Gregg (Berhalter) about contracts at all,” he corrected. “That’s my agent and Gregg talking if it is.
“For me, I don’t even think about it to be honest because the whole time I’ve been very focused on game to game and week by week.
“I’ve been clear about it the whole time and that’s my whole career. My agent takes care of the business and I try to perform as well as possible.”
And Kamara has performed. Through 50 Major League Soccer games, the forward has 28 goals, tied for the third-best mark in the league over the last two seasons. He has been a constant for Crew SC, and someone head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter wants to hold on to.
“We want Ola here for a long time, we want to make him a big part of this club and I think all things like that will run its course in due time,” he said. “I think now our focus is on how do we qualify for the playoffs.”
That is Kamara’s focus as well. After scoring 16 goals in 2016, the striker watched the MLS postseason from home as the Black & Gold missed out by six points.
In his second year in the United States’ top flight, Kamara is hopeful to get a shot at the playoffs.
“I’m happy, and I think if we get into the playoffs I’m more happy of course because I didn’t experience it last year and that’s my whole focus right now is getting into the playoffs,” he explained. “The East this year is so hard, it’s so tough. Everybody’s taking points.”
Columbus currently sit in a tight battle for one the East’s wildcard spots. Crew SC are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two points above the Montreal Impact who have two games in hand.
“You see Montreal now suddenly there,” Kamara said. “Behind us, in front of us, people are taking points from the best. For us now, it’s a crucial couple months. So that’s my focus right now.”
The striker has done his part in recent weeks. Despite having to adjust to a new formation that has helped the Black & Gold defensively but decreases offensive opportunities, Kamara has three goals in last three matches and 12 for the season.
“I think the one thing you can see from the way (we play), we’re strong on the counters,” he said of the new attack. “And getting a little bit more comfortable for sure, but I’m still learning.”
According to the ESPN report, teams from outside the U.S. have taken notice of Kamara’s production and made offers during the transfer window. When asked if he was aware of those, Kamara gave no comment, but did elaborate on a potential future move away from Crew SC.
“As a player, you always work hard to do better and if a possibility comes up, we’ll see about it,” Kamara said. “But right now, I’m happy in Columbus and we’ll see what happens. I don’t know how this situation ends up because I have two and half years more on my contract.”
As for the rest of the ESPN report that the forward is looking for a new deal and potentially away from the club in the offseason, Kamara just sees that as potential distractions at an important time in the season that doesn’t have much substance behind them.
“I feel like it’s just a headline that’s stirring a little bit in front of our nine games, to be honest,” he said.
“For me, it’s just a headline that’s going to try and disturb a little bit, but I don’t think it does. I don’t think anybody cares. So it’s OK.
“I think for me, it’s more at the end of the season we talk about it. Not the last nine games in front of the playoff run and you’re going to focus on that. That’s just the wrong time.”