Ola Kamara’s days in Columbus are over and if Crew SC seemed to be in a good position regarding its roster as the 2018 MLS season approaches, the Norwegian’s departure will demand the club’s front office to show some effort and creativity in the coming weeks.
Columbus Crew SC acquired another forward, U.S. international Gyazi Zardes, in the deal that shipped Kamara to the LA Galaxy, but it’s hard to believe that the 26-year-old newcomer will be able to mirror the European’s production, even though he can definitely be useful to head coach Gregg Berhalter.
As Kamara scored 34 goals in only two seasons and 59 matches with the Black & Gold and was arguably one of the most effective goal scorers of the entire league, Zardes took his entire five-year MLS career and 131 games to score the same 34 goals.
With Kamara gone, Crew SC has a spot to fill and the resources to do so. The club can go in different directions when looking for a replacement to Kamara and each of them can bring players with distinct profiles to central Ohio in the upcoming weeks.
Betting on a young player to replace an established forward as Kamara is definitely the most affordable option, but at the same time, is the riskiest. Young players are often inconsistent and inconsistency is certainly not something you want from your striker.
One of the obvious options that fit this profile is U.S. international Rubio Rubin. The 21-year-old forward is out of contract after pale stints in the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway, but his numbers with the U.S. U-17 and U-20 teams are encouraging.
It has been speculated that Rubin is eyeing a move to MLS, which he confirmed, and Crew SC was reportedly among the interested teams. To a player looking to revitalize his career, signing with a team with the striker spot open and that is known in the league for its offensive-minded style could be an intriguing option.
The international market is most likely the place where Crew SC’s coaching staff and front office will look at when searching for a new striker. This strategy has already worked before, with Kamara himself being an example of a foreigner that thrived playing for the Black & Gold.
South America is an obvious place to start and two names pop up as viable options. One is the 32-year-old Teo Gutierrez. He was part of Colombia’s roster in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and recently returned to his home country to play for Atletico Junior. Gutierrez was recently accused by a teammate of trying to seduce his wife, though, and is under heavy criticism from the Colombian media, which could make him want a way out.
Uruguayan Rodrigo Aguirre, who was recently linked with the Galaxy, could be another interesting option. The 23-year-old forward has his rights linked to Udinese, but has been loaned out by the Italian club repeatedly since 2014. His latest stint, which ended last December, was with Uruguay’s Nacional, where he scored 13 goals in 26 games.
Looking to the European secondary leagues could also be prolific and is a route that the Black & Gold already took before with Kamara himself. A viable option would be 33-year-old Spanish veteran Igor Angulo, who scored 23 goals in as many games for Poland’s Górnik Zabrze. A younger alternative would be 25-year-old Serbian Aleksandar Pesic, who scored 18 goals for Red Star Belgrade after playing for Italy’s Atalanta and France’s Toulouse.
Go National Team
Having a U.S. National Team player on the roster has been a desire of Crew SC’s front office for a while and the club is apparently close to achieving it with Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp. The Black & Gold, however, could look at this situation as an opportunity to sign a USMNT striker and while most of the names of the national team squad are probably out of the club’s range, some deals could be realistic.
One rout Crew SC could go to use the allocation money it received in the Kamara trade to pursue Christian Ramirez from Minnesota United. The 26-year-old striker is a lethal finisher and would be a good replacement for the Norwegian at a reasonably young age. It’s uncertain if the Loons would be willing to part ways with him, but the Black & Gold have money and players to offer.
The other option is a long shot, but could work. Aaron Johannsson, who last played for the Star & Stripes in 2015, when Juergen Klinsmann was still in charge, is buried on Werder Bremen’s second team after playing only 18 matches for the Bundesliga giants senior squad in two years. At 27, Johannsson is probably looking for a change of scenario and Crew SC could provide just that.
The most unlikely scenario has the Black & Gold splashing a lot of money and signing a big-name forward to replace Kamara. The club currently has its three Designated Player slots occupied, but can buy Jonathan Mensah’s salary down and free up one of these spots to pursue an international star.
Some veteran forwards who were linked to MLS at some point in the last few years are in the final months of their current contracts and could potentially become targets such as Atletico Madrid’s Spanish veteran Fernando Torres, 33, Italian star Mario Balotelli, who netted 18 goals for France’s Nice in the current season, and former Chelsea Senegalese forward Demba Ba, who is playing in China’s Shenhua now.
If the club was willing to open the checkbook and pay a massive transfer fee, which is obviously unlikely, Mexican star Chicharito Hernandez is reportedly leaving West Ham and Dutch scoring machine Bas Dost could be open to leave Portugal’s Sporting for the right price.
Gregg Berhalter and the club’s scouting team certainly have the market mapped for a potential replacement for Kamara as the rumors that he wanted to leave Crew SC started last August. With the club going through a turbulent moment and entering a season that could end very badly or very well, the decision about Kamara’s replacement can have a great impact on that.