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Kei Kamara
10 Kei Kamara.jpg
Kamara playing for the Houston Dynamo in 2009
Personal information
Full name Kei Ansu Kamara
Date of birth 1 September 1984 (1984-09-01) (age 37)
Place of birth Kenema, Sierra Leone
Height 6ft 3in
Playing position Forward
Youth career
2001–2003 Kallon
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2004–2005 Orange County Blue Star 19 (16)
2006–2007 Columbus Crew 36 (5)
2008 San Jose Earthquakes 12 (2)
2008–2009 Houston Dynamo 32 (7)
2009–2013 Sporting Kansas City 113 (38)
2013 Norwich City (loan) 11 (1)
2013–2014 Middlesbrough 25 (4)
2015–2016 Columbus Crew 41 (27)
2016–2017 New England Revolution 52 (19)
2018 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 28 (14)
2019–2020 Colorado Rapids 38 (17)
2020 Minnesota United 7 (1)
National team
2008– Sierra Leone 33 (6)
  • Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 4 November 2020.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 15 June 2021

Kei Ansu Kamara ( born 1 September 1984) is a Sierra Leonean international footballer who plays as a striker. In 2015, Kamara tied for top scorer in MLS with 22 goals, losing out to Sebastian Giovinco on the Golden Boot on fewer assists. He is one of only 10 players to have scored 100 goals in MLS history, achieving the landmark in 300 appearances, and is currently fifth on MLS's all-time scoring list.

Early life and education

Kamara was born and raised in Kenema, Sierra Leone's second-largest city, and began his career playing for Kallon F.C. from 2001–2003. At age 16, Kamara and his family migrated to the United States through a refugee program, initially moving to Maryland, before settling with relatives in Hawthorne, California, near Los Angeles. He became an American citizen.

Kamara played college soccer at California State University, Dominguez Hills, where, in his second year, he was named third-team All-American. Kamara also spent two seasons with Orange County Blue Star in the USL Premier Development League.

Club career

2006–2009: Early MLS career

Kamara was chosen by Columbus Crew in the first round ninth overall at the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. He spent two seasons there, making 36 appearances and scoring 5 goals.

Prior to the 2008 season, he was traded to San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for Brian Carroll. However, he spent only the 2008 season there, making 12 appearances and scoring 2 goals.

On 24 July 2008, Kamara was traded to Houston Dynamo for a first-round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money. On 30 September 2008, Kamara scored two goals for MLS champion Houston Dynamo against Mexican club UNAM Pumas in a CONCACAF Champions League match.

Sporting Kansas City

On 15 September 2009, Kamara was traded to Sporting Kansas City for Abe Thompson and allocation money. Kamara had several productive seasons with Kansas City which saw him become one of the most imposing wingers in the league.

Loan to Norwich City

Kamara was a transfer target of Norwich City of the English Premier League during the winter 2013 transfer window, following an unsuccessful trial at Stoke City earlier in the off-season. It was announced on 30 January 2013 that Kamara was signed on loan by Norwich for the remainder of the 2012–13 Premier League season. Norwich had the option for a pre-negotiated permanent transfer or to return Kamara to Sporting at the end of the season, in which case Kamara would miss the first 10 matches of the MLS season. As part of the deal, Kamara's contract with Major League Soccer was extended. Norwich City announced on 5 February that Kamara was granted a visa, making him legally eligible to play for the club. He made his league debut for Norwich as an 86th-minute substitute in a 0–0 draw with Fulham four days later. On the next matchday, 23 February, he came on as a 58th-minute substitute, and 19 minutes later, scored his first goal for Norwich, equalising 1–1 against Everton with a powerful header at Carrow Road, in an eventual 2–1 victory. Kamara assisted team-mate Wes Hoolahan in the 1–1 draw against Sunderland on 17 March, as his header past the goalkeeper was deflected into the net by Hoolahan who was standing on the goal-line. Kamara later claimed the only reason he did not claim the goal as his own was that it was St. Patrick's Day, and he and Irishman Hoolahan had an Irish dance celebration planned.

Kamara quickly became a fan favourite of the Norwich support for his enthusiastic and flamboyant style of play, with some fans composing songs to recognise their new-found hero. Despite this, Kamara did not score any more in a Norwich shirt and Norwich declined the option of taking him on a permanent transfer. On 4 May 2013, Norwich City confirmed the loan deal had ended and he would be returning to Sporting Kansas City immediately.

Middlesbrough

On 2 September 2013, it was confirmed that Kamara had signed for Middlesbrough of the Championship on a two-year contract for a fee of £900,000. He made his debut for the club twelve days later, coming on as a 63rd-minute substitute in a 1–3 loss to Ipswich Town. On 17 September, Kamara made his first start and scored his first goal for Boro in a 2–2 draw at Nottingham Forest. He followed up his first goal against Forest by scoring on his home debut, a 3–3 draw against Bournemouth four days later. He then scored on 5 October in a 4–1 win at home to Yeovil Town, and twenty days later in a 4–0 home win at over Doncaster Rovers. On 28 August 2014, it was announced that Middlesbrough had parted company with Kamara as his contract had been cancelled by mutual consent.

After parting ways with Middlesbrough, Kamara had a successful trial with recently promoted Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, his work permit renewal application was declined after Sierra Leone fell to 75th place in the FIFA World Rankings and Wolverhampton shifted its focus to signing Yannick Sagbo instead.

Return to Columbus

In late August 2014, it was revealed that Kamara could return to MLS but would have to go through the league's allocation ranking system since Kansas City received a transfer fee for the player. At the time, the No. 1 spot in the allocation ranking was held by Columbus Crew SC, the club which initially drafted Kamara in 2006. On 7 October 2014 it was confirmed that Kamara had signed for Columbus and would officially be added to the roster 1 January 2015. Because he was released by Middlesbrough after the 2014 MLS roster freeze, he would not be able to appear for the Crew until the 2015 Major League Soccer season.

The following season, he helped the Crew to the play-offs by finishing second in the Eastern Conference, and finished the 2015 MLS season as the joint top-scorer of the league, alongside Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, with 22 goals in 33 games, although Giovinco claimed the MLS Golden Boot due to having provided more assists throughout the season (16 compared to Kamara's 8), which was the tie-breaking criterion. In November 2015, he was named one of the three finalists for both the 2015 MLS Landon Donovan MVP Award and the 2015 Advocare MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Award; he was awarded the MLS Humanitarian of the Year Award on 5 November, although he missed out on the MVP Award, which went to Giovinco. On 8 November, he scored two goals in a 3–1 win over Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference semi-finals of the MLS Playoffs, including the decisive goal in extra-time, which allowed Columbus Crew to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. On 22 November, he scored in the first leg of the 2015 MLS Playoff Eastern Conference Finals, a 2–0 win over the New York Red Bulls, which allowed Columbus to claim the 2015 Eastern Conference Championship 2–1 on aggregate and advance to the MLS Cup Final. Due to an injury sustained in training, however, it was initially uncertain whether Kamara would be able to feature in the 2015 MLS Cup Final against the Portland Timbers; nevertheless, he played all 90 minutes of the match, scoring the only goal for Columbus in a 2–1 defeat. With 4 goals, Kamara was the top-goalscorer in the 2015 MLS Playoffs, bringing his total seasonal tally to 26 goals although he missed out on the MLS Cup MVP Award, which went to Portland's Diego Valeri.

After being signed to a Designated Player contract, Columbus got off to a rough start in the 2016 season. Kamara scored five goals in his first nine games including a brace against Montreal on 7 May 2016 where Columbus had the lead. An argument arose between Federico Higuaín and Kamara over a penalty kick, with Kei potentially getting his first hat trick in his career; however, Higuaín wanted to take it himself. The game ended in a 4–4 draw. After the game, Kamara publicly called Higuaín out in an interview after the game. As a result, he was suspended by manager Gregg Berhalter for the next game.

New England Revolution

On 12 May 2016, just five days after the penalty kick incident with Higuaín, Kamara was traded to New England Revolution in a blockbuster deal which saw Columbus receive a first-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, a second-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, an international roster slot for the 2016 season, general allocation money, targeted allocation money, and a percentage of any fee received should New England transfer Kamara to a club outside of MLS.

He scored his first goal for New England in a 2–1 win over the New York Cosmos. On 2 September 2017, he scored his first MLS hat trick against Orlando City in a 4–0 win.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

On 10 December 2017, Kamara was traded by New England to Vancouver Whitecaps FC in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft and a conditional second-round selection in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. He scored on his debut on 4 March against Montreal Impact in a 2–1 win. Kamara left Vancouver at the end of their 2018 season when his contract expired.

Colorado Rapids

On 11 December 2018, Kamara was selected by FC Cincinnati in the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft and immediately traded to Colorado Rapids in exchange for an international roster slot for the 2019 season.

He scored the second hat-trick of his professional career, and the ninth overall hat-trick in franchise history for the Colorado Rapids, in a 6–3 win over Montreal Impact on 3 August 2019. The tally meant he reached 11 league goals for the season, the most for the Rapids since Omar Cummings in 2010.

Minnesota United

On 18 September 2020, Colorado traded Kamara to Minnesota United for allocation money and a 2022 second round MLS SuperDraft pick. He scored a penalty kick against FC Cincinnati on 3 October 2020, becoming the first MLS player to score for eight different teams; no one else has scored for more than six.

International career

An international since 2008, Kamara was dropped from the national team set-up for "disciplinary reasons" in August 2019. He was recalled later that month. He retired from international duty in November 2019, blaming in part new manager Sellas Tetteh. Tetteh defended himself. Kamara later returned to the national team set-up and on 12 June 2021 Kamara scored the only goal for Sierra Leone in a victory against Benin which qualified Sierra Leone for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, their first since 1996.

Personal life

Kamara earned his U.S. citizenship in 2006.

Career statistics

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League Domestic Cup League Cup Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Orange County Blue Star 2004 PDL 5 4 1 1 6 5
2005 14 12 0 0 0 0 14+ 12+
Total 19 16 0+ 0+ 0 0 0 0 1+ 1+ 20+ 17+
Columbus Crew 2006 MLS 19 3 1 0 20 3
2007 17 2 1 0 18 2
Total 36 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 38 5
San Jose Earthquakes 2008 MLS 12 2 0 0 12 2
Houston Dynamo 2008 MLS 10 2 0 0 7 2 2 1 19 5
2009 22 5 3 0 3 1 0 0 28 6
Total 32 7 3 0 0 0 10 3 2 1 47 11
Sporting Kansas City 2009 MLS 6 1 0 0 0 0 6 1
2010 29 10 1 0 30 10
2011 30 9 2 1 3 0 35 10
2012 33 11 2 1 2 0 37 12
2013 15 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 16 8
Total 113 38 6 3 0 0 0 0 5 0 124 41
Norwich City (loan) 2012–13 Premier League 11 1 0 0 0 0 11 1
Middlesbrough 2013–14 Championship 25 4 0 0 0 0 25 4
2014–15 Championship 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 25 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25 4
Columbus Crew 2015 MLS 32 22 0 0 5 4 37 26
2016 9 5 0 0 9 5
Total 41 27 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 4 46 31
New England Revolution 2016 MLS 21 7 5 2 26 9
2017 31 12 2 0 33 12
Total 52 19 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 59 21
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2018 MLS 28 14 3 3 31 17
Colorado Rapids 2019 MLS 29 14 0 0 0 0 29 14
2020 9 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 3
Total 38 17 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 38 17
Career total 407 150 21+ 8+ 0 0 10 3 13+ 6+ 451+ 167+

International

Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Sierra Leone 2008 5 0
2009 0 0
2010 1 0
2011 4 0
2012 5 2
2013 3 0
2014 5 1
2015 1 0
2016 1 1
2017 1 0
2018 1 0
2019 2 1
2020 2 0
2021 2 1
Total 33 6
Scores and results list Sierra Leone's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Kamara goal.
List of international goals scored by Kei Kamara
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 16 June 2012 National Stadium, Freetown, Sierra Leone  São Tomé and Príncipe 1–1 4–2 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
2 3–1
3 6 September 2014 Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Abidjan, Ivory Coast  Côte d'Ivoire 1–0 1–2 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
4 3 September 2016 Stade Bouaké, Bouaké, Ivory Coast 1–1 1–1 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification
5 8 September 2019 National Stadium, Freetown, Sierra Leone  Liberia 1–0 1–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
6 15 June 2021 Stade du 28 Septembre, Conakry, Guinea  Benin 1–0 1–0 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification

Honours

Club

Sporting Kansas City

Columbus Crew

Individual

  • MLS Fair Play Award: 2007
  • Sierra Leonean Player of the Year: 2012
  • MLS Joint Top-scorer: 2015 (22 goals, alongside Sebastian Giovinco)
  • MLS All-Star: 2015
  • MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year: 2015
  • MLS Best XI: 2015
  • MLS Cup Playoffs Top-scorer: 2015
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