Kei Kamara has returned to MLS just over a month after his Middlesbrough stint came to an unceremonious end, signing a deal with former club the Columbus Crew.
Kamara, 30, had been available on a free transfer since his contract at the Riverside Stadium was cancelled by mutual consent in late-August, with the versatile striker almost immediately linked with a return to Columbus, whose top spot in the league’s allocation ranking gave them first crack at working out a deal.
The Sierra Leone international won’t be able to feature for the club this season, however, as he was under contract with the Championship side after the MLS transfer window closed on August 6, but head coach Gregg Berhalter sees him as a valuable long-term addition.
‘I think this is an important piece,’ he told the Columbus Dispatch. “If you look at Kei and what he’s done in this league so far on the field and off the field, it’s a great piece for the club.
‘He’s a guy who is going to get involved in the community and he’s exciting and on the field he brings a lot of energy and he brings expertise. Off the field he’s charismatic, so overall it’s a very positive signing.’
Kamara had other opportunities in England, including at Wolverhampton Wanderers, who he trailed with in late-September, but insists that a move back to MLS was his main goal upon leaving Boro.
‘I love the MLS,’ he said. ‘I enjoyed my time over there [in England]. I have to be honest: Kansas City was a place for me. It was my home, and I loved every single minute out there.
‘Coming back to the MLS was never really a tough decision to make when I was in that position. It was just about finding the right home. I’ve been here before, so when that came about and I heard about everything that they had planned, I said, “I want to be a part of that again. It will be exciting.”’
Kamara first began his professional career with the Crew after being drafted ninth overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, before spells with the San Jose Earthquakes, the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, scoring a total of 52 goals in 192 regular-reasons games.
His impressive goalscoring form with Sporting KC during the 2012 campaign earned him a fourth-month loan to then-Premier League side Norwich at the start of 2013, before making a £900K permanent switch to England with Boro last September.
However, despite a hot start to life on Teesside, netting four times in his first eight games, Kamara would go goalless for the rest of the season and, after falling out of the first-team picture under new manager Aitor Karanka this summer, admits that the final months of life in the north east were a struggle.
‘I never wanted to be part of it, but when it came down to it, I just kept thinking about the positive going, “I’m not the first. People have been through this,”’ he said.
‘It happens. I did enjoy my time at Middlesbrough. I played a lot of games, got injured a bit, scored some goals. I proved myself. I proved that I can play in the Premier League, that I can play in the Championship. The only thing still to prove is to get an MLS Cup.’