Kei Kamara (left) battles for a header against LA Galaxy defender Leonardo. (Photo courtesy of Crew SC)

Kei Kamara (left) battles for a header against LA Galaxy defender Leonardo. (Photo courtesy of Crew SC)

When he first came to Columbus Crew SC in the 2006 season, Kei Kamara was only a footnote in the Gold & Black’s offense. Kamara, a forward from Kenema, Sierra Leone, scored three goals in 2006 and two in 2007 before being traded to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2008.
  Things are much different in Kamara’s second time around. Starting in 14 of the team’s first 15 games, the forward has doubled in his goal production in those first two seasons and, as of June 17, leads Major League Soccer with 10 goals.
  Kamara’s total, set in the first 12 games of the season, helped him become the fastest player in club history to reach double digits in goals. He also set a MLS record for most shots in a game, blasting 10 shots and failing to score in a 2-1 loss to Montreal on June 6.
  Experience, Kamara says, has made all the difference.
  “I was young. I was 21 (when I first played for Crew SC),” says Kamara, whose team was 4-6-5 overall and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after tying L.A. Galaxy at 1 on June 13. “I’m 30 now. I’ve matured. I’ve played for a few different teams now and I’ve learned from a few different coaches.
  “I’m just progressing. I’ve played for a lot of different teams and now I am working hard to get better every year. I’m at the point now where everything I’ve learned is coming in front of me.”
  Crew SC’s offense is also growing along with Kamara. The tie with the Galaxy marked the third consecutive game Kamara has been held scoreless. However it was only the second time this season the team hasn’t needed a goal from Kamara to avoid losing to an opponent.  Columbus also played the New England Revolution to a scoreless draw on April 11.
  Crew SC has more weapons than just Kamara’s foot. As of June 17, the team has scored 21 goals in 15 games, second only to the New England Revolution (22 in 16 games) in the Eastern Conference. Midfielder Ethan Finlay, who set up Federico Higuain’s goal in the draw with the Galaxy, is currently leads the MLS with eight assists as of June 17.
  Sporting Director and head coach Gregg Berhalter appeared to be a little frustrated with the team’s slow start against the Galaxy. After waiting through a two hour lightning delay, Crew SC only had three shots on goal to Los Angeles’ eight in the first half.
  In the second half, Crew SC out shot the LA 8-4 to forge the tie.
  “I think obviously there was a step back in this game in terms of production. But, look at their team, they’ve got a National Team defender (Omar Gonzalez), one of the best defenders in MLS, Leonardo’s a very experienced centerback, Robbie Rogers is on the National Team, Dan Gargan, a very experienced guy,” Berhalter said. “So, it was a tough defense to break. I think we created enough chances to get two goals in that game and unfortunately we didn’t.
  “The guys had it set in their minds that they were going to turn the game around and at halftime, we knew. They were determined, we knew they were going to get back into this game and they did a good job of that. Like I said, it was a strange night for both teams.”

STAYING LOOSE … Crew SC players had to wait through an over two hour delay to take the field against the LA Galaxy.

  “It impacts it,” defender Michael Parkhurst said. “We didn’t know if we were going to play the game tonight. We were all hanging around, starting to talk about the game tomorrow, and then all of a sudden they say 10 minutes and we’re on the field. It was difficult, but both teams had to deal with it.”
  However, the team found an interesting way to stay loose. A video making the rounds on Instagram and the MLS website shows players staying limber by partaking in the “Header Challenge.” The players divided themselves into two benches in the locker room, headed the ball back and forth and then the final player headed into a container. Check it out:



   In addition to battling the Galaxy and the weather conditions, Columbus midfielder Justin Meram was fighting a severe case of jet lag. Two days before the match, Meram was playing in the Iraq national team’s 4-0 loss to the Samurai Blue in Yokohama, Japan.
  Meram showed no ill effects from his long distance journey.

It was the second time he had been called up for the Iraq national team this season and he earned his 14th cap overall with the performance. Meram said he felt fine for the game, playing the full 90 minutes with five shots.
  “Sometimes when you’re sick or face adversity, it makes you try even harder,” he said. “I am little more seasoned after that first trip. (The first time) I had a really hard time sleeping. I was up all the time like at 3 a.m. Now all these people behind the scenes are making sure I’m doing the right things.”
  Before the game, Berhalter asked Meram if he was ready to go.

“You guys should know that he arrived around 6:30 p.m. (June 12),” Berhalter said. “His game time was Thursday morning at 7:00 our time. I mean, think about that.
 “We had a conversation, he told me he’s ready to go, and I trusted him. I think that he showed why he was so confident tonight; he was really good. He never gave up; he kept going. You have to applaud a guy like that.”


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