Brotherly Game) Kei Kamara leaving was huge news - can you give a brief synopsis of just what went down?
Patrick Murphy, Massive Report) I will try to keep it brief, but this whole thing got so complicated. Let's start at the beginning, Kei Kamara is Kei Kamara. Since he was drafted by Crew SC, he's had his opinions on things and was never afraid to voice them. Some coaches are okay with that and some aren't. Sigi Schmid was not and that's why Kamara was jettisoned to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2008. When Kei is happy, things are great. When things aren't going as well (like the start of the season for Crew SC), Kamara can be more difficult to deal with.
From what I understand, Kamara and Federico Higuain were never great friends. Pipa (as he's affectionately known) isn't the most social member of the team and tends to keep to himself some of the time while Kamara is Mr. Personality. We never heard of any issues between them, which leads me to believe they just weren't buddies. With that said, they played well together last year with no issues.
I don't know if frustration boiled over due to the slow start to the year or what went down, but Columbus earned a penalty kick up 3-1 against the Montreal Impact. Kei already had two goals on the night and Higuain one. Kei also has never scored a hat trick in his career and has mentioned his desire to multiple times. The way Kamara tells it, Higuain did not want to address what happened when he spoke to the media, Higuain said Ethan Finlay should take the PK and Kei was fine with that. When Ethan said no, Kei thought he should take it, Higuain said he should take it and it led to a rather public (and embarrassing) argument on the field. Following the match, Kamara went off to the media about the two not being friendly and that he did not need Higuain to score goals (which isn't exactly true).
The next practice session, Gregg Berhalter announced Kamara would miss the following game, as the team doesn't put up with players speaking out against their teammates to the media. On the same day, Kei voiced his displeasure with that decision and now he's in New England.
tBG) Tell me about the new Kamara - Ola Kamara - and what he brings to Columbus that the old Kamara didn't.
MR) Ola is a different player than Kei. The way Berhalter contrasted them before the season began was that Kei likes to play crosses to his head or use his athleticism to get to balls where as Ola looks to get in behind the defense more, whether on crosses or otherwise. Ola is not as tall nor does he possess the athleticism of Kei. He does appear to be a very smart player and in just a few games starting since Kei's departure, has gotten into dangerous positions.
Obviously Ola stole the headlines last week with his hat trick, but even against Toronto FC the week before, he looked dangerous. With the different styles, Ola's teammates are still learning how to play with him and the chemistry is still building, but things continue to look up with each passing day.
Can he score 20+ goals like Kei did last year? Probably not, but how many can? He can certainly be a dangerous player in an attack that will have to reinvent itself a little bit.
tBG) Things haven't gone to plan for the Crew this season, with the club finding itself near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. What is at the heart of this problem, and what is being done (or has been done) to address it?
MR) That's a good question and one that is still being asked around Columbus. To begin the season, the offense wasn't clicking which was weird considering all the same pieces returned. The quick movements and such that were a key part of last season's attack just weren't happening. Against Montreal, the Black & Gold seemed to find the answer by scoring four goals, but then the Kei/Higuain situation occurred.
Over the last few games, the defense has done well holding up as the attack begins to adjust to Ola Kamara. Over the last two weeks though, injuries to center backs Gaston Sauro and Tyson Wahl have forced rookie center midfielder Rodrigo Saravia on to the back line. Harrison Afful's call up left the defense even thinner, which was part of the problem Saturday when Columbus gave up three goals to Real Salt Lake.
The hope is after the international break, when the health of the team should be better and players will be back from national team duties, things can really begin to come together. There's also all the money that Crew SC got from the Kamara trade that can be used in July if Berhalter feels there is a position of need. It's a long season and Columbus still has time to get things right.
Injuries: Tyson Wahl has been dealing with concussion symptoms. He was in street clothes at practice on Tuesday and told me he's still dealing with some head issues. Gaston Sauro is out for four months with a PCL sprain. Tony Tchani has been out for quite some due to a calf strain, but was a full participant in practice Tuesday. He will still have to deal with fitness issues. Also, Harrison Afful, Cedrick Mabwati, Rodrigo Saravia, and Emil Larsen are all away on international duty.
Projected lineup: Steve Clark; Hector Jimenez, Michael Parkhurst, Chad Barson, Corey Ashe; Ethan Finlay, Wil Trapp, Mohammed Saeid, Justin Meram; Federico Higuain; Ola Kamara