The following is a press release from the communications department of Columbus Crew SC.
COLUMBUS – Columbus Crew SC today announced that it has signed forward Kei Kamara to a contract extension through the 2018 Major League Soccer season. The deal makes the Sierra Leone native a Designated Player, with Kamara occupying a Designated Player roster spot, effective immediately. An MLS All-Star and Crew SC’s Barbasol Most Valuable Player last year, Kamara’s 26 goals in 2015 (regular season and playoffs combined) were the most in all of Major League Soccer. Along with Federico Higuain, Crew SC now has two Designated Players on its roster for the first time in club history. Kamara becomes Crew SC’s fourth-ever Designated Player, joining Higuain, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Andres Mendoza. Further terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Kamara’s 2015 regular-season totals of 135 shots, 57 shots on goal and seven game-winning goals set new all-time single-season club records. In recognition of his successful season, he was named to the end-of-year MLS Best XI for the first time in his career.
“We are proud to be able to offer Kei a contract extension,” said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “To me, he is a true success story in this League: a player who has worked his way up the ranks and now has earned a Designated Player contract following one of the most prolific goal-scoring seasons in MLS history last year. It also demonstrates tremendous support from Mr. Precourt in signing two Designated Players and showing his ambition for where he wants this club to go. This is great news for Columbus and I am excited to see what Kei can do this year.”
In 2015, Kamara was nominated for the Etihad Airways MLS Player of the Month award four times (April, May, August, September) and was named MLS Player of the Week three times (Weeks 12, 23, 28). Crew SC was 10-1-5 when Kamara scored a goal in the 2015 regular season, as well as 5-0-2 when he provided an assist.
The forward recorded the second-highest amount of goals scored by one player in Crew SC single-season history, and he is just the second player to ever hit the 20-goal plateau in a single regular-season for the Black & Gold. His six braces in the 2015 regular season were the second-most ever recorded by a single Crew SC player in one campaign. By combining for 30 goals and assists in the 2015 regular season, Kamara finished one behind Stern John’s 1998 campaign for the most combined goals and assists in a single Black & Gold regular season.
All 22 of his regular-season goals in 2015 were non-penalties, making Kamara one of five players in MLS history to reach at least 22 non-penalties in a single regular season (Stern John, Mamadou Diallo, Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski). According to the League’s official statistician, Opta, Kamara’s 137 aerials won in the 2015 regular season were the most by any player in all of MLS.
In the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, Kamara’s four total goals led all of MLS, doubling the next closest player. The forward scored the series-winning goal as part of his first postseason brace in the Second Leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Montreal Impact on Sunday, November 8.
Off the field, Kamara displayed his humanitarian qualities by both working with the charitable initiative Schools for Salone as well as sharing his inspiring story with the Columbus community. Since 2005, Schools for Salone has built 16 schools and two libraries in Sierra Leone, including the “Education for All Primary School” in Allen Town, East End Freetown, which opened for classes in September of 2015 and was personally sponsored by Kamara and New York Cosmos midfielder Michael Lahoud. Kamara and Lahoud were the recipients of the 2015 FIFPro Merit Award recognized by FIFPro, the worldwide organization representing more than 65,000 soccer players in total. The World Players’ Union currently has 58 national players’ associations as their members.
In Central Ohio, the Crew SC forward has consistently given his time to speak to classrooms and youth centers about his inspiring story, including the Columbus Global Academy, where he teamed with Black & Gold Community MVP Derek Braun’s biology class to speak about pursuing dreams. In recognition for his work with Crew SC’s community platform Give Forward, he was named the 2015 MLS Humanitarian of the Year, presented by Advocare. Kamara was also named Crew SC’s OhioHealth Humanitarian of the Year.
This year, Kamara notched three goals in four preseason matches in the 2016 Desert Diamond Cup tournament held in Tucson, Arizona and captured the tournament’s “Copper Boot” award for his goal-scoring efforts.
Crew SC opens the 2016 campaign on the road in a nationally televised clash on ESPN this Sunday, March 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET, with the first regional broadcast of the season coming on Saturday, March 12. Crew SC Matchday – the special pre-match show – begins exclusively on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel at 7:00 p.m. ET on March 12, with the match airing at 7:30 p.m. ET, simulcast on The CW Columbus WWHO-TV and Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Post-match coverage of the MAPFRE Stadium Opening Match is set to follow exclusively on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
Head shot courtesy of Columbus Crew SC communications.