I could stop the article right there, but I guess I should elaborate. After the Crew’s drive to the MLS cup final, I didn’t think Gregg Berhalter would make many changes to a team that seemed to really click in the second half of the year. Bringing in new players can often disrupt the harmony of a locker room, certainly something Berhalter would be keen to avoid.
One thing Crew fans unanimously wanted though, was some more striking power. Sure, in Kei Kamara the team had arguably the best all around front man in the league, but if something went wrong, through injury or otherwise there was no real option going forward. Gregg’s answer was to sign veteran striker Conor Casey.
Certainly somewhat underwhelming, but he was clear about his backup role in the side and physically he could play the same role as Kamara, an important aspect from a side that likes to exploit the flanks and put in more than their fair share of crosses. So when otherwise happened last weekend and Kamara got in a spat with teammate Federico Higauin, he was slapped with a one match suspension by Berhalter. Everything seemingly dealt with in house, Casey to slot in for one match and we move on.
Anyone who follows MLS at all by now knows that Kamara is officially a member of the New England Revolution after a last second trade was made on deadline day. Columbus must have really cashed in on their designated player, right?
Short answer, we don’t know yet.
In return for Kamara the Crew received two draft picks, an international roster spot, a record amount of allocation money and a percentage of any future fee received for Kamara. Even more allocation cash than Chicago received from Montreal for Didier Drogba.
Because of all the unique salary and financial rules involved in Major League Soccer, and the fact that the rosters are locked up pretty tightly until July, means it will take some time to tell who the ‘winner’ in this trade is, but I’m not being optimistic. It leaves the Crew with a massive hole to fill up front. Even more worrying is that this happens in a year where Columbus has had a harder time scoring than John Terry does not being racist (where did that come from? I don’t know either, but Terry is not a good person).
Foiling my pessimism is Berhalter himself. Since joining Columbus he has had a clear mentality and structure in how to run a team and organization and more often than not, it has worked. He is determined to lead the team into the future and to do so in a way which is also sustainable. Columbus’ compensation should certainly help with that. The tools are there for Columbus to capitalize on the new resources so I’ll try to give the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Berhalter might also believe there is more than meets the eye in one of his shiny new offseason recruits. His name? Kamara. Ola, that is.
The Norwegian signed for the Crew in February and has been preferred to a number of others making a handful of appearances off the bench thus far in the season. He did also score in the Crew’s friendly match versus Liga MX side Veracruz, midweek. My guess would be we see a lot more of this Kamara over the coming weeks and months. Maybe not straight away, but certainly this season.
I also expect the Crew to make a decent foray into free agency next chance they get. They now have an allocation war chest, international spot, two designated player spots, and -1 Kei Kamara contracts. This trade and what is done with the compensation will likely define Berhalter’s time in Columbus. It seems clear this was his call and for better or worse, it’s his decision to make regarding his team. The resources are all there now to make a splash in July and a playoff run in the winter.
Lastly, one scenario which has not been covered by any mainstream media is the Highlander principle. This principle states clearly that “there can only be one”. Perhaps Berhalter is simply a massive fan of the famous film franchise and this was the most lucrative way to ensure there is only one Kamara. It’s possible………….maybe. Now if you excuse me I’m gonna go back into my corner to weep and repeat the words from Berhalter’s latest interview “we’re gonna be just fine”. O lord, I hope so, Gregg.