Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
The first chapter of Kamara’s time with United went quite well
D.C. United entered this past summer’s transfer window in need of a spark. United were mired in a 1W-5D-2L run, and that lone win required a 70-yard goal from Wayne Rooney to knock off an ever-hapless Orlando City. The season was drifting away from the club’s control, the fanbase was getting restless, and it was clear that merely having a good defense was not going to cut it.
And so, for the third summer in a row, the Black-and-Red put a few million bucks towards addressing the problem. A reported $2.5 million went to Chinese club Shenzhen FC, some classic intra-MLS shenanigans involving the Colorado Rapids, the allocation order, and $200,000 in GAM split over 2019 and 2020 played itself out, and Ola Kamara arrived in the District.
Kamara arrived with the kind of proven CV MLS teams so rarely end up bringing in from abroad. The Norwegian international had scored 48 goals in 90 regular season appearances with the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy, doing the job both as a pure striker in Ohio, and after he was shuttled out to the left amid the chaos that was the 2018 Galaxy. The dreaded adjustment period wasn’t in place…or at least, not in the customary fashion.
Kamara’s signing was announced on August 7, but between acquiring a visa and fitness concerns — for unknown reasons, Kamara had fallen out of favor with Shenzhen, and hadn’t played since mid-June — he didn’t make his debut until August 17, a 16-minute cameo in an otherwise moribund 1-0 loss at Vancouver.
However, with time running out on the season, Kamara started just four days later, and though United lost to the New York Red Bulls thanks in large part to a dive from Michael Murillo, Kamara introduced himself to the home fans in dramatic fashion:
This isn’t the kind of goal Kamara was brought in to score, but you can’t blame a goalscorer for wanting to make his mark on his home debut. Kamara wasn’t fully fit, he had less than three weeks of training with the team under his belt, and here he was, scoring a golazo against United’s most hated rival. That’s doing the business.
And that’s pretty much what Kamara did whenever he was available. The Oslo native ended up with 3 goals in 257 minutes, somehow doing even better than his already splendid minutes-per-goal rate (154.47 minutes per goal before leaving for China, 85.67 per goal with the Black-and-Red). Obviously it’s a stretch to expect that for a full 34-game MLS season, but if you’re curious, that rate would give Kamara 36 goals if he played every second of a hypothetical season.
Of course, that assumes United can be as good or (please please please) better at creating chances for him. Given that Dave Kasper told us that Kamara’s deal will be a TAM deal (i.e. even with his fee, he won’t be a Designated Player) for the length of his contract, and that both Rooney and Luciano Acosta are gone, there’s plenty of room to land a playmaker whose style of play pairs well with Kamara’s ability to run the channels.
The whole “going weeks without playing time” finally caught up with Kamara, who felt a twinge in his hamstring just before D.C. headed off to Portland for what turned out to be a 1-0 win on September 15. Kamara sat out that game, and then two more, before subbing into the Decision Day 0-0 draw against 9-man FC Cincinnati for 21 minutes. Fears of that injury resurfacing were probably a major factor in Kamara starting on the bench in the playoffs, so we’ll never really know what could have been. The 61 minutes he and Rooney were on the field together in Toronto were the only time United were able to put both players into a game at the same time.
Despite that, Kamara’s first impression was quite good. He did exactly what he was supposed to do: score goals, and create a vertical threat that United often lacked. Scoring 3 goals while not at 100% and still new to the team, especially when this particular team wasn’t really creating much of anything going forward, is a very good start. Kamara doesn’t have a pronounced injury history, so it’s probably fair to assume that a full preseason will set him up to be a full-time starter for United.
That’s where you come in. Is Kamara the kind of goalscorer you want leading the line for this team?