Today, Middlesbrough FC released former Sporting KC forward, Kei Kamara. Kamara left KC a year ago to join the Championship club after impressing on a loan to EPL side, Norwich City late in the 2012-2013 EPL season. In his 12 months with Middlesbrough though, Kamara struggled. After a good start with the club, he picked up a knee injury around the middle of the season and could never get his place back. Then this summer he picked up malaria while representing his country in African Cup of Nations qualifiers. After the diagnosis was confirmed in KC, Kamara sent out a tweet thanking his country's federation and Middlesbrough for nothing. That comment got him on the bad side of Boro supporters and it's been all downhill from there. This summer he'd been linked with a move away from the Riverside, because of his lost place and the reaction to his comments. Boro tried to sell him, but today announced that they'd agreed to mutually part ways.
With his release has immediately come speculation that Kamara will return to the US and MLS. It's also led to speculation on whether he would return to Kansas City. KC was Kamara's fourth team in four years when the team traded for him in 2009. In KC though, Kamara found his home and became a successful winger in Peter Vermes' 4-3-3 system. But with this speculation, should KC make a play for Kamara to return to KC? For me, no, they need to move forward.
Kamara earned quite a few fans in KC for his style of play and for his support towards the fans in Kansas City. He became one of the club's top goal scorers over his time with the club and worked relentlessly down the wing for KC. But at this point I'm not sure it's worth it to bring him back.
Since KC received a transfer fee and allocation money when Kamara was sold to Middlesbrough, Sporting no longer holds Kamara's MLS rights. What that means as a potentially returning MLS veteran, is that he would be subject to the league's allocation order. The order is used for returning US national team players and returning MLS veterans whose old team no longer holds his MLS rights (unless they're DPs of a certain threshold based on the Jermaine Jones situation). The process was used earlier this year when Seattle used the top allocation spot to acquire former Chicago Fire midfielder, Marco Pappa.
Currently at the top of the allocation order is the Columbus Crew. Kansas City on the other hand is near the end of the list. So either KC would have to make a trade to move up, or all the teams would have to pass on Kamara for KC to get a chance. The Crew meanwhile could use a forward that would be their go to forward, not sure if they're interested, but on the surface, the Crew look like a good place for Kamara to end up.
Even if they weren't, it would become a question of what are you going to give up to move to the top of the allocation order? It would likely involve a bit of allocation money, which Sporting has been putting to good use over the last few years to pay down salaries to allow them to keep talent around.
Another question is his pay demand. While we don't know the exact cap number that KC is currently at, we do know that KC has three designated players at this point, along with multiple players making over $200,000 (Aurelien Collin, Benny Feilhaber, and Paulo Nagamura). One would assume that Kamara would want similar, if not more than the $300,000 he made when he was with KC during the 2013 season. With both Belser and Zusi on pay bumps, and others, like Chance Myers getting a bump, could KC afford Kamara's salary demands?
The next question is whether Kamara would even fit in back with Kansas City. Yes, Kamara has arguably been the best winger in Vermes' system since he implemented it here. But does he fit the system as KC plays it now?
Since Kamara's departure last year, KC has been doing a lot more build up through the middle of the field. When Kamara was here, KC's most dangerous offensive chances seemed to always come down KC's right side, where Kamara would be. The left side's attack was not as active, and the middle was almost non-existent. When Kamara left, the offense started to produce more in those other areas of the field. I think Kamara's departure has improved KC's offense as a whole because it's led to KC being more dynamic going forward.
Another thing that Kamara's departure has done has improved KC's shot selection. Over Kamara's last two years for KC, he took 191 shots (149 in 2012, 42 in 2013) in 3,893 minutes he put just 62 of those 191 shots on goal, or 32% of his shots. Compare that to Claudio Bieler and Dom Dwyer, KC's leading shot takers in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Last year Bieler took 70 shots, putting 27 on goal, 39% accuracy in 2,109 minutes. Meanwhile this year, Dwyer is doing even better, having taken 81 shots; Dwyer has put 35 on goal, or 43% in 2,022 minutes played. Yes Kamara scored a number of goals but he should have based on the sheer number of shots that he was taking. I think that also speaks to the more dynamic attack KC has had since Kamara left. No longer is it as predictable as getting the ball down the right and Kamara eventually getting the ball and shooting.
The other thing that I think Kamara's return could affect is the team chemistry. As the stats above show, Kamara likes to have the ball, and likes to shoot it (he was fourth on the team in shots in 2013 despite being 15th in minutes played for the team). In his departure, Dwyer has become the go to forward this season. What happens if Kamara were to return? He's going to want to get his chances and get the ball at his feet more. What effect is that going to have on Dwyer and his form? Last year, Bieler scored six goals in the first 10 games of the season before Kamara returned from his loan to Norwich. After that, Bieler scored just four over the next 24 games, two of those four from the spot. Bieler took 28 shots and put 12 on goal in those 10 games, an average of 2.8 and 1.2 per game. After Kamara returned, Bieler took 42 shots over the rest of the 24 games, putting 15 on goal, dropping his shots per game over a full shot to 1.75, and cut his shots on goal almost in half to .63 per game. Certainly that's just on Kamara returning, but with him stepping back into the team, it certainly took some of the ball away from Bieler. And forwards, at least from my experience are creatures of habit and form.
Kamara's going to want to get his touches and Dwyer is already proving to be a more potent goal scorer than Kamara right now, why take touches, and chances away from him with the insertion of Kamara?
While I appreciate everything that Kamara has done for the club while he was here, his connection to the fans, his attitude here (that he hasn't seemed to really display anywhere else), his drive on the field, and his goals, I think it's time for KC to move on and not bring the Sierra Leone international back to KC.