A Kamara continued to make headlines for Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday, only this time it was on the pitch and from Norwegian forward Ola Kamara, whose 17th minute goal proved to be the difference in a 1-0 result.
“It felt great to play in the stadium and it was cool to play in front of the audience and get a goal as well,” Kamara said.
The new arrival to Crew SC had his fingerprints all over the first half, where he recorded six shots, leading the team. His first chance came in the second minute where Kamara’s half bicycle kick off of a Hector Jimenez cross went just wide and hit side netting.
The chances continued to pour in for the home side, with Kamara getting a breakaway chance in the 9th minute that beat Veracruz goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez, but did not beat the post as his chip shot bounced away harmlessly.
Kamara and Crew SC broke through in the 17th however. Justin Meram, who played a more central role than usual, threaded a pass through the Veracruz back four, finding Cedrick Mabwati all alone, who then sent a low cross over to Kamara who deflected the ball into the back of the net with a simple jumping volley.
The Crew SC opening lineup, which featured a unique assortment of starting and reserve players, meshed well together and created plenty of chances despite their lack of experience as a cohesive unit.
“That’s why you train,” Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said following the game, “so you have a group that understands how to play together.”
Crew SC continued to create chances in the first half, including another Kamara chance that ended with a shot getting blasted into Edgar Hernandez’s face and out to safety, and a rebound that Danish midfielder Emil Larsen couldn’t quite reach. The second half, however, saw Veracruz become more and more dangerous.
“In the second half (the mixing and matching of players) became a little bit extreme, but it was still really good,” Berhalter said.
There was a huge mix of players, with all eight outfield players that began on the bench seeing action in the second half. Veracruz began to up the pressure in the second, recording ten shots compared to their six in the first half. Compare this with just four second half shots for Crew SC, and what the nearly 11,000 fans in attendance saw was a game that held its intrigue throughout.
Crew SC goalie Brad Stuver stepped up at major points in the second, including in the 60th minute when he collected a dangerous header from Veracruz, but especially in the 76th when the Tiburones Rojos got in wide and blasted a shot from close-in, but the former Cleveland State goalkeeper cut off the angle and made the save. Stuver recorded five saves on the day.
After the chance in the 76th neither team was particularly dangerous and the game ended 1-0. The result was deemed positive from Gregg Berhalter after a tumultuous week after Kei Kamara’s controversial post-game comments on Federico Higuain following Crew SC’s 4-4 draw against the Montreal Impact on Saturday.
“We talked about it yesterday, ‘is it good is it bad to play a friendly, ’do you want to back out on the field after (Saturday)?’ and I think as a player you always want to compete,” Berhalter said. “ I think yesterday was important, it was important to talk through (Saturday) as a group and understand where we stood and how we felt about what happened and move on.”
Berhalter also touched on the slew of media attention following the club and potential movement of Kei Kamara or Higuain before Thursday morning’s 1 AM trade deadline before the July transfer window.
“We’ve been getting a lot of attention lately and it’s for the wrong reasons,” Berhalter said, “that’s not who we are as a soccer club, that’s not what Columbus represents, that’s not what we represent and I don’t like that kind of thing.”
As far as trade rumors, Berhalter was tight-lipped, saying he does not know if Kamara will be traded before the deadline, nor had a move been made before the game.
Columbus Crew SC will take on the Colorado Rapids without Kei Kamara on Saturday, May 14 at MAPFRE Stadium.