Two Columbus Crew SC players are currently sitting atop a couple of Major League Soccer’s key stat lines. While forward Kei Kamara leads the League with 10 goals, midfielder Ethan Finlay shares the number one spot in assists with a total of seven.
Since Kamara’s brace against Seattle Sounders FC on May 9, he has maintained at least a share of the League’s goal-scoring lead this season. However, his third brace against the Chicago Fire on May 22 gave him the sole lead, which he has kept ever since.
Shying away from taking too much credit for his stellar performances, Kamara attributes his double-digit number of goals to his teammates.
“I enjoy every time I score a goal,” Kamara said. “It’s really been [a credit] to most of my teammates and I’m kind of rewarding everybody for giving me a good pass, putting me in a good position to score goals.”
One teammate, who’s assisted three of Kamara’s goals, is Finlay.
“When you have the leading goal-scorer in the League, it makes your job a little bit easier,” Finlay said. “You can put a ball up there and he has an incredible ability to go up there and finish it.”
The dynamic duo’s chemistry was on display in the Black & Gold’s 4-1 route of Philadelphia on April 25, when Finlay provided his favorite assist of the season thus far.
“It was Philly and a ball that we won in our half,” Finlay said. “Great pressure, Tony plays a quick ball to me, I played a ball to the back post to Kei, and he brings the ball down beautifully, and [scores] a great volley. I just thought that was a great combination, a great team play of our pressure and our transition, and it resulted in a goal.”
Kamara said it’s great to have a player like Finlay on the pitch with him, and joked that he’s sure Finlay likes having him on the team as well.
“It’s good when you can have teammates like that. They keep looking for the strength of the team,” Kamara said. “Having players like Ethan, he’s seen my strengths and I know his strengths, so I definitely just want to feed off his strengths.”
Another teammate who’s contributed to Crew SC’s offense is Waylon Francis. He’s provided four assists so far this season, with his most recent setup contributing to another record in the books for Kamara.
With only 10 men on the field against Orlando City, Francis received a ball on the left wing, cut up a Lion defender, then chipped it between two others to Kamara just outside of the 6-yard box for a powerhouse second-half header.
The goal was Kamara’s 10th in 12 games this season, making him the fastest player in club history to reach double-digits in a season.
“For me, those goals have been really good, but I could’ve scored more goals. It’s all about me just working on it every day and staying focused,” Kamara said. “But really, [I] just enjoy it because that’s me. I love the moment and I love all the goals I’ve scored. But, if you score goals, that means a lot for the team and it’s actually a lot better than just making individual records.”
Kamara’s goal do mean a lot to the team, as Crew SC hasn’t lost this season when No. 23 scores. Kamara has netted half of his team’s goals, with nine of those coming from inside the 18-yard box.
Although Kamara says he hadn’t thought about finishing all of his goals in a close radius, it makes perfect sense.
“The most dangerous strikers score their goals inside the box,” Kamara said. “I had a coach once that told me, ‘Yes you’re going to have the lucky chance to hit balls outside the box to score. But if you really want to get a lot more goals, you have to be inside the box—not just inside the 18, but more inside the six.’ So, I’m just going to be in there.”
The striker certainly creates opportunities as he recorded a double-digit shot total (10) against Montreal for the second time in his MLS career, setting the League-wide season-high for shots in a single match.
With 10 goals in 14 games, he’s averaging 0.71 goals per match, which is on pace to become the second-highest mark in club history to Stern John’s 26 goals in 27 matches (0.96 average) in 1998.
“I’m motivated to score every time I step on the field,” Kamara said. “Every time I’m in there, I’m just ready to go.”
Kei Kamara’s next opportunity to score and produce his trademark heart-shaped-hands celebration comes Saturday night when Crew SC hosts LA Galaxy at 7:30 p.m. E.T.