During last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with D.C. United, I couldn’t help but chuckle when the Nordecke turned the traditional “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” song into “Ola! Ola! Ola! Ola!” It’s always fun to see a player do amazing things. And without a doubt, what Ola Kamara has done since Memorial Day weekend has been amazing.
With his second half tally against United, in which he tucked away a one-time finish before leaping over sliding goalkeeper Bill Hamid, Kamara has nine goals on the season, all of them since May 28. To put that in perspective, in the first 20 seasons of Crew SC history, only 15 men have scored at least nine goals in an entire MLS season, accomplishing the feat a total of 28 times. After barely being used in the first part of the 2016 season, Kamara has done it in the span of just eight games and seven starts. That’s fun.
In that span, Kamara tied a Crew SC record for goals in five consecutive starts. (It wasn’t five consecutive games because of a scoreless substitute appearance versus Montreal.) Kamara had a chance to set the goals in consecutive starts record against Toronto FC on July 13. Alas, Kamara did not score, but served as an excellent decoy on Harrison Afful’s blast from distance. He jumped in the air and let the ball fly through his legs, helping to shield the vision of TFC’s goalkeeper. Ola is one of those nice-guy strikers in the Brian McBride mold. He could have been a jerk and taken a little touch to get credit for the goal, but that was Afful’s goal all the way and Kamara did his part to ensure that Afful was rewarded for his excellent strike.
Although Ola didn’t get a goal that Wednesday night, the possibility of him scoring sent several of us down a fun rabbit hole of Crew SC history.
In the history books
This started last Tuesday with an email query from broadcaster Neil Sika. Neil wanted to know the last time a Columbus player scored in four straight games, which would be handy to know if Ola accomplished the feat. An Edson Buddle instance was found first, then I was looped into the email chain, and I remembered a Stern John instance.
I thought it would be fun to look through the fruits of our collective research. Although he didn’t continue his consecutive games with goals streak on against Toronto, and started hopefully a new streak on Saturday with a goal against D.C. United, Ola’s near-miss prompted a joyful journey through Black & Gold history.
CREW SC PLAYERS WITH GOALS IN FOUR CONSECUTIVE GAMES
Stern John (8/16/1998 – 9/6/1998)
Stern scored eight goals over the course of four consecutive matches. The streak started with a hat-trick — upon coming on as a 53rd minute substitute. After torching Kansas City for those three goals, he bagged two against Tampa and LA, then a single tally against the MetroStars. The streak ended when he merely assisted on a Jeff Cunningham goal in a 1-0 win over Miami.
Stern John (9/16/1998 – 9/27/1998)
A scant 10 days after his first four-game streak got snapped, John launched another four-game streak. It was kind of like Joe DiMaggio launching a 16-game hitting streak after his 56-gamer got snapped. This time, John scored six goals over four consecutive matches. Two goals against Colorado, one at Colorado, one against Tampa Bay, then two at D.C. United. This last run pushed John’s 1998 goal tally to 26.
“I’ve never had a streak like that in my life,” John said of his late-season surge during a visit to Columbus last fall. “At that time, I was in a zone. I didn’t know how many goals I was scoring.” Thankfully, other people were keeping track.
Stern John (6/26/1999 – 7/7/1999)
This friggin’ guy. The next year, he notched six goals during another four-game streak. One against MetroStars, two against San Jose, two at Colorado, and one against D.C. United. Oh by the way, the second goal vs. San Jose during this streak was the famous “THREE SECONDS TO PLAY!” goal. I never get tired of watching that clip.
Edson Buddle (8/9/2003 – 8/23/2003)
Edson Buddle added his name to the list with a goal a game for four straight games. In the span of two weeks, he scored at LA, against Chicago, at Colorado, and at Dallas. While three of the four games being on the road adds to Buddle’s accomplishment, it also explains why Columbus went 1-2-1 during his streak.
Jeff Cunningham (5/23/2004 – 6/12/2004)
Out of Cunningham’s 134 career MLS goals, only 20 had come from the penalty spot. It turns out that three of those came in a three-week stretch as Cunningham ignited a 3-0-1 run that gave the Black & Gold their first spurt toward an eventual Supporters’ Shield after a slow start to the 2004 season. He converted a penalty in a 3-1 win against Chicago. Then he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win against San Jose. Then his penalty kick was the difference in a 2-1 win at New England. Then he opened the scoring with a conventional goal before equalizing with a penalty in a 2-2 draw against Kansas City. It was a neat streak. If the first goal is important, he scored the first goal in three of those four games. He also scored two game-winning goals and a game-tying goal.
Ross Paule (8/18/2004 – 9/4/2004)
Crew SC finished the years on an 18-game unbeaten streak to claim the first Supporter’s Shield in club history. In games eight through 11 of the streak, Ross Paule scored six goals over four consecutive matches. A penalty in a 2-1 win against Kansas City. Another goal in a 2-2 draw against D.C. United. Then the game-tying penalty in a 1-1 draw at the MetroStars. And then he exploded for a hat trick in a 3-1 win vs. the LA Galaxy. Ross Paule scored seven goals in 2004 — six of them in those four consecutive games!
Ethan Finlay (9/27/2014 – 10/19/2014)
2014 was Ethan Finlay's breakout season and he finished it in a big way, scoring in four straight late-season games. The streak started with a 2nd-minute goal in a 2-0 win vs. Montreal on September 27. A week later, he scored the lone goal in a 2-1 loss in New England. On October 11, his 78th minute goal was the first of three Columbus goals in the span of barely four minutes for an improbable avalanche of a 3-2 comeback victory in Philadelphia. He capped the streak with a goal and two assists in a 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena. Finlay's streak was snapped in the season finale, a 2-1 Columbus victory vs. Philadelphia.
CREW SC PLAYER WITH GOALS IN FIVE CONSECUTIVE GAMES
Kamara’s scoreless night against Toronto kept him from joining those listed above and making a run at the club record of goals in five consecutive games. It also kept him from setting a new Crew SC record with a goal in six consecutive starts. Only one other man besides Ola has scored in five consecutive Crew SC starts, and he is also the standalone record holder with goals in five consecutive games. Amazingly, that man is NOT Stern John. (Not that the record holder is any slouch, but … I mean … come on … Stern John. That’s the automatic guess for everything goal-related, right?)
Brian McBride (3/21/1998 – 4/18/1998)
Brian McBride started his 1998 campaign at a steady 32-goal pace for the 32-game season. He opened the season with a goal in a 2-1 win at Tampa Bay. Then he scored in a 2-1 loss at Dallas. Then he scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory against D.C. United in the first game I ever covered. Then he scored the 88th minute game-winner in a 3-2 victory against New England. Then he scored in a 5-1 rout against Miami. The streak ended in a shootout loss at RFK Stadium. Nonetheless, his hot and consistent start to the MLS campaign sealed McBride’s invitation to the 1998 World Cup in France, where he scored the only American goal in the tournament. He scored five more goals later in the season upon returning to Columbus, but not in consecutive games.
Oh, and because Stern John’s exploits defy credulity, one last note. Ola’s nine goals in eight matches is preposterous, but not a Crew SC record. Stern John scored 11 in eight matches from Aug. 16 to Sept. 19, 1998. That was his first four-game streak, two scoreless games, and the first two games of his second four-game streak.
This year, Ola Kamara made a run at John’s record of goals scored over eight consecutive games, falling short by a count of 11-9. No matter how many different forwards Crew SC deploys on an assault of those seemingly unbreakable records, Stern John retains his crown.
It’s always enjoyable to me when current players work their way into the company of legends. Celebrating the accomplishments of the here and now also reflects on the accomplishments of those who came before. Whether it be McBride’s record for goals in consecutive games and starts or John’s record for goals in a season or over an eight-game span, it’s been exciting to watch the recent challenges, even if they’ve ultimately fallen a little short of the all-time benchmarks.
Records are made to be broken. Or at least challenged. So it’s fun to see a run like Ola’s.
Questions? Comments? Surprised by Danny O’Rourke’s improbable absence from these goal streak lists? Feel free to write at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @stevesirk