When the picture hit social media, Crew fans knew: Kei Kamara was returning to Columbus.
While the forward is back to provide goals up top in Gregg Berhalter's system, the timing of his arrival back in town was very important to the Sierra Leone native. He flew from England to Columbus last night specifically to be a part of tomorrow's #NewCrew launch event.
"I love events, I love exciting events," said Kamara. "When [the Crew] wanted to fly me in at this moment to be a part of it, I said 'please get me in.' I'm supposed to be with my National Team at the moment. I made that sacrifice to be here, to be a part of this. Everybody wants to be a part of history. This is a really important part of history in my career that I wanted to be a part of. Instead of joining my National Team in Cameroon, playing in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, I came here because I believe this can be a start of something really good."
Since Kamara last played in Columbus, in 2007, a lot has changed with the club. Of course, the influence of leaders like Anthony Precourt, Gregg Berhalter and Andy Loughnane have shaped the direction of the Crew, but the Sierra Leone native pointed out that the city as a whole has evolved as well.
"Change is good, said Kamara. "I'm changing, I'm coming from England back to America, and I'm really excited about it. I'm hoping that everybody around the club, supporters, people working for the club are also excited about whatever changes are being made. I've heard a lot that's changed around Columbus, period – not just the team. All of that excites me. It's a new beginning. For me, I really hope that the change is for the best. I hope that the fans, everyone around Columbus jumps on that and appreciates that. That way, there will be a lot of success going forward."
The #NewCrew movement is about so much more than just a logo – it's an embodiment of the club culture, both on and off the field. To that end, the the club's unique vision was a major selling point for Kamara.
"[Berhalter] spoke to me about the vision and everything that they want to do here. Like I said, if you're a player and you're not excited about something like that, to be a part of history, I don't know what you want to be a part of. For me, I've been there before – Wizards to Sporting. Coming over here, I'm not saying the name or anything is going to change, but when I hear that, I want to be a part of something like that."
Berhalter, too, believes Kamara's acquisition is a building block in the process of turning the Crew into a champion.
“It was important for us to add a valuable piece. In Kei we have on-field performance, leadership and personality," said the Crew boss. "As we unveil this new brand, he’s a person that fits perfectly in line with all the values of that brand and we’re excited to have him as part of the club.”
Kamara brings the unique perspective to #NewCrew of being involved in a similar transformation. He was on the roster when Sporting Kansas City evolved from the Wizards moniker to an MLS mainstay.
"It was different. It was a lot for people to grasp," said Kamara on the Sporting transformation. "But after they did, it was great. Sporting didn't just change the name and the stadium – our style of play, everything changed. The belief was there. As soon as the belief was there from the players and fans, there's going to be success from those things. It's not easy to change, but it all depends on how people grab it and say 'we accept that. We're ready to move forward.' The players were excited about it. Now, whatever changes it's going to be here, it's going to be good. [Fans are] going to think it's a new team in Columbus instead of thinking the Crew changed something. It's going to be good."