Kei Kamara is a name that should be familiar with anyone who supports a team in Major League Soccer. If we were in an packed auditorium filled with fans of all the teams in the league, the speaker on stage would ask you to look to your left and your right. Chances are, you or the people on either side of you root for a team that Kei Kamara has called home.
Kamara was born in the eastern part of Sierra Leone, and he began his youth career playing for a local team there. When he was 16, his family was able to move to the United States by way of a refugee program, first settling in Maryland and eventually in greater Los Angeles.
After a career at Cal State Dominguez Hills, he was selected by the Columbus Crew in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. This is where his wild journey begins. He spent two seasons in Columbus, scoring 5 goals for the Crew. He then was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2008 for Brian Carroll.
He played for the Quakes for the first half of the 2008 season, where he was then traded to the Houston Dynamo, then the 2-time defending MLS champions. He was able to make his mark for the club in the Concacaf Champions League, scoring a brace in a match against Pumas.
He remained in Houston for a year before he was traded to Sporting Kansas City. It was there that Kamara was able to unpack his bags for a while. He spent 4 seasons with Kansas City, scoring 41 goals in 124 appearances. His productivity was so good for Sporting that he was loaned to Norwich City in January 2013 for a short loan. In his second match, he scored off the bench for the Canaries against Everton, and quickly became a fan favorite. Still, his stay wasn’t productive, and he returned to Kansas City at the end of his loan.
He wasn’t in Kansas City for long. Middlesbrough came calling, and in September 2013, Kamara signed a 2-year deal with the club. He was there for a season, scoring 4 goals in 25 appearances. Middlesbrough decided to terminate the deal by mutual consent in August 2014. He eventually returned to the United States, signing once again with Columbus. Because he was released by Middlesbrough too late, he became eligible for the start of the 2015 season.
In 2015, Kei Kamara was the man. He tied Sebastian Giovinco for most goals on the season with 22, and he added 8 assists as well. He was a finalist for MVP, but won the Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work building schools and libraries in his native Sierra Leone.
He remained in Columbus until a spat with a teammate caused the club to trade him to the New England Revolution in May 2016. He scored 21 goals in 2 seasons with the Revs. He then was traded at the end of the 2017 season to the Vancouver Whitecaps, and scored on his debut for the club. He spent a season with Vancouver before he was selected by FC Cincinnati in the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft. Cincy immediately traded his rights to the Colorado Rapids, where he scored 17 goals in 1.5 seasons there.
In September 2020, Kamara was traded to Minnesota United. On October 3, 2020, Kei Kamara scored on a penalty kick against FC Cincinnati, making history in the process. He became the first man in MLS history to score a goal for 8 different teams.
Kei Kamara’s journey has taken him from Sierra Leone to all parts of North America and England. But in Major League Soccer, he’s the most prolific journeyman. He’s scored 130 MLS goals in his career, 5th all time. If he has a normal season in 2021, he could end it in 3rd and closing in on Landon Donovan’s 2nd-most tally of 146. Kei Kamara should go down as one of the greatest scorers in the league’s history, and the fact he did it successfully for a third of the teams in the league makes that achievement that much more legendary.
For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.