After turbulent 2016, Kamara aiming high in 2017: “We’re starting out fresh”

Kei Kamara Casa Grande preseason 2017

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Kei Kamara sees 2017 as a fresh start.

The MLS joint-leading scorer and an MVP finalist in 2015, Kamara had an unexpectedly rocky 2016. Traded from Columbus Crew SC to the New England Revolution in mid-May, he found his life suddenly in a bit of upheaval, settling into a new locker room, with new teammates, in a new city.

Despite being a veteran with more than 10 years of experience in the league, Kamara was careful not to rock the boat in New England, where the Revolution’s established core had been building under sixth-year head coach Jay Heaps since late 2011.

A strong personality himself, Kamara laid low throughout his first few months in Foxborough, analyzing the locker room atmosphere and cautiously finding his own place amongst the group.

“I was kind of holding back a little bit in terms of most of the guys (last year),” Kamara said. “I respect the guys in this locker room and I wanted to see what their roles are and see how everything was going.”

Now with five months and more than 20 appearances in a Revolution jersey, Kamara feels fully settled, and a six-week preseason with the team in Arizona will only help to continue forging those bonds.

“Now I feel like I’m part of the group,” he said. “I’m part of the guys and we’re starting out fresh. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here, it’s really about starting the new season and starting out fresh.”

For Kamara, that fresh start is both off and on the field.

A fast start in Columbus last season – five goals in his first nine appearances – somewhat dissipated upon Kamara’s arrival in New England, where it took a significant amount of time for him to click with his new teammates and adjust to the Revolution’s system. He didn’t score a league goal with the Revs until early July, and finished the campaign with seven goals in 21 appearances for New England.

Including his time in Columbus it was a 12-goal campaign for Kamara, good enough to tie him for 11th place on the league scoring charts. But for a player who notched 22 goals in 2015, it was a year that fell short of his own lofty expectations.

Those expectations will be sky high once again in 2017, particularly now that he’s had significant experience playing alongside the likes of Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, and Kelyn Rowe.

“I want to connect with the guys a little bit more,” Kamara said. “Twelve goals was good, but imagine if I was here earlier and connecting with most of the players around me, and me understanding them and them understanding me. I’m sure it would’ve been a lot different.”

Kamara is hoping for a lot different in 2017, but more so for his team than for himself. After missing out on the playoffs last season – one year after scoring in MLS Cup with Columbus – the veteran forward simply wants to help New England win, regardless of how he gets it done.

“I want to score goals, but it’s not all about that – we’ve got really, really good guys who can score goals on this team,” Kamara said. “If I can score 12 goals this year, or three goals, and make the MLS Cup final, that would be great for me.”