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Why Orlando City Should Sign Kei Kamara

Noted Lions villain Kei Kamara could be the perfect veteran backup striker to spell Ercan Kara.

Orlando City SC v Vancouver Whitecaps FC Photo by Christopher Morris - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Orlando City still needs to flesh out its roster in a few areas. In my opinion, striker is one of those areas. The Lions only scored 44 goals in 34 regular-season games last year, a number tied for third-fewest in the Eastern Conference. The departures of Tesho Akindele, Alexandre Pato, and Benji Michel mean that Orlando lost seven of those goals, and while that’s far from an astronomical number, the Lions don’t currently have a striker on the roster who has proven he can score goals at the Major League Soccer level other than Ercan Kara.

Now, before you bite my head off and tell me Orlando has Jack Lynn, in addition to two top 10 2023 MLS SuperDraft picks on the roster, I’m well aware of that fact. However, Lynn has four total MLS minutes to his name, and neither Shakur Mohammed or Duncan McGuire has kicked a ball in professional play. Additionally, there are reports that an MLS U22 Initiative striker could be joining the club before the season starts. Even if that happens, it would be adding another young player — one who would be acclimating to a new culture and league. Besides, we generally don’t count our chickens before they hatch around here.

That’s not to say that one or more of those guys can’t be a productive MLS starter or even better, but right now they’re unknown quantities. I hope all of them turn out to live up to the potential that they have, but there’s no way of knowing what to expect from them this year.

With Facundo Torres, Martin Ojeda, Mauricio Pereyra, Gaston Gonzalez, and Ivan Angulo, the Lions have plenty of danger in playmaking areas. In Kara, Orlando has a striker who had a better 2022 season than a lot of people gave him credit for and he’ll know better what to expect and how to play against certain opponents in Year 2. But after Kara and Torres, who scored 11 and nine league goals in 2022, respectively, the next three highest scorers on the team were Junior Urso, with five, and Akindele and Pato, with three apiece — all of whom are gone. The Lions should carry a lot of threat going forward and they need someone at the striker position other than Kara that they know can score goals, rather than hoping that one of Lynn, Mohammed or McGuire can hit the ground running (or counting on a young international to adapt quickly, as the club has previously done with Josué Colmán).

Enter Kei Kamara. He wants out of Montreal. He told the world so last week, and for my money he’s exactly what this team needs.

While he’s an elder statesmen at 38, and will turn 39 in September, the only thing that matters to me is this: can he still ball? The numbers say that he can. Kamara made 32 appearances for CF Montreal last year, starting 14 of those games, and logged 1,551 regular-season minutes. During that time, he knocked in nine goals and contributed seven assists. The guy still has gas left in the tank, plus his guaranteed compensation last year was a paltry $94,000, which is an absolute steal considering the kind of production he was able to provide.

At this point in his career, he isn’t a guy who is going to start every game, and frankly that’s exactly what the Lions need. Kara can be the DP striker who starts if he’s fit, Kamara can come in off the bench and start when the big Austrian needs rest, and he even has a similar physical profile to Kara, so Orlando wouldn’t need to drastically alter its style of play when he’s on the field. Lynn, McGuire, and Mohammed can be given starts in cup competitions and can make substitute appearances if Oscar Pareja deems them ready and wants a different look from Kara or Kamara to try to change a game, and they can get additional minutes with Orlando City B, so they won’t get rusty. If they show that they’re capable of making the jump to a bigger role, then that can happen without the Lions being forced to throw them into the fire before they’re ready.

The Lions would need to trade for Kamara to acquire his services, but that shouldn’t be a massive hurdle to clear. With Romell Quioto and Mason Toye on the roster, losing Kamara wouldn’t leave Montreal massively short of cover, so it mainly comes down to compensation. Back in 2020, a second-round 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick and $150,000 of General Allocation Money was enough for Minnesota United to secure his services from the Colorado Rapids, and that’s coming off a season in which he scored 14 goals and had one assist in 29 starts. In theory, that amount would be lower now that he’s older and not producing goals at the same level. As an added bonus, he wouldn’t require an international slot, as he’s an American citizen.

To me, this makes too much sense for Orlando not to pursue hard. Kamara is a proven goal scorer who can play the backup role while OCSC’s young lion cubs cut their teeth and adjust to the demands of professional soccer without undue pressure on them. He would also be able to provide coverage if the rumored U22 signing happens and fails to produce at the level the team needs. He doesn’t command a big salary or an international roster slot, and likely wouldn’t need an egregious trade in order for Montreal to part ways with him.

What do you guys think? Is Kamara the man Orlando needs, or is there someone else you’d like to see the Lions sign to reinforce the attack? Be sure to have your say down in the comments.