Blog Written by Benjamin Santini (@Bsantilli27):
Following an incident involving two players during a May 14th clash against the Montreal Impact, the Columbus Crew traded target forward Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution. Kamara was involved in a dispute with teammate Federico Higuain over who was to take a penalty in the 52nd minute. The two exchanged words before the kick was taken which escalated even further. It began as a discussion as the referee sorted through the complaints of Impact players including Didier Drogba. As they voiced their concerns regarding the awarded penalty, the two Columbus men were involved in an increasingly heated discussion that had to be broken up by Crew captain, Michael Parkhurst. The Sierra Leone forward was obviously displeased with the result and refused to celebrate with the team when Higuain converted the penalty and Columbus took a 4-1 lead at home over Montreal. Kamara was understandably upset at his teammate because he had already scored two goals in the game and the penalty would have been a perfect opportunity to add a third goal to cap off an excellent night for the 31-year-old. Federico Higuain however had just scored a goal less than 3 minutes earlier to lift the home team to a 3-1 advantage over the visiting Impact. After the game, Kamara was asked by reporters if the two players would go to lunch to put the dispute behind them and he responded by saying “My Chipotle card only covers one. It says one meal a day. I can’t afford another one.” (via www.oregonlive.com/)
Not long after the dispute, transfer rumors began to surface surrounding the disgruntled player. Though it is still early in the season, Columbus sat ninth in the Eastern Conference with just two games in the win column at that point. With a struggling side on the pitch, the Crew management wanted to rid a bad influence from the dressing room by offloading Kamara and shake things up a bit. His talent is unquestionable and many teams would certainly benefit from the experience that a player with his résumé provides. In 2015, after joining the Crew again from Middlesbrough F.C. in England, Kei Kamara finished the regular season tied with Sebastian Giovinco for the MLS Golden Boot. The prize, however, went to Giovinco because he had recorded more assists. Yet, Columbus might even be better off without Kamara. Negative influences can divide a locker room and cause even more troubles. However, New England has picked up a player who can provide depth to a side that sits just on the border of a playoff spot at this juncture. Signing a proven goal scorer like the former Crew forward could provide them the added push they need to climb the table. The Revolution currently sit tied with D.C. United, Toronto FC and Orlando City for 5th place as they try to gain ground during a home stand that provides some very favorable matchups. Following their 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire, they fell 4-2 to FC Dallas but rebounded with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders. With Vancouver and D.C. United up next on the schedule, this will give them the opportunity to really jump into the playoff picture.
Kamara joins a talented Revolution attack that includes United States internationals: Lee Nguyen, Juan Agudelo, and Charlie Davies, as well as Uruguayan striker Diego Fagundez among others. Kamara adds some much needed height to a unit that is certainly lacking in that department. Fagundez and Nguyen both are only a diminutive 5’8” and Davies stands just two inches taller while Agudelo is the tallest at 6’1”. Kamara is 6’3”, which gives him a big aerial advantage; his ability to win 50/50 balls will be key for his side and his long, wiry frame makes him an excellent possession striker. With Kamara, the Revolution have a reliable target up front who will provide a sizable advantage in the attack. In addition to his height and control, the central forward is a profound goal scorer; his 22 goals last season are evidence that he has a nose for the net. His goal scoring abilities will be the biggest addition to the Revolution attack. Kamara has more goals than any Revolution forward to this date with a total of five goals. The number of goals Kamara can provide, establish him as a valuable asset to any team and a sign that the Revolution have begun their search to find an answer to their struggles temporarily until the next transfer window opens on the Fourth of July.
Kamara has yet to score since moving to New England and the full impact of this deal is yet to be seen. Will Kamara turn his season around and help to boost the Revolution into contention for the MLS Cup? That depends on the attitude and desire of the player and the aspirations of the team around him.
Blog Written by Benjamin Santilli (@Bsantilli27):
Sebastian Giovinco has taken Major League Soccer by storm since joining Toronto FC in early 2015 from Italian giants Juventus. The 29 year old has scored an unbelievable 28 goals in just 42 appearances for the Canadian side, which also features US National team stars Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, who spent time at AS Roma. Giovinco made the journey to North America as part of a recent wave of European stars such as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, David Villa and his former Juventus teammate Andrea Pirlo, who are all towards the end of their careers and looking to ride off into the sunset. Giovinco however, does not fit this profile.
In two terms at Parma FC on loan from Juventus, Seba scored 22 goals in 66 appearances. During the 2010-2011 season, Giovinco scored 7 goals, 3 of which, happened to be against his parent club Juve. Manager Antonio Conte used him sparingly upon joining Juventus. Often players like Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella and Fernando Llorente were favored as complements to players like Carlos Tevez, Alessandro Del Piero and Mirko Vucinic. He arrived at BMO Stadium young, ambitious, and eager to prove his talent. He was accepted with open arms in Toronto and made an immediate impact. The Torino native is often referred to as La Formica Atomica (The Atomic Ant). Though Giovinco stands at a mere 5 feet 4 inches tall, he packs a bundle of talent into his small frame. His assets include excellent speed, tactical understanding, and the artistic control that makes his free kicks a nightmare for MLS goalkeepers. His work rate is impressive and his hunger to score makes him dangerous at all times in all areas of the pitch. His versatility allows him to fit into almost any coaches’ side seamlessly. He is a valuable commodity for any club who is willing to give him the chance.
His talent is certainly under appreciated by many coaches who view his size as the biggest detriment to his skill. His numbers show quite the contrary. His effectiveness can be found in his goal and assist numbers per game. So far in MLS, Giovinco has scored an impressive 28 goals and 17 assists in 42 appearances (per whoscored.com) in just over one full season in Toronto. That is an impressive 0.7 goals per game. At Parma, he averaged one goal in every 3 appearances in Serie A. However, for Juve, his production levels were not nearly as high. As a member of the Bianconeri, he was used sporadically in games primarily coming on as a sub without much time to perform. In North America, the Atomic Ant has found new life. His speed and quickness, nightmares for a defender, create new space for him to produce at astronomical rates. Despite playing in MLS, he has garnered the attention of fans and people around the world for his spectacular playmaking ability. He earned MLS MVP honors, the MLS Golden Boot and shattered Chris Wondolowski’s single season points record along with many other accolades. He was also named to the MLS All-Star team and the Best XI for 2015.
Now, with Euro 2016 fast approaching, Italian National team manager Antonio Conte will have many tough decisions to make. In the mix for for the Azzurri will be renowned names in football such as Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Southampton’s Graziano Pellè. The full list of potential strikers includes:
Sebastian Giovinco is up against some stiff competition for a position in the final 23. These final weeks before the final cuts will be very important for a fringe player like Giovinco, it's chance his to show Conte that he is up to the task. If he makes the Azzurri side, it will do wonders for MLS and if he plays, it will draw even more attention to the league for having one of their star players at the pinnacle of European international football. More players may be willing to join MLS in the years ahead and the talent pool in the league will continue to add more quality to its ranks. The league will continue its trend upward regardless of whether Seba is given an Azzurri shirt in June, but it would certainly make a statement that top quality European players can be found in MLS and Giovinco is definitely deserving of a chance. His success since he left Juventus in February 2015 has shown that he can make the best out of any situation and he has world-class talent, which he has utilized to dominate MLS. Conte knows him very well from watching him every day in training at Vinovo for The Old Lady in Torino which could give the short man a big advantage. The biggest question is not whether Giovinco is capable of outperforming his size, but whether or not he will be able to use his great skills impress enough to earn his place on one of the most successful national sides in world football.
Blog Written by Rahman Baba Osman (@iamrahmanosman):
Major League Soccer, once a laughing stock in the 1990s, has finally become attractive. The league now is able to sign players from various European Leagues, even though a few are veterans who are on the level of retirement.
Like the saying 'wherever there is life' be sure to find an African footballer there. Players from Africa can be found everywhere the coveted leather ball is kicked from Afghanistan to Tonga; therefore the growing number of Africans in Major League Soccer is not surprising.
Major League Soccer since its rebranding in 1996 has seen a major increase in the number of African players in the competition. As far back as 2003 you could only count 10 African soccer players in the league. That number rose to 32 in 2009 and this current season it has increased to 37. Ghana has 11 nationals in MLS, the highest of the African contingent in the league with the closest being Nigeria who have 5 representatives. Despite being released today, Egypt was the latest African country to have a player in MLS with Amro Tarek, who made a substitute appearance for Columbus Crew on April 16th, 2016.
Notable amongst the Ghanaians are 4 full Internationals in the names of Afful Harrison, David Accam, Gideon Baah and last season's goalkeeping sensation Adam Larson Kwarasey, who won the MLS Save of the Year aside from helping his club, the Portland Timbers, to winning the MLS Cup. Another Ghanaian player doing well in Major League Soccer is Kwadwo Poku of New York City FC. From the day he netted a hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Real Colorado Foxes in the first round of the US Open Cup, he has never looked back. In the 2015 season he formed a brilliant midfield partnership with Italy legend and World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo. Poku's performance didn't go unnoticed as he was selected among the best young players in MLS, aged 24 and below. He had expressed his desire to feature for both the Black Stars of Ghana and the Yankees of USA, but Ghana seem to have tied him down after he featured for the Stars in an international friendly against Canada.
Nigeria is also strongly represented in MLS by Fanendo Adi of the Portland Timbers, Stephen Sunday of Real Salt Lake and Kennedy Igboananike of the Chicago Fire. In the entire league there are few 6-foot-4 target strikers with the nimble feet of the 25 year old Nigerian Fanendo Adi. The tall, prototypical No. 9 is a true menace around the area, constantly popping up in dangerous spaces with a key strike or header. So far, he has scored 31 goals in 65 MLS appearances, but none of his achievements eclipse his playoff performances that helped the Timbers win the MLS Cup last season. This season he has already netted 7 goals in his first 9 games of the season. Fanendo Adi is keeping the Green and White flag of Nigeria high, taking on from Obafemi Martins who flourished for Seattle Sounders FC between 2013-2015. In the 2014 season Martins was one of the best players in MLS, earning a spot in the MLS Best XI of the season. He hit the back of the net 17 times in the league and provided 7 assists. The Nigerian striker made his name in MLS for the Seattle Sounders before joining the China train to Shanghai Shenhua, where his salary tripled.
It will be a sacrilege to overlook Kei Kamara when talking about Africa's influence in MLS. Born in Kenema, Sierra Leone, he had to move to the USA from a refugee camp in The Gambia in 1999 due to civil war to join his mother who had already fled the war to California in 1990. Seven years later he was registered as a player for Columbus Crew. He has since featured for three other MLS clubs namely San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, and Sporting Kansas City. Now, back at where it all started for him (Columbus Crew), he was crowned the top scorer in the MLS Playoffs last season and earned a spot in the Best XI. The striker has 77 MLS goals to his name, 2nd only behind Chris Wondolowski amongst active players in the league.
The African contingent in Major League Soccer lacked star power till African football legend and world superstar Didier Drogba traded Europe for America. The striker settled into the league with ease, actually scoring a perfect hat-trick in his first ever start; one with his left foot, the other with his right and a header. In his first year with Montreal, he finished the regular MLS season with a 100% goal scoring record of 11 in 11 games.
With the likes of Kei Kamara, Fanendo Adi, Adams Kwaresey and Didier Drogba keeping the flag of the African continent high in Major League soccer, do expect the number of Africans in the MLS to double in few years to come.
African Countries and Their Number Of Players In MLS
The Gambia: 4
Sierra Leone: 3
DR Congo: 2
Ivory Coast: 1