Sporting Kansas City and forward Kei Kamara have agreed to a loan deal with Norwich City of the Barclays English Premier League through May 6.
The club's leading scorer for the last three seasons, Kamara put up 11 goals and added eight assists in the 2012 campaign.
Among his many honors, Kamara was named an All-Star last season. He was also an MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year finalist for both of the last two years for his community work in Kansas City, as well as in his native Sierra Leone.
In a statement released by the team, manager Peter Vermes said:
Our club continues to get a lot of attention throughout Europe. As we do with all of our decisions, we always think about the long-term impact on our organization, as well as the short-term. Ultimately, this opportunity allows us to re-invest back into the club and solidify our core group of players.
We understand that players are going to be sought after and that players aspire to fulfill personal and professional ambitions. We want to continue to help them achieve those goals and this helps us accomplish that objective, along with extending his contract. We have a very strong roster and this enables another player to step up.
At least one of the players Vermes is probably expecting to step up, at least during the loan period, will be 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year C.J. Sapong.
Sapong didn't suffer from a sophomore slump, scoring more goals in 2012 (nine) than he did in his rookie campaign in more minutes, though in fewer games.
Teal Bunbury will also hope to be part of the mix, once he returns from the season-ending ACL tear he suffered on August 26 against New York.
Despite the injury, Bunbury was included on MLS's list of the top 24 players under age 24, appearing at number 20. He's scored 19 goals for Sporting KC in his career, including five before the injury last season.
Other options include 2012 first-round pick Dom Dwyer and Soony Saad, former Michigan Wolverine. Designated player Claudio Bieler will also see significant first-team minutes.
Kamara was, and still is, the textbook definition of a "fan favorite." As an example, a couple of offseasons ago, after a large snowstorm, a snowball fight was organized via Twitter and Kamara was one of the players involved.
Afterward, he took everybody out to lunch. There were about 20 people involved.
I’m not going to say to you that “this is a business,” and you have to get used to it. I know it’s not a business to you, it’s very personal. It is to us as well. We get to know these young men very well, and do what we can to create a partnership that encourages them to connect with the community and hopefully stick around for the long-term. We don’t like it when they go. I understand the impact this has on your kids as well—to the nth degree. My seven- and six-year-olds, Katherine and Charlie, don’t ask me, “Why did they let him go?” They ask me, “Why did YOU let him go?” so I get it…..
As part of the loan agreement, Kamara signed a contract extension. If he returns, he will no longer be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.
Heineman also said in his note about the move:
If Kei returns in May, his contract is extended and we will work in earnest to sign him to a deal that keeps him with the club through the end of his career. If we hadn’t have done this, Kei would have left at the end of the year as a “free” player, similar to Roger Espinoza this past year. So the risk we take is allowing him to go for 10 games this year, in hopes of getting him for years to come.
The loan fee and, if it happens, the transfer fee will be used to reinvest in the team as allocation money, per MLS rules.
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I hope Kamara plays well, but still returns in May. Here's to hoping Kamara's love of the life he built here—after not wanting to be traded here initially—will be the deciding factor.