Kei Kamara, an MVP finalist who led Columbus to the MLS Cup final last month, is in a contract dispute with the Crew, the Insider has learned.
Kamara is seeking to renegotiate a deal that was worth $536,666 last season, third on the club’s payroll. Argentine attacker Federico Higuain (eight goals, nine assists) received almost $1.2 million and Argentine defender Gaston Sauro collected about $600,000.
Kamara, a native of Sierra Leone who was the league’s 2015 humanitarian of the year, has yet to report to training camp, which opened Saturday in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Instead, he has remained in Columbus. Kamara is facing fines if he does not join the team soon. Whether he would participate in workouts during the impasse is unclear.
“Kei Kamara was granted excused time off to be with his family in Ohio after he returned from his visit to his home country of Sierra Leone for the first time in multiple years,” the Crew said in a written statement. “We look forward to him joining the team on Tuesday to begin preparations for a successful 2016 campaign.”
Before leaving for Florida, Crew Coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters in Columbus last week that Kamara was working on fitness.
Kamara, who has two years left on his contract, did not want to comment.
Last season, he and Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco tied for the goal-scoring title with 22 apiece, but the Italian forward won the Golden Boot award on the basis of more assists (16-8). Kamara also finished second to Giovinco in MVP voting. The Toronto star earned more than $7 million last season.
Kamara, who returned to MLS last season after two years in England, also had a league-high four goals in the playoffs, including one in the championship defeat to the Portland Timbers.
The Crew’s first competitive matches are in mid-February at the Desert Diamond Cup, a preseason tournament in Tucson. The regular season opener is a March 6 rematch with Portland.