Newly acquired veteran striker Kei Kamara quickly moved into Minnesota United's starting 11 on Wednesday against Columbus Crew SC, just four days after a trade with Colorado was finalized and two days after Kamara stepped onto the team's Blaine training ground.
Kamara on Tuesday said he hoped to play the next day but didn't know how much. He started in place of young striker Mason Toye, whose starting job Kamara assumed Wednesday, and played 70 minutes.
"This is the hard reality for professional football," Loons coach Adrian Heath said, referring to Toye. "He's going to have to wait and sit alongside Kei and maybe watch and see what is needed to score goals consistently over a long period of time in this league."
Toye became the starting striker when Luis Amarilla injured his ankle weeks ago and while veteran Aaron Schoenfeld's calf injury healed. Schoenfeld was a second-half sub in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Houston and Wednesday for Kamara.
The Loons traded for Kamara, 36, for his size and experience. Kamara's 129 MLS career goals — fifth all time — didn't hurt, either. His presence changed Toye's role.
"He's still young, and it's still early and he's still developing," Heath said. "Kei has a big personality and brings that with him wherever he goes. I think some of our younger players, it will be very interesting to see close up what it's like to play in the league as long as he has, but to have an effect on the team as well.
"It will only be positive for Mason having this guy around."
Heath on Kamara's debut: "His hold-up play is something we've been lacking, just having a big body up there to get a hold of things. I don't think we gave it to him early enough and played into his feet. But that's something we can work on."
Calling on Chacon
Young designated player Thomas Chacon started for the Loons for the first time this season, replacing Kevin Molino on the left side. Molino exited late in Saturday's game, clutching his hamstring after he earlier watched Houston score the tying goal.
Heath started Hassani Dotson and Jacori Hayes as his defensive midfield Wednesday. Captain Ozzie Alonso remains sidelined (hamstring) and Jan Gregus was suspended because of a red card he received late Saturday. Jose Aja moved back in the back line for newcomer Bakaye Dibassy, who was injured in Saturday's first half but was available as a sub Wednesday. Aja received a second-half yellow card against Columbus and will miss Sunday's home game against Real Salt Lake.
• Two-time MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara missed his 14th consecutive game, dating to July's "MLS is Back" tournament, on Wednesday because of an injury or condition the team hasn't specified.
"We're still as we were," Heath said. "We're waiting for some improvement in Ike at this moment.''
• Defender Jose Aja returned to the starting lineup for injured Bakaye Dibassy, but will be suspended for Sunday's home game against Real Salt Lake because of an accumulated yellow card he picked up in the 50th minute. Heath expects Dibassy to be available then.