Sporting KC

Sporting KC loses Kei Kamara to Middlesbrough FC

Kei Kamara is leaving Sporting Kansas City once again.

This time, his departure is permanent.

Kamara signed a two-year contract Monday with Middlesbrough FC of the Football League Championship, the second tier of English soccer, after Sporting KC agreed to his transfer.

The amount of transfer money exchanged between the two clubs was not disclosed.

“(I am) very happy and thankful for this new chapter of my career with Middlesbrough FC,” Kamara posted on Twitter.

In a statement from Middlesbrough, he added, “I played a game on Saturday, got on a plane on Sunday, and now I’m here on Monday. So it’s been a long couple of days, but now I’m delighted to be here.”

The transfer represents Kamara’s second departure from the team this season — he was loaned to Norwich City of the English Premier League for three months in the spring — but this one won’t include a return trip.

Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said the move came together over the last four or five days — with Middlesbrough FC motivated to make an addition to improve its scoring before the FIFA summer transfer window closed Monday.

Kamara, a Sierra Leone national player, concludes his Sporting KC career with 38 goals. He led the team in scoring in each of the last three seasons and had seven goals in 15 appearances (10 starts) this season.

Vermes said his club will look to a handful of players to fill Kamara’s vacated role on the right side of the attack. Those options may include shifting Graham Zusi to the right wing on a more regular basis.

Soony Saad figures to eat up a lot of the minutes, and he’s already had an increase in playing time this month. C.J. Sapong also remains an option, along with veteran forward Jacob Peterson.

Sporting KC is 5-5-2 in 12 matches without Kamara this season.

“I think there are some younger guys who are starting to make their impact on the team a little bit here,” Vermes said. “I think it will be a little bit of filling in by committee. It’s not easy to replace Kei right off the bat for sure, but I think we have enough depth on our team and enough guys who are hungry and ambitious enough to take on the role and put their own imprint on it.”

The move also adds financial flexibility for Sporting KC.

Two-thirds of the transfer fee will go to Sporting KC while one-third of the fee will be retained by the Major League Soccer office. The portion allocated to Sporting KC can be use toward the salary cap and potentially to buy transfers next season.

“It’s not as if we wanted to get rid of Kei,” Vermes said. “... What this does in the future is it definitely gives us some breathing room. It gives us the opportunity to go out and search for some new guys that we can bring in and hopefully help our team moving forward.”

Although he did not mention Kamara by name, Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman referenced a similar feeling toward the transfer in a tweet Monday.

“This is not easy, but sometimes in sports you have to make tough, unpopular decisions,” the tweet from Heineman read. “This is one of those days.”

If Kamara elects to return to Major League Soccer in the future, Sporting KC would not retain his rights.

A favorite among Sporting KC fans, Kamara scored 53 goals in eight MLS seasons with four different teams. He turned 29 on Sunday.

Sporting KC is locked in a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference standings with New York and Montreal.

It will welcome Columbus to Sporting Park at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.