With every team having announced at least SOME roster news (or two teams worth of roster news if you’re Chattanooga), we’re starting to see some teams take shape and some VERY interesting omissions. Some league stalwarts have yet to sign returning contracts and there will likely be some great joy and gnashing of teeth for every team across the league. With all of this uncertainty still rampant, I wanted to take a moment to talk about a player who is a sure deal when it comes to time in the championship.
Jay Tee Kamara
Jay Tee Kamara, yet another exciting young player from Louisville City, spent the 2021 season on the loan with North Carolina FC. A loan move that surely gave him some very important experience will be good preparation for getting closer to or even being included in the Louisville City First Team. Not only was it good experience, he got to spend a full season with a USL stalwart in Nazmi Albadawi and likely got to learn a lot from him. This is no offense to NCFC, but he was quite clearly the best player on the team when he was on the pitch. When he was out there, you could bet that the best moves NCFC made would likely come through him.
Jay Tee Kamara is a fascinating player who has an incredibly bright future. Like every kid who can dribble at defenders, he’s been compared to Messi at some point growing up. His left foot, truly elite ball carrying ability, and creative talent make it an easy comparison. Jay Tee always looks like he’s having the time of his life when the ball is at his feet. He toys with defenders, dribbles the ball like it’s glued to his feet and always manages to execute a ridiculously difficult pass. He makes soccer fun, even for those watching. Honestly, I find myself giggling from time to time when I watch him play because it’s just SO. FUN. Now, at almost 20 years old, you can see some real quality that is sure to get the attention of the championship and beyond.
Jay Tee primarily played Right Center mid or attacking mid or whatever you want to call the role of the two midfielders that played in their 4-1-4-1. He also played AM in the 4-2-3-1 here and there and even played as a striker once! Jay Tee is an attacking midfielder by trade, but by no means a traditional #10. The heat map makes it clear, Jay Tee LOVES to drift wide, opening up space in the center. His ability to find open spaces pulls so many people out of position and then uses the vacated space and a tiny flick of the ankle to make everyone look silly. His play style is very high risk-high reward, and when it comes off, everyone on the other team is in trouble. He can work in the tightest of spaces moving the ball down the field with composure and flair. He’s not the fastest, but he’s got a good burst of speed to escape defenders.
His vision and intelligence make him lethal in the final third and honestly he’ll feel hard done by for not having gotten more assists this season. His eye for a pass was unmatched in the NC team and the 70.4% completion rate does not do the quality of his passes justice. His precision was remarkable at times and it was infuriating at times to watch some of those passes go unreciprocated. In only 1500 minutes on the field, he created more than anyone else on the team with 33 key passes, 11 Big Chances created, and 38 total chances created.
Many people would cite his size and physicality as an obstacle to being able to make it at an upper level, but I think what could keep him from going upward if it doesn’t change is how he uses his body. You don’t have to be a tall or physical player to be great (see: Messi, Hazard, Insigne, and like half of the footballing world), but you also can’t expect to bulldoze big defenders or escape intelligent midfielders. His size and physicality certainly will not stop him as long as he uses it to his advantage. Kamara always bets on himself — and for GOOD reason, but sometimes he overplayed, hit a wall of being double covered, or just a well positioned defender in his way. Even with negative body orientation, he would try to round defenders and that got him in trouble from time to time when he could just lay it off and better position himself between the lines. The awareness he has on the ball wasn’t as good when receiving a pass, especially with his back to goal. True to Kamara form, he had to lead the team in as many stats as possible, leading the team in how many times he was dispossessed per 90. Every 3 touches he lost the ball and sometimes his risky play got him and the team in tough positions.
Kamara is an incredibly talented young player who is destined for greatness. If he continues to develop, Jonathan Gomez won’t be the only name famous for leaving Louisville City and making that city proud. All of that talent needs to be harnessed and I would hope that if he stays at Louisville city this year, they give him enough game time to continue developing at a high level. With some more coaching and more game time, they’re looking at a super talent. He’s earned it and he’s ready. PLAY THE MAN!
Likelihood of an upward move: 5/5 (because… duh)