The best and worst of African players in Major League Soccer history

African players have always graced soccer pitches in the US, through the rise and decline of the North American Soccer League and then the subsequent launch and expansion of MLS in the mid-1990s.

In the early days of the NASL, the likes of Kaizer Motaung, Emment Kapengwe, Willie Evans, Jomo Sono and Ace Ntsoelengoe showcased their qualities, and numerous continental stars have been key figures in more than two decades of MLS action.

Ed Dove remembers some of the most noteworthy African contributors to Major League Soccer, and picks out a few whose contribution to the US game is better left forgotten.

Kei Kamara

Ask today's football fans for a modern-day African football legend, and the name Kei Kamara won't be on too many tongues.

However, the former Sierra Leone international has racked up Major League Soccer accomplishments in a way that very few of the continent's stars ever manage away from home soil.

Only one player currently active has scored more MLS goals than Kamara, who stands fifth on the all-time scoring charts with 126 goals in 343 appearances. If he maintains his scoring rates of recent years, then he'll be in the top three in 12 months' time.

Whether at Sporting Kansas City, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps or, latterly, Colorado Rapids, Kamara has been a dangerous presence for MLS defences, and he demonstrated admirable consistency.

He's hit double figures in each of the past three campaigns, although nothing has matched his 26-goal haul in 2015, when he made the MLS Best XI and clinched the golden boot.

Kamara is the only player in MLS history to take more than 1000 shots, and while the likes of Didier Drogba, Robbie Keane, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa have come and gone during his tenure, none have come close to matching the 35-year-old's goal haul.

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Mustapha Jarju

Jarju initially appeared to be an odd choice as a Designated Player when he was signed by Vancouver Whitecaps from R.A.E.C. Mons in 2011. His record in Belgium had been encouraging, albeit in the second tier, where he'd averaged a goal every three games across three campaigns, and who could say, perhaps the Blue-and-White had pulled off a masterstroke in signing the 25-year-old Gambia international...

They hadn't.

Just over six months later, Jarju was back at Mons after the Whitecaps terminated his contract, and he has since moved on to play in the United Arab Emirates and Kazakhstan.

Ten appearances and zero goals was a miserable return for the first African player to receive designated status in Major League Soccer, and Caps fans were left less than enamoured with the attacker's work rate and application.

Obafemi Martins

Martins only spent three seasons in Major League Soccer, but they were certainly fulfilling, with the Nigeria striker enjoying a fine understanding with Clint Dempsey during his memorable tenure. He plundered 40 goals in his three campaigns, firing Seattle Sounders to the US Open Cup and the MLS Supporters Shield in 2014.

Inevitably, Martins won fans over with his trademark somersaulting celebration, and he ended the 2014 season as both the club's top scorer and atop the assists chart.

There were question marks raised about his $3 million salary, while Martins' international career was all but ended by his switch to the U.S. but his impact in Washington state will live long in the memory -- not least his barely believable MLS Goal of the Season-winning header against San Jose Earthquakes in May 2014.

Samuel Inkoom

Inkoom, at 21, was one of the youngest members of the exciting Ghana team that reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, and he was the youngest starter in their infamous defeat by Uruguay -- when Luis Suarez's 'Hand of God' denied the Black Stars a first African berth in the semifinals.

A year previously, he'd been an Under-20 World Cup winner in Egypt, but by 2014 his career was losing momentum and, after a series of unsuccessful loan moves and an acrimonious departure from Ukraine's Dnipro, he ended up at D.C. United.

Things weren't to improve for the right-sider, who managed just two appearances for the Black-and-Reds and was cut after three months with the club despite a mooted switch to Houston Dynamo.

The worst was yet to come, as Inkoom was sued for more than $65,000 by his former landlord in Washington for failing to pay rent and damaging his accommodation. In 2017, he was banned from all football-related activity for a year for failing to pay an agent, and he recently signed for Georgian side FC Samtredia.

Fanendo Adi

Adi squeezes out the likes of Patrick Nyarko, Mamadou Diallo and Dominic Oduro, and he'll be hoping to bounce back at Columbus Crew this term after an underwhelming 2019 with FC Cincinnati, where injury, disputes and a DUI charge threatened to overshadow his previous successes.

Adi was dynamic presence for Portland Timbers after arriving from FC Kobenhavn in 2014, scoring nine goals in 24 in his first season, and then hitting double figures in his next three campaigns. The highlight was the MLS Cup triumph in 2015, when Adi scored 18 goals en route to the title, including important goals in the Playoffs.

His 6'4 frame and quick feet should make him a fearsome prospect again this term, and, at 29, it's perhaps not too late for him to finally win the Super Eagles cap that has so far eluded him.

Adi was previously Timbers' all-time top scorer before being surpassed by Diego Valeri.

Rais M'Bolhi

A well-respected goalkeeper within the African context, and now a continental champion after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria, you still won't find too many at Philadelphia Union who have fond memories of the 33-year-old.

His nomadic career took him to Subaru Park in 2014, following spells in Bulgaria, France, Russia, Greece, Scotland and even Japan, and The Union appeared to have pulled off a coup when they recruited a player who had previously trialled with Manchester United and been linked to Newcastle United.

Things weren't to work out that way.

A car crash back in his home city of Paris delayed his debut, and he would ultimately manage just nine league appearances across two seasons, amid accusations of a rift with his teammates.

He was frozen out of the squad by head coach Jim Curtin, who took the decision following an error-riddled, hesitant display by the stopper in a 3-2 defeat by Kansas City in April 2015.

"[Rais] doesn't look like himself, and I think it's best for the team that he have a seat and watch," Curtin said after the loss.

"He didn't seem like the goalkeeper who was winning us games in the preseason single-handedly. I think the confidence was gone in him.

"[He's] an experienced player who we needed to rise to the moment and win us games and right now that's not happening."

A dire signing for The U, who didn't need a keeper anyway considering the presence of Zac MacMath and Andre Blake, M'Bolhi is currently with Saudi Arabian side Al-Ettifaq.