How Orlando City Can Build Around Kaka

Orlando Designated Player Ricardo Kaka scored a 77th minute winner in Sao Paulo’s 2-1 victory over Vitória last week. It was his second of the season in the 20th appearance for the loaned star. The Brazilian seems rejuvenated to be playing again for his old club, and second-place Sao Paulo seems happy to have him.

Of course, Kaka will rejoin Orlando for its Brazilian preseason tour in late January to begin building chemistry with his MLS teammates. Or, more appropriately, for his teammates to begin building chemistry with him.

We may well hear the platitudes from Adrian Heath and others that Kaka is just “another part of the team,” but we know better. Kaka will make $7.2 million in his first year with City—roughly 197 times the league minimum and 50 times the league average. Like it or not, every roster move and training decision Orlando City makes in the coming months will be focused on maximizing the impact of the legendary Brazilian.

So what will that entail? Well first, let’s talk about Kaka. The 2007 Ballon D’or winner is difficult to describe, in part because there are very few players like him.

He’s deceptively quick and accelerates well, yet at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he’s also very difficult to muscle off the ball. Watch: The pass was fantastic, no doubt, but what allows that is his ability to shield the ball against multiple defenders. This skill should allow him to find continued success, even as his speed and endurance begin to decline. And of course, here’s his incredible pass to Crespo in the epic 2005 Champions League Final against Liverpool. Again, the pass is majestic, but notice how the play starts with him using his frame to block the Liverpool defender.

Of course, physicality is not what made Kaka one of all time greats. That would be his once-a-generation creativity. He has the ability to see passes that most players can’t even dream, and he knows what his next move will be before the ball reaches his feet.

This is the game Kaka will need to bring to the MLS. He’s never really been one to try and take on too many defenders one-on-one (though he’s certainly made a few look silly). He’ll do so even less in MLS, as defenses will double and triple team him when he’s anywhere  near the penalty area. So, while he’ll certainly score, Kaka should lead the team in assists rather than goals in 2015.

That brings us to my next point: what do we need for Kaka to be successful?

Minnesota United's Miguel Ibarra
Minnesota United’s Miguel Ibarra

First, Orlando must look to bring in a forward to play in front of Kaka. Ideally, this will be a player with pace. Orlando fans can dream all they want, but I’m not at all convinced that a player like Jozy Altidore would be effective with Kaka running the show.  City should look for a player more in the mold of Bradley Wright-Phillips. Perhaps Orlando will find a way to acquire Erick “Cubo” Torres or even Miguel Ibarra? Both would be costly, but both would be a perfect fit for Kaka.

Second, and perhaps even more important, City must support Kaka with skilled defensive midfielders. I can’t stress enough how crucial this is. At his absolute best with AC Milan from 2006-08, Kaka had the dutchman Clarence Seedorf and the tenacious Gatusso to cover for him defensively. Milan went on to win the Champions League in 2007, with Kaka taking home the Ballon D’or.

It’s not that Kaka can’t play defense. It’s that having Kaka play defense is like asking Picasso to draw stick figures. You could argue that Kaka will likely be the most creative offensive player in the league next year. Orlando needs to do everything possible to allow him to do just that. I think a player like Dax McCarty might be a great fit if NYRB decide to part with him in the Expansion Draft. Another name I love for this position is U.S. international Danny Williams, currently playing with Reading FC in the English Championship. Perhaps Philly would part ways with Maurice Edu?

Regardless of who it ends up being, finding a forward and a defensive midfielder who mesh well with Kaka will be key to City’s success going forward. What do you think? Are there any other names that Orlando should target for those spots?

Here’s a little something for you while you think it over:


3 thoughts on “How Orlando City Can Build Around Kaka”

  1. Seedorf might have covered ground for Kaka, but to call him a defensive midfielder is off base. He is one of the most creative players of his generation. Seedorf was able to pass right along with Kaka. That will be just as important as it will be to have a strong holding midfielder. I didn’t follow OCSC much in USL Pro, but it appears that Molino is lined up to be that guy. He seems to by doing well for T&T so hopefully he can do it at the MLS level. As far as defensive mids, how about Johnothan Spector (I don’t know if he is playing midfield or in the back right now, but I believe he has played there recently). I think the level of player you are looking for would be hard to find in the expansion draft (But there are always a couple surprises in the available list), so an overseas signing seems most likely.


  2. Great comment! You’re right, Seedorf would be more appropriately described as a “Box to box” midfielder. It would be curious to see if Molino can fill that role. I’m not sure he ever had that level of defensive responsibility in USL Pro.

    Regarding Spector, you’re 100% correct. In fact, I actually mentioned him in my “Top 5 Americans Orlando City Should Target” article here:


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