After spending the majority of his career at the pinnacle of the game, Kaka moved to MLS this year with nothing left to prove. His credentials are etched in stone. His mark is indelible. His decision to sign with Orlando City resulted from his connections to investor/operator Flavio Augusto da Silva and his desire to experience American life before he called time on his career.
The motivation behind his decision freed him to revel in the opportunity ahead of him. He remains a competitive, influential player in the heart of his side, but he approaches his duties — on the field as the captain of an expansion team, off the field as an ambassador for the league — with a smile etched on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
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It is those tenets that made this MLS All-Star Game the perfect showcase for this stage of his career. The night combined his enduring ability with his relish of big occasions. The former FIFA World Player of the Year scored one goal and set up David Villa for the second to earn ASG MVP honors in the 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, but he reveled most in the opportunity to share this night with his colleagues and show off this latest chapter in his story.
“It was a very good feeling,” Kaka said. “We just met [on Monday]. We had one training and we could play like we could play in the first half. It just showed how the players were motivated for the game and how smart they are as players. Everybody wanted to win on the field. To play with these guys, in the end, it’s easy.”
Part of the dexterity stems from the 33-year-old’s approach. He discussed his admiration for the All-Star Game experience in the pre-match press conference on Monday and noted how much he relished the opportunity to take part in this occasion.
Kaka backed up those words with his actions. This situation evolved as the past few days unfolded with the roster in a constant state of flux. There are a multitude of external demands to shoulder. Through it all, he kept that smile on his face and reveled in the tasks placed in front of him.
“His desire to be here was tremendous,” MLS All-Star coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “He has done pretty much everything you can do in a football career. He still has the desire to come and participate in a game in Colorado, in the altitude, midweek and be excited and hungry about it. I think it speaks more about the human than the player.”
It showed in the way the first-half unfolded. Kaka captained the side and floated through the game with a combination of lightness and precision. He drifted to find the ball and then used it deftly to link up with others in the right circumstances.
“It seems like they were just having fun up there, playing around the Tottenham guys when they could,” LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez said. “From my position, I got to see it all and just watch like the fans. It was a lot of fun.”
Those efforts manifested in that magical three-minute stretch to decide the game. Kaka assumed the duties from the penalty spot after Nacer Chadli handled a corner kick. His resulting shot into the lower left corner betrayed the experience cultivated after years at the top of the game. His role in the second — a carefully picked out low diagonal to allow David Villa to sidefoot into the net — tied everything together neatly before he exited at halftime.
As he reflected on the experience after the match, he joked about his debut (“Not bad for my first All-Star, right,” he said) and pointed out the importance of the victory to the growth of the league. He underscored those points with that trademark smile as he processed his first All-Star Game and shared that ever-present joy he feels as he proceeds through his American experience.
“After today, I can say the sensation is very good,” Kaka said. “We just united with these players, we have a new coach and the coach just put everything together and we just beat a team like Tottenham. The feeling after the game is very good. I think everybody’s happy tonight about what we did on the field.”