In the buildup to this MLS All-Star Game, Kaka discussed his admiration for the format in other sports and revealed his excitement about featuring in this sort of showcase for the first time.
The former FIFA World Player of the Year claimed All-Star Game MVP honors after playing a part in both goals as the MLS All-Stars defeated Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday night.
Kaka opened the scoring after 20 minutes with an expertly taken penalty after Nacer Chadli handled a corner kick. The Orlando City midfielder prompted David Villa’s goal three minutes later with a low ball through the penalty area to double the advantage.
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Spurs forward Harry Kane unleashed a thunderous response eight minutes before halftime with a rasping drive from distance, but the All-Stars saw out the second half to secure a second consecutive victory in this fixture.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino blamed his team’s loss on it being preseason.
"This was a tough game. It was difficult for our players. We are in our preseason," Pochettino said.
As for Kaka, Pochettino added: "I played against him in Spain. He’s an unbelievable player. He still plays very well. Maybe today he was the best player on the field."
The engaging affair fulfilled the expectations for both sides. MLS celebrated its 20th season before the game and showed off some of its most influential players against a high-profile opponent, while Spurs continued their preparations for the upcoming Premier League campaign without incurring any injuries.
Kaka was ever humble about his performance: "Not bad for my first All-Star, right? A goal, an assist and an MVP. I didn’t expect that. I said yesterday I thought we could win, but I didn’t expect to score a goal or an assist."
Both teams spent the early stages adjusting to the unfamiliar circumstances and tailoring their approaches in the mile-high altitude. The early exchanges lacked the incisiveness and the sharpness desired in these sorts of affairs, but a penalty decision against Chadli perked up the proceedings after 20 minutes.
Chadli handled a corner kick from the right to prompt referee Ismail Elfath to point to the spot. Kaka assumed the duties and then dispatched them with a low drive inside the left post. The effort left Michel Vorm with no recourse and sent the All-Stars in front.
Kane — particularly lively with his movement as he prepares to muster an encore to his stirring displays during the last season — nearly mustered an immediate response. His thumping drive forced a fine save from All-Star goalkeeper Nick Rimando just moments after the opener as Spurs warmed to the task in front of them.
The back-and-forth yielded the All-Stars’ second after 23 minutes with the enduring class of Kaka and Villa in the middle of it. Kaka drifted out to the right and located space on the edge of the penalty area. Villa met the low cross with a cool, sidefooted sweep to carry the ball past Vorm and double the lead.
Kane eventually produced a stunning riposte seven minutes before halftime to reduce the deficit. The England forward surged forward from midfield and took Omar Gonzalez one-versus-one. Gonzalez contained Kane well, but dropped off and dropped off until Kane reached the edge of the penalty area. Kane assessed his option and then thrashed home past the diving Rimando to throw his side a lifeline.
The energetic fare in the final half-hour of the first half dissipated after the break as both teams made a raft of alterations. All-Star coach Pablo Mastroeni changed his entire side with this match squeezed between two full league weekends, while Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino waited until the hour to test his players physically with the Premier League opener ahead at Manchester United on Aug. 8.
Most of the endeavor after the break stemmed from the arrival of FC Dallas winger Fabian Castillo on the left. His buzzing runs unsettled the Spurs defense and presented perhaps the most credible threat. Danny Rose made an inch-perfect recovery tackle to thwart one foray, while he saw another effort cleared away from danger by Kieran Trippier after tidy work by late substitute Jozy Altidore.
Spurs forced David Ousted into one save after a well-worked sequence, but they posed little threat once Kane departed a quarter of an hour from the end. It proved a reasonable way for this showcase to end as the All-Stars secured their desired victory and Spurs took another step forward in their preparations for Old Trafford next month.