Orlando City star midfielder Kaká has come back into the Brazilian national side in recent months after missing the 2014 World Cup, receiving call-ups from Seleção boss Dunga for international friendlies in September and for World Cup qualifiers earlier this month.
Ricky was the subject of some ire from fans and local (basketball) columnists when his international duties caused him to miss an important match at New England on Sept. 6, but as he revealed in a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio, being a part of his national team means a great deal to the former FIFA World Player of the Year, and it goes beyond the already immense sense of pride that comes with representing your country on the pitch -- especially when that country has the soccer history that Brazil has.
"I tried to be the best professional here to show these guys, most of them [are] young players, that I'm not here just to end my career, that I'm not here just for a vacation, that I'm here to play and grow with this team, with this league. And to be back with the national team was a big sign for me and for them, as well, because [it] shows them I still can play at a high level, and I choose to play here with them because I have a very good purpose for that."
Kaká, 33, is adamant that he did not make the transition to Major League Soccer simply for an end-of-career victory lap, but to compete and win while helping the league grow its stature. As a veteran leader on a team filled with young players -- OCSC currently has 13 players aged 23 or younger on its roster, 11 of whom are 21 years old or below -- Ricky wanted to make it clear from the start that he was here to play with purpose. Along with his nine goals and seven assists in league play, his recent call-ups to the Seleção help drive that point home further.
While it was unfortunate to be without Kaká at Gillette Stadium against the Revs while playing for three pivotal points, it is unlikely looking back that he would have made enough of a difference to have really affected the outcome of that blowout loss. Orlando was in a terrible run of form at that point that had began in mid July, and red cards in earlier blowouts at the hands of Seattle and Toronto were more damaging than Kaká's absence at New England.
To add to the frustration, though, Ricky would suffer an injury during that international stint that would keep him out for matches against Sporting KC and Chicago. The Lions, however, would rally and win both of those matches without him, and they haven't looked back since.
Kaká clearly believes that competing for the Brazilian national side proves that he still has high-level play left in his tank, which is important for his young teammates to know. Perhaps the Lions would not be staring at quite the same gaping goal differential they are currently trying to dig out of heading into their final regular season match against Philadelphia if Kaká was with the club on Sept. 6 instead of his county, but it would still be unlikely that they could have qualified for the postseason without Montreal losing anyway.
While dealing with international call-ups -- a problem unique to MLS since the league doesn't recognize international breaks -- will continue to be a pain (Kaká was called up again for November WC qualifiers), City could actually stand to benefit in the long run from the competitive fire that rejoining the Seleção has lit underneath its captain.