Orlando City made 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Ricardo Kaká the club's first Designated Player, signing him on June 30, 2014 and unveiling him at Wall Street Plaza during the 2014 World Cup. He became the highest paid player in MLS history, making more than $7 million in 2015.
The Lions loaned out the Sao Paulo native to his hometown club in Brazil's Serie A prior to the season and named him team captain heading into the inaugural MLS campaign. The midfielder was slotted into the center of Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation and brought maturity and impressive skill to Orlando City's lineup.
His teammates weren't always able to stay on the same page with him and often over-passed to him in the attacking third, particularly early in the season. He certainly wasn't the same player toward the end of the season, as knocks and the heavy travel schedule took their toll on the Brazilian, but he put in a solid first year in MLS.
Kaká tied Aurelien Collin for the most appearances, with 28, starting all of them. His 28 starts and 2,439 minutes played were the most on the club in 2015. He finished second on the team in goals, with nine, and led the team with seven assists -- only 19 players in Major League Soccer finished with a higher assist total.
He finished third on the team in shots (56) and second in shots on goal (21), connecting on four of his five penalty attempts. He committed 18 fouls on the season, while suffering 36, was booked six times and was sent off once. Despite being one of Orlando's primary attacking players, the Brazilian was offside only four times.
Kaká led Orlando City with 1.9 key passes per game, and tallied 1.1 crosses and 1.6 long balls per contest. He passed at an 82.3% clip, despite being double- and triple-teamed and often getting the ball in bad spots because he's Kaká and his teammates deferred to him far too often at times.
In U.S. Open Cup play, Kaká added a goal and he also scored a marvelous goal in a friendly against West Bromwich Albion with a run from midfield. He was also named MLS All-Star Game Most Valuable Player after notching a goal on a penalty and assisting on David Villa's goal against Tottenham Hotspur. Check out his All-Star Game highlights:
The 33-year-old Orlando captain played well in a number of games, particularly in a stretch where he scored six goals in eight games from May 17 to July 4. He shone brightly in a three-assist road outing against New York Red Bulls on Sept. 25.
Like others on the team, I'm going to go with the game that started his best run of form on the season -- the May 17 4-0 home win over LA Galaxy. He earned a penalty and scored a goal from the spot on his one shot, adding an assist on a Cyle Larin goal after making a sick move to beat the defense, and drawing three fouls in all. He also earned a yellow card for his tribute to injured teammate . Check out the highlights:
Don't expect the face of the franchise to go anywhere. Kaká will continue to be the central cog in Adrian Heath's machine. I believe the Gaffer would like to rest his Brazilian star more in 2016, which may mean moving Kevin Molino, Adrian Winter, or a player not yet signed to the central attacking midfielder role for U.S. Open Cup and perhaps a few odd midweek games. The captain will be back and he will remain the captain.
2015 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff gives Kaká a rating of 7 out of 10 for the 2015 season. There were some scores on the lower side owing to recency bias, as the Lions' captain had some tough stretches in August and September. Others may have rated him higher than warranted due to his name recognition. A composite score of 7 seems about right to me. Kaká was the only offensive option for stretches during the early part of the year, while still acclimating to MLS. He went through a marvelous stretch of form where he was being discussed in the league MVP race, before tailing off in the final third of the season.