With Orlando City SC’s inaugural MLS season just a month away, the face of the club is undoubtedly Brazilian superstar Kaká. As a designated player and former FIFA World Player of the Year, it’s no surprise that he’ll be the one most fans have heard of. However, it’s another player that the club should market this season, a younger player with stronger connections to the club.
As great as the signing of Kaká is for Orlando City, he’ll never be known as a Lion to most of the world. At the age of eight, Kaká joined São Paulo FC, where he stayed from 1994-2003. He was then transferred to Italian power AC Milan for €8.5 million. It was in Milan that Kaka became an international superstar, a fact not lost on the 32-year-old. Kaká will forever be closely linked with those two clubs, as well as Real Madrid, where he played from 2009-2013.
While marketing Kaká in Orlando is a must, as the superstar will attract fans to the stadium, it’s also important to market players that will be more closely associated with the club. For the upcoming 2015 season, the name most fans will become accustomed to hearing is Kevin Molino.
Molino, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, joined Orlando City in 2011 for the team's inaugural season. After a first season which saw the 20-year-old struggle to adapt to a new league, Molino hit his stride. In 2012, the midfielder won the USL Pro MVP award, leading his team to the Commissioner’s Cup. Following another strong season in 2013, Molino embarked on a record-setting 2014 that saw him take home his second USL Pro MVP and set the single-season USL Pro goal-scoring record, eclipsing his former teammate Dom Dwyer.
Molino certainly has the opportunity to become a star in MLS. After dominating in USL Pro, he had the opportunity to jump to the next level with other, more established MLS teams, but decided to remain loyal to Orlando City. That decision has endeared him even more to the passionate local fans.
Now 24 years old, Molino has spent the majority of his professional career in Orlando. With the outstanding play he’s exhibited in USL Pro, he’s become a household name among Orlando City fans. And while he still yearns to play in a top league in Europe, he will forever be linked with Orlando City.
While designated players are big names that help attract interest in a young club, many fans want someone that’s their own. They want someone that will be closely associated with their club and will have strong affection for their club. A designated player who made his name in Europe will never belong to the fans the way he did at his previous club. And he won’t have the affection for the club that draws him back years after he’s gone.
Kaká is a great player who has won nearly every individual and team award possible. He’s easily one of the most marketable players in the world. But Orlando City needs to market players more closely associated with the club. That’s why you’ll see the club marketing midfielder Kevin Molino this season. As an original Lion, he’s already made a name for himself locally, and soon will nationally.
More importantly, he’s a player that will always have a strong connection and affection for Orlando City.