When a Major League Soccer team agrees to pay a player more than $7 million per season, the club, teammates, and fans expect that player to be the best player on the field, day-in and day-out. Former World Cup champion and FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká has proven to be up to meeting those expectations more often than not for Orlando City.
However, that hasn't been the case so much lately for the Brazilian, who's had a couple of pretty quiet games in the middle of the field for Orlando City, after getting off to such a great start that had him in the early conversation for MLS MVP.
After a mid-week U.S. Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery, Orlando City went north of the border and fell to the Montreal Impact, 2-0, thanks in large part to another lackluster performance on the attacking end that saw the Lions control possession for most of the match, but still fail to muster up enough chances on goal to carry home even a single point.
Kaká, just as can be said against D.C. United last week, wasn't all that impressive. He turned the ball over too often, couldn't connect on key passes when he needed to, and he just looked tired at times -- well, the whole team looked tired, really.
It's a trend that's continued for a few weeks now, and it's leading many to wonder what's going on with the Brazilian play-maker.
Kaká was great early in the season, when he was making plays like this:
And moving about the midfield around defenders like this:
There's a couple of things to look at when dissecting the problems he's facing at the moment.
First, teams aren't shy about defending him anymore. Early in the season you could see that teams were having trouble keeping up with him and defending his movements on the ball. As he makes his way around the league and teams start to see him for a second and third time, it's getting tougher for him to beat teams alone like he could before.
To me, however, the biggest factor for Kaká's recent struggles has been Kevin Molino's injury. Outside of Kaká, Orlando City doesn't really have another player that is going to dribble the ball head-on into two, sometimes three or more, defenders like Molino would down the right side. Brek Shea is a creative player down the left wing, but he hasn't scored a single goal for Orlando this season and has been more dangerous when he's on the outside serving balls into the box.
Molino and Kaká got along great, setting each other up, and building one of the best attacking combos in the league, doing things like this:
With Molino out, opposing teams no longer have two dangerous chance creators to worry about -- Molino was one of the league's best open-play creators before his injury -- and can now focus all of their defensive resources on Kaká, marking him with two or three defenders and taking away his passing lanes and room to run. That's when you see him start to turn the ball over, like he did last night when he dribbled into three defenders in stoppage time, which caused the turnover that Montreal used to counter-attack for the game-sealing goal from Dominic Oduro.
Adrian Heath has noted several times in the past month that ideally he'd like to add one player at each part of the field this summer, and there are also rumors that Orlando City could be in the market to land a big-named designated player -- potentially a forward.
If the Lions are really looking for a game-changer, someone that can improve the overall quality of the team, they might be best suited to look at bringing in another technically-gifted player like Molino on the right that can connect with Kaká and take some of the pressure off the Brazilian to be the No. 1 go-to option on the team, and not a forward as some have suggested.
A move for such a player could also, in turn, let Heath push Shea back to left back, where he's looked much better for Orlando City this season.