While MLS created the Designated Player rule purely for marketing purposes, many clubs have used the signings to bring in players who make a big difference in big games. On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders' Designated Players were spectacular while Orlando City's failed to make a difference.
Last year, when Orlando City signed former FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká, there were two purposes. One was to market the club internationally in an attempt to grow the club's brand for its entrance into MLS. The other reason was to have a number 10 that would make a difference when needed.
Orlando City's offense is geared to run through the Brazilian. It's built to use his quick thinking and skill to set up opportunities for others around him. There have been times this season where that plan has worked. In the two games in which he didn't take part, his absence was noticed.
Sunday was a huge game for both Orlando City and Seattle. Going into the game, the Sounders sat just above the red line one point ahead of the Houston Dynamo and three points ahead of the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake.
It was even bigger for Orlando City. A tough stretch of games have seen the Lions fall below the red line, even on points with the Montreal Impact and three points back of Toronto FC. Montreal and Toronto both have games in hand on the Lions.
For Seattle, the designated players came through when needed. Obafemi Martins, coming back from an injury which kept the Nigerian out for two months, scored a brace with the first and third goals of the game. One of the club's newest acquisitions, Nelson Valdez, scored the second goal for the home side in his debut in rave green.
This wasn't the case for Orlando City. Kaká made little impact on a game in which his potential impact was a necessity. He often gave the ball away too easy and didn't make the positive impact in a big game that you would expect for a player making $7.7 million.
This isn't to say the loss is on the midfielder. It was a poor outing by many of those in purple. It was made worse by the fact that they played 50 minutes a man down after right back Tyler Turner was sent off with a questionable second yellow card.
But, while it may not be completely his fault, star players are signed to make a big impact when they're needed most. Orlando City desperately needed points Sunday afternoon and part of Kaká's role was to make something happen in the attack. He failed to do so.
There are many reasons for the signing of designated players. Orlando City's acquiring of Kaká was to take advantage of most of those reasons. On the field he was signed to make the difference in big games. Kaká was unable to fill that role Sunday when it was needed most. He'll now have eight more games to make that up.