With the recent announcements that Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard won’t return to their MLS clubs next season, two of the biggest-name Designated Players the league has seen are gone from New York City and the LA Galaxy, respectively. Both Englishmen joined their now-former clubs last year, but their roads weren’t as smooth as that of Orlando City DP Kaká.
While Kaká joined up with Orlando the year before the Lions made their MLS debut, he had a nice loan spell at his boyhood club São Paulo to keep his fitness level up before joining up with OCSC ahead of the 2015 season. Gerrard joined LA in the summer of 2015 following the conclusion of the 2014-15 English Premier League season, so he didn’t have a full two seasons in LA, while Lampard’s time included injuries and a fiasco of a loan to Manchester City that lessened his impact in the Big Apple.
Given the ease with which Kaká transitioned to Orlando vs. the other two to their American clubs, the Lions certainly had — and continue to have, as Kaká is back for 2017 — a much smoother time with their former European superstar.
But how did the trio stack up in terms of on-field production?
Despite his long transition from England to America and subsequent injury troubles, when Lampard finally got match fit for NYCFC, he produced at a high level. The former Chelsea legend and Manchester City loanee showed that he still had a knack for finding the net in his late 30s, scoring 15 goals with four assists in 29 league appearances for NYCFC. That comes out to a solid 0.67 goals per 90 average, and a 0.85 goals + assists per 90 average (G+A/90).
Gerrard didn’t produce quite like the Galaxy hoped he would, scoring only five goals with 14 assists across 34 MLS appearances. A paltry 0.17 goals per 90 average weighed down his assist total as part of a final 0.64 G+A/90 number for the former Liverpool man.
Kaká has played in far more games for Orlando City than either Lampard or Gerrard managed for their clubs, appearing 52 times in his two seasons in purple. While scoring was never as big a part of his game as it was for Lampard, his 18 goals in over 4,300 minutes give him a 0.37 goals per 90 clip, while his 0.35 assists per 90 combines to form a 0.72 G+A/90 average. The 35 goals Kaká has had a hand in (18G, 17A) are almost double what Lamps and Gerrard managed (19 apiece).
While the MLS timelines of the three players differ, we can see that the Lions have gotten a pretty good return for their investment compared to the other two big-market clubs. While Kaká has struggled with niggling injuries at times, he has been an engine for City’s prolific offense when healthy and provided key leadership on and off the pitch for his young teammates. Lampard eventually rounded nicely into form in 2016, but it’s tough to know how much longer the 38-year-old would’ve been able to maintain his scoring rate, and Gerrard was thoroughly overshadowed by Gio dos Santos in the LA midfield after the two joined LA around the same time last year.
Kaká, Lampard, and Gerrard all differ stylistically and are far from carbon copies in the midfield, and it’s worth noting that both LA and NYCFC have other big-name DPs while Kaká is the lone megastar at City. Regardless, Orlando City can certainly be happy with how their superstar DP has panned out.