The 2016 season certainly has not been ideal for Orlando City captain Ricardo Kaká, as the $7 million man has missed 10 league matches due to various leg injuries that have included thigh and calf ailments. It's certainly hard to keep 34-year-old legs fresh for an entire MLS season, but Kaká's absences have been more frequent this season than would be expected even given Father Time's undefeated record.
When Kaká has been on the pitch, however, he's been very good for the Lions, and his facilitation has been on full display in his limited minutes.
In 28 league appearances last season Kaká notched nine goals and seven assists, and he's almost matched his assist total from a year ago through just 11 appearances in 2016, with six following his latest service to Kevin Molino against New England. While his goal-scoring numbers are actually down (0.33 goals per 90 minutes in 2015 vs. 0.31 per 90 this year), he's been better in his creative role with improved assist and key pass rates.
|2015||28||7 (0.26 per 90)||54 (1.9/gm)|
|2016||11||6 (0.62 per 90)||25 (2.3/gm)|
In both of his MLS seasons, Ricky's goal-scoring numbers have been heavily aided by penalty kicks, with only six of his 15 total goals coming from open play. But Kaká wasn't signed for his scoring prowess, rather for his ability to pull strings in the middle of the field and orchestrate an attack. The difference is clear to the eye when Kaká hasn't been on the field this year, and the numbers above back up that eyeball test as well as the fact that 16 of City's 26 points have come from games in which Ricky has participated.
When healthy, Kaká is still as good in the midfield creator role as anyone in MLS. He's also been helped immensely by the fact that his running mate, Kevin Molino, is back to 100% health since his ACL tear a year ago and has had a breakout campaign for Orlando, notching nine goals and seven assists – exactly matching Kaká's output from last season – with 13 games yet to be played. The two have worked wonderfully off one another in attack, as was the plan all along entering MLS.
So while he hasn't played nearly as many minutes this season as we would've hoped, Kaká is producing when does get into the lineup and he's doing it at a more effective rate than he did in Orlando City's inaugural MLS campaign. Provided players like Cyle Larin, who's top five in the league with 11 goals, and Molino can continue to bear the brunt of the scoring burden, a similar creative output from Kaká would go a long way towards securing a top-six spot in the East.