Over the course of his first two seasons with Orlando City, Brazilian star Kaká recorded 18 goals and 17 assists in 52 games. As he entered the third and final year of his contract, rumors about his future with the club started popping up, putting in question the midfielder’s ability to remain competitive in MLS at the age of 35.
After missing five games thanks to a hamstring injury he suffered in the 10th minute of Orlando’s season opener, Kaká returned to action last Saturday in the 2-0 home win against the Colorado Rapids, and found an important ally in his battle to show he’s still productive: Head Coach Jason Kreis’ 4-4-2 diamond formation.
The results were immediate, as the Lions’ captain completed 90% of his passes, created one chance, made one cross, was accurate on all three of his long balls, and, of course, scored the team’s second goal in stoppage time — all in just 35 minutes. But how does the diamond help him?
“I think (Kaká), with his experience and with his ability on the ball and his creative thinking and his ability to solve things before they happen, he gives us a bit of a different looking No. 10,” Kreis said after the match. “Also, with his capability to run with the ball with his pace past his defenders, he gives us a different looking No. 10 in the diamond and the midfield. And so, he did change the game a little bit just by that.”
First of all, we can’t forget that Kaká is 35 and has a lot of mileage on his body. With that being said, it’s easy to understand that having three players behind him in the midfield helps relieve the Brazilian from most of his defensive duties, saving his legs for what he does best: creating chances.
But the three central midfielders also help the Brazilian on the offensive end as they are close enough to feed him and can also present themselves as options to build plays. Will Johnson, especially, has proven to be a threat in the attacking third with his beautiful goal against the LA Galaxy.
Being in a central position on the field also helps Kaká to make the most of his skill set as he doesn’t have to make long runs with the ball and is always with a good look to the goal, being able to shoot from mid-range or enter the box. It is also a positive that the Brazilian now has players to pair with up front, as opposed to what he had in former Head Coach Adrian Heath’s 4-2-3-1 system.
From this position, he can also feed both fullbacks, who have been constant presences in Orlando’s offense, or have the freedom of moving to the wing himself, depending on how the game presents itself.
“Most of the years of my career I played on the diamond,” Kaká said. “I love to play in that way. I think it gives the team a good balance on this shape. And we have players who are good enough to play on this system. It’s working very well on this period.”
Only time will tell If Kaká will succeed in Kreis’ diamond, but regarding the team’s formation, he might not have a better chance than this to show he is still able to be a difference maker for the Lions. With a solid defense and Cyle Larin on fire, having a healthy and productive Kaká could be all Orlando City needs to make to the playoffs — or even go further.