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How Does Kaká Fit Into the Future of Orlando City?

Kaká has recently spoken about wanting to return to Orlando City SC, but is that something that is in the best interest of the club?

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls
Kaka seems interested in a return to Orlando next year, but should Orlando City bring him back?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 campaign nearing a close, and the Lions being further out of the playoff picture than we all had hoped, I think it’s fair that we start to take a peek into our future, and have a conversation about the direction of the club. At the forefront of this conversation has to be club captain Kaká.

It is no secret that Kaká’s contract expires at the end of this season, and even though he has voiced his desire to remain with the club, I think it may take a lot of work on both sides for a deal to be done, but let’s take a look at some of the numbers before we dive into some opinions.

As I’m sure some of you know, Kaká has been the highest-paid player in the league over the last few seasons, earning just south of $7.2 million. Of course, under Major League Soccer’s salary cap rules, this makes Kaká one of our three Designated Players. Sebastian Giovinco is really the only player earning close to Kaká’s wages at just over $7.1 million a year. Now that we have looked into the money side of things, let’s evaluate how Kaká has performed on the field.

This year has been a bit of a rough one for Kaká. So far, through 18 appearances and 14 starts, he has contributed 20 shots, which have resulted in four goals, coupled with five assists, and one of the weirdest red cards (upon video review) we’ve ever seen. With eight games remaining for City on the season, he still has time to improve his numbers, but to be honest, Orlando’s attack has been struggling mightily, and it may take a miracle for him to help the Lions put on the show that they did at the end of last season. As of now, with those eight games left to go, Kaká needs to play in six of them to match his number of appearances from 2016 — and to score five goals and contribute five more assists to match his totals from last season. Not impossible for eight games, but very, very daunting, especially when you consider the run of form that City is in.

Another interesting note on Kaká’s production last season compared to this year is a drastic drop in his shots. Last year, he attempted 62 shots, with 27 of them being on target, resulting in nine goals. Comparatively, this year he has attempted a mere 20 shots, with seven on target and four goals.

Now let’s get to the stat that I find to be most intriguing: How did Orlando fare with and without Kaká in the lineup?

Throughout the 2017 season, Kaká has been on the field to start a match 14 times, he has been subbed on four times (averaging about 30 minutes of game time with each sub appearance), and he hasn’t appeared in eight games this year. In his starts Orlando City has won two, lost eight, and drawn four, with Kaká contributing three goals and four assists. With Kaká appearing as a substitute, City has won one, lost one, and drawn two, with the Brazilian scoring a goal and adding an assist. But interestingly enough, in the eight games without its captain, City has five wins, two losses, and one draw. So in those eight matches without Kaká, City has earned 16 points, one more than the Lions earned in the other 18 games played with him. You can also bring into debate his contributions from the first game of the season, as he was subbed off in the 11th minute, before he could realistically make an impact on the game.

Now, with all of that information out in the open, I think it is fair to say that City is better when Kaká either isn’t on the field or is used as a sub off the bench. The numbers do clearly reflect that. Why? I wish I could pinpoint that issue myself. I don’t know why the Lions play better without their star DP, but the fact of the matter is, they just do.

So where does this leave us with regard to Kaká saying he is interested in coming back to play in Orlando again next year? I would say that’s an interesting question. Based on his production over this past year, and how the team has performed with and without him, I personally would find it hard to believe that Orlando City will extend his DP contract by another year, especially when you consider that Kaká will be turning 36 years old right at the beginning of the 2018 season. But I’d be willing to bet that Kaká and his agent would demand that he remain on a DP contract with a similar salary.

Personally, I feel that it is best for Orlando to move on from the Kaká era. It was beautiful and so fun while it lasted. During the 2014 World Cup, I was at Wall Street when Orlando first unveiled him, I was at the Citrus Bowl when he scored his first goal in purple against New York City FC, and I grew up idolizing Kaká as he tore up opposing defenses with AC Milan in Serie A. As someone who was very excited three years ago and a Kaká megafan, I think the ship has sailed on this one. The only way it makes sense for Orlando to hang onto Kaká is under a regular contract with the team, not as a DP.

I think Orlando is prepared for that to not happen as well. The signing of Yoshimar Yotún as a DP in this past transfer window reflects that. Although he has more experience as a left wing back, City is marketing him as a creative attacking midfielder, which is pretty much an identical description to how Kaká has always been described.

Maybe City is ready to move on from the guy that helped lift this franchise to relevance in MLS. Maybe I’m completely wrong in what I think and what I see. But please let us know what you all think in the comments. Should we re-sign him as a DP? Should we re-sign him under a regular contract if he’s willing to? Or should we just let him walk? I’d love to hear your thoughts down below.