ORLANDO, Fla. — Jason Kreis admits Orlando City SC will have to treat captain Kaká with kid gloves for the rest of the year once the Brazilian returns from the current hamstring injury that has blighted his start to the new season.
The Lions’ ace is “on course” to be fit again later this month, having gone down in agonizing fashion in the first 10 minutes of the opening game of the new campaign against New York City FC on March 5. But Orlando City's medical and physiotherapy units will be monitoring their star Designated Player extremely closely in the future and, more importantly, scaling back his training commitments on a week-to-week basis.
“His recovery is coming along very well,” Kreis said after training on Wednesday. “He is back out running on the field and I think we’ll see him out here again tomorrow on his own, so we feel like all that is going to plan.”
The initial diagnosis for his Grade 1 to 2 hamstring strain was a six-week spell on the sidelines, and the team is still hopeful he will be back on the field against New York again, this time for the return game at Yankee Stadium on April 23.
However, that will only happen with intensive medical oversight, and an almost day-to-day focus on his workload as Orlando look to keep their most important player involved for the rest of the final year of his current three-year contract with the club.
“When he comes back, he will be under the same protocol he has been since I’ve been here, which is that he doesn’t do all of the training every single week,” Kreis explained. “He typically will spend one extra day inside working with our physical therapist to work on his strength and keep the pounding off of his legs.”
Kaká had his battles with leg muscle issues for several periods of last season, missing half of the first 14 games. He was sidelined for 12 matches in all, but still chalked up nine goals and 10 assists, which both met and surpassed his first-season stats of nine and seven, respectively.
He also came back strong at the end of July, when he enjoyed a run of 15 straight starts, and that is a sequence Kreis is now looking to duplicate once his captain takes the field again this season.
“We felt like we had a lot of success with that [regime] in the second half of last season,” Kreis said. “I would say that the injury this year came about because in preseason he did almost all the work.”
That tacit admission that the team possibly allowed their star man to do too much too soon is now the key factor in how they proceed.
“We need to keep a mindful eye on the most important thing, which, of course, is having Ricky [Kaká] available for all the matches,” Kreis added. “Sometimes that means a little bit of a sacrifice in the training in the week, but ultimately we know that the benefit far outweighs that negative.”