ORLANDO, Fla. -- For all his vast experience and soccer achievement, Kaká found himself at a loss for words after his much-heralded return to Orlando City SC action on Saturday night. That came even more so with the clinching goal in the 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids.
The Brazilian star and Lions skipper got back on the field for the first time since the hamstring injury he picked up in the first 10 minutes of the team's season opener. He admitted, post-game, it proved a hugely emotional moment as he entered the match to a raucous standing ovation.
“I cannot put in words what I’m feeling, the emotion of being back, to score and win another game at home,” Kaká said. “When I came on the field and all the supporters were clapping and calling my name, it was unbelievable, so thank you to everybody who was here today to make this day so special for me.”
The arrival of Kaká and Carlos Rivas as 60th-minute substitutes injected real life into proceedings at Orlando City Stadium. Rivas broke open the stalemate with a 70th-minute rocket strike. The captain followed with a 90th-minute tap-in -- owed to Cyle Larin’s hard work -- to ice the team’s sixth win in seven games.
Kaká admitted it had been a long, lonely road back after seven weeks on the sidelines, and he’d worked through some frustrations.
“It’s good to see how the team is playing, but it’s not so good to be there watching,” he said. “Much of the time I’ve had to train alone, and you never know in what condition you’re going to be ready, so there are a lot of things I’ve had to face. But today I showed I was ready to join the team again and be part of this amazing group.”
The skipper’s goal was marked by wonderful scenes with fans in the Wall, the supporters’ safe standing area behind the goal.
“I’ve been watching the [recent] games from the stand, and I thought that if, one day, I scored a goal in front of our supporters, I will try to celebrate together with them,” he said. “I hoped the referee wouldn’t give me a yellow card for that, and he didn’t.
“To get up there, close to them, it was good, because I could feel how they feel, and they could feel how I feel when I score.”
Head coach Jason Kreis admitted the arrival of Kaká and Rivas was the turning point in a game that was in danger of bogging down with the combination of the Rapids’ dogged defensive display and the 90-degree heat.
“I was really pleased with Ricky’s performance,” he said, using Kaká's nickname. “Both he and Carlos came in and the game changed for us in a very positive direction. I was also pleased to see Ricky back after he has worked so incredibly hard to get himself fit again and make such a major statement.”