Everyone loves Ricky – even players and coaches joined in the Kaká love fest after Wednesday night’s all-star game. Everywhere he went – blinding-white grin stretching across his wholesome-looking face – a trail of besotted humans followed in his wake.
And it makes sense – just gaze into these pearly whites:
The fact that the Orlando City Designated Player scooped up the game’s MVP nod surprised exactly no one. All-star goalkeeper Nick Rimando denied Tottenham's Harry Kane twice, but the MLS All-Stars’ goals both came courtesy of Ricky, via penalty kick and an assist to David Villa.
In the post-game press conference, the star of the evening explained his mastery in an endearing aw-shucks, just-glad-to-be-here way. “I didn’t expect to score, assist and MVP,” he said. “I think everybody is happy because tomorrow in the soccer world everybody will talk about the MLS All-Star team beating a very good European team.”
Even Rimando seemed star-struck at the press conference. “Kaká is special, huh?” He said. Yep – special is one way to sum it all up. “He was someone I was looking forward to coming in here and playing with. He always wants the ball, he battles, he fights.”
- WATCH: All-Star: Rimando'ed! RSL 'keeper denies Tottenham star Harry Kane with two spectacular saves
All-Star head coach Pablo Mastroeni praised Kaká’s unending energy, enthusiasm, and drive for a midweek, high-altitude friendly before slipping into rapture. “He exemplifies the type of human being that it takes to be great,” he said. “For me it was fantastic being around him, the way he carried himself, the way he answers every single question anyone asks him, the way he signs every shirt, paper, whatever. Just an exemplary human being. It was a real privilege.”
After the press conference, Kaká – pearly whites still flashing, slightly dazed eyes still wide and shiny – trailed even Tottenham players. The post-game celebration turned into an extended inter-autograph session.
Relentlessly upbeat dance-pop (David Guetta's “Titanium," anyone?) blared as Gatorade-soaked towels fell in puddles to the ground. Spurs streamed in and out with players stripping down and stretching their jerseys out to collect each others’ – but especially the great one’s – signatures.
David Villa – who, remember, scored his own All-Star goal and boasts a slew of international titles – didn’t go for an autograph. But he still offered his own cool, Asturian praise. “I feel good, really good,” he said. “It’s fantastic to play with one of the best players worldwide.”
Jozy Altidore, still semi-fresh off international competition in the Gold Cup, didn’t even share game time with Kaká. Yet he still name-checked his radiance (along with Villa’s) as a personal recent highlight. “I didn’t get to share the field with him, but obviously Villa and Kaká are special players,” said the Toronto FC forward. “They’ve won everything on every level, so to get the chance to hang out and play with them is really cool.”
As for Ricky himself, he’s just hoping the halo spreads outward and helps the country he now calls home. “This shows and teaches all of the soccer world what’s happening in the USA and tomorrow they’ll talk about this result,” he said. “People will begin to look at the USA more favorably and in a different way than they did before.”