ORLANDO, Fla. – Just in case Orlando City’s players thought they might have escaped scrutiny in Wednesday’s parting of the ways with head coach Adrian Heath, captain Kaká sounded a stern warning about their own part in proceedings.
While Heath paid the biggest price with his exit from the club – as outlined on Thursday afternoon by team president Phil Rawlins – the Brazilian star believes he and his teammates need to raise their game to meet the front office’s challenge.
“I think it was a big sign for the players that it shows the club is not satisfied with what we’ve done until now,” Kaká said. “We need to change a lot of things to make things happen the right way.”
He also downplayed any suggestion that the timing of the decision to part with Heath and assistant coach Mark Watson at the beginning of this month’s transfer window – and at the start of a stretch of five games in 23 days – was a major concern.
“It is always difficult to say when is the best time to change things,” Kaká said. “The club decided this is the moment and we will respect that decision, and just have the concern that we have to be better if we want to make the playoffs. We need to change things on the field.”
Kaká did admit Wednesday night’s decision had come as something of a shock to a squad still licking its wounds from a 4-0 beating at the hands of FC Dallas on Monday.
“We just received a release from the club that said Adrian and Mark were not in front of the team anymore. I think it was a surprise for everybody but, as I say, I also think it is a big sign from the club that they are not happy with our situation at the moment.
“I just think the bad results that we had in the last few games were the [tipping] point of the situation. The club took the results as a time to change. I don’t think it concerns the players, though. We can’t say what is best for change or not. The club is bigger than the players. Our opinion needs to be listened to, of course, but it is not going to be the [final] opinion that the club decides on.”
Asked directly whether he had any personal influence in the decision to release Heath, Kaká shot down the idea in no uncertain terms.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “The club decided. The board had a meeting and decided to change the coach.
“The club now needs to decide who is the next coach and how to take another step, not just for the short term but thinking two or three years from here. It is a big move and it’s going to shake some of the players. We have to take this in a good way, as motivation to make the playoffs, and for a moment to think about ourselves and [what needs to] change.”
Brazil’s former World Player of the Year had nothing but praise for the departed coach. With his usual quick smile nowhere in evidence on Thursday morning, it seemed clear there was genuine sadness at this week’s turn of events.
“Most of all, I want to thank Adrian for everything he did for this club in eight years,” Kaka added. “I only worked with him for one and a half years, but I think Adrian was very good for us and everything he did for this club. I definitely had a very good relationship with him. We had a lot of chats during the week before games, so I can say we had a good relationship.”
Kaka’s concern also extended to Adrian’s son and midfield teammate Harrison Heath, who has had to deal with the additional element of losing a familial link to the club.
“Yes, I talked to Harrison this morning and asked how he was feeling,” he said. “Of course he is sad for the family, for his father, but he thinks it is an important moment for his career as well, as he is not ‘the coach’s son’ any more. He is a very good player and he’s got a chance tomorrow to show that he deserves to be with us.”
Kaká emphasized that there is much work to be done.
“At this moment, the team is in a part of the table we don’t deserve to be in, so the next coach needs to put us in the zone we deserve,” he said. “There are a lot of small things we need to be better at, and whoever comes in needs to understand what we really need.”