He was the subject of one of the biggest offseason searches for any Major League Soccer fanbase (surely you remember #KakuWatch), one of the longest and most drama-filled offseason signings and a record transfer fee paid by the New York Red Bulls.
His given name is Alejandro Romero Gamarra, but around MLS he is simply known as Kaku. Find out more about the young playmaker:
There are few things Kaku enjoys more than nutmegging someone with the ball. His greatest joy is when that happens on the field in a competitive game, but truth be told he’s always looking to put the ball through someone’s legs.
No one, not teammates, communication staff, not even the technical staff is safe when Kaku has the ball at his feet.
“No, but I saw that his legs were open so I had to do it,” Kaku said when asked if he anticipated doing that on his first touch.
A Day in the Park
On rare days off, Kaku enjoys experiencing New York City, including a recent first-ever trip to Central Park with his family. Little did he know, teammate Bradley Wright-Phillips and his family had the same idea on that July afternoon.
“I had no idea,” Kaku said. “I was there first, and then I saw Brad driving and then I saw his family. Then we just all hung out together. I wanted to experience that with my family together. It’s a beautiful city. I want to see more of it. That’s why it’s good that the off day did come so we could spend some time out there.”
A first Fourth in NYC
That wasn’t Kaku’s only time seeing the sights of New York. He also went to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
On the Fourth of July, he and his family took a cruise to Liberty Island and were awed by the Statue of Liberty up close and personal.
“I have a place where the floor I’m living on, [the Statue of Liberty] is the first thing I see when I wake up before I go to training,” Kaku said. “And I just say to myself, ‘Wow, I’m living the dream.’”
The switch to Paraguay
Kaku made five appearances for the Argentine U-20 national team and was selected to the squad that competed in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. He started the opener and came off the bench for the final two games of the group stage.
But an opportunity with La Albiceleste never materialized and in May, Kaku made the one-time switch to Paraguay. He was immediately called up and made his debut off the bench in a 4-2 loss to Japan.
"Honestly it’s a great feeling", Kaku said. "I’ve never gotten the call before, and this opportunity came up and I thank the Red Bulls for supporting me, and I’m very happy to be able to represent the national team.”
Interestingly enough, Kaku’s new coach with Los Guaraníes is Juan Carlos Osorio, who helped guide the Red Bulls to their lone appearance in the MLS Cup in 2008.
Huracan is a club close to Kaku’s heart. He was a part of the club’s academy before being called up to the first team by Antonio Mohamed, who currently coaches Celta Vigo in Spain’s La Liga.
Kaku played more than 100 times for Huracan, helping the club gain promotion to the Argentine Primera Division and find success in the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
Kaku decided to give back to his former club, donating a new washer and dryer and three TVs to Huracan recently.
When he finally donned a Red Bulls jersey, ‘Kaku’ wasn’t on the back. And that was by his choice. Instead, it was ‘R. Gamarra,’ which he said was to honor his mother, Gladys, who passed away in 2017.
Weeks after her sudden death, Kaku scored a goal for Huracan in a 4-0 win over Lanus and immediately thought of her.
“When the ball went in, I just wanted to cry and look to the sky,” he said at the time. “She was everything for us.”
Kaku became the fastest player in MLS to reach 10 assists in eight years and he’s led MLS in that category for much of the season. His total of 14 is currently tied with Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union’s Borek Dockal atop the list.
His favorite assist came in a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution on July 21. Kaku took a short pass from Sean Davis and lobbed a perfect ball into the 18-yard box, where Bradley Wright-Phillips coolly headed in the insurance goal.
Why that assist?
Kaku said it’s because it helped the Red Bulls No. 99 score career league goal No. 99.
Goals = Three Points
Goals might only count for one point statistically, but when Kaku scores, they’re worth three in the standings.
Kaku has four goals on the season and each are game-winners.
“He’s a special player and he tends to show up in big moments,” Wright-Phillips said of Kaku. “I’m a big fan of Kaku. I just hope he carries on and gets better toward the playoffs because when he plays well, we play well.”
A family man
It is clear on game days how important family is to Kaku. His three-year-old son Milo, who loves to mug for cameras, is always at his side.
“My kids love being here, especially my son who wants to go to all the parks,” he said. “Whenever we’re done with training, I always try to go out there with him and with my family to just enjoy what’s out here because they love it.”
When it was time for Kaku, who is one of 13 children, to leave his native Argentina and fly to the United States to join the Red Bulls, 30 members of his family saw him off at the airport.
“It’s a dream of every kid to come to a big team like the Red Bulls. It is a dream come true,” an emotional Kaku said in February. “The truth is that I am really happy, my family is also really happy, since we’ve always fought for it, and hopefully I will now be able to buy the house that I always wanted, keep having fun and celebrate — because that is what my mom always told me.”
Near tragedy after triumph
On Feb. 10, 2016, Huracan won a Copa Libertadores match at Caracas and the team was set to leave Venezuela. But what should have been a joyous bus ride to the airport turned scary when the brakes gave out. The bus eventually hit a ramp and flipped over, severely injuring several players.
“I saw life differently, because in seconds you could be gone,” Kaku told the New York Post. “So after that I started to put more value on family. Soccer is different. It’s more to enjoy and have fun. But you have to spend more time and enjoy the family. They’re the ones that are always there for you, and you never know what could happen.”