First, he got the monkey off his back. Then he put his team on it.
Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino has been on a tear in recent weeks, scoring four goals in his last six games. He’s been left off the score sheet just once since scoring his first career MLS goal.
It was a fitting end to a difficult journey.
On May 2, 2015, Molino tore his ACL, derailing his first MLS season just when he started to hit his stride. A nine-month recovery followed, but a show of support from the team captain kept his spirits high.
So when the Lions were awarded a penalty kick on April 3 against Portland, instead of going after his tenth MLS goal, Kaká handed the ball to Molino so he could get his first. He slotted it into the left side of the goal, and hasn’t looked back since.
“It meant a lot,” Molino said of Kaká’s most recent gesture. “He knew how important that goal meant to me and publicly I just want to tell him thanks. He helped my confidence a lot and right through my recovery he showed me a lot of support.
“The team, the fans and people back home, I just want to tell them thank you. I want to tell Orlando Health thanks for the opportunity to play because being in that surgery room I couldn’t walk and now I can still play the beautiful game of football. I want to thank everyone for the love and support and the kindness.”
His team is just as happy as he is that he’s back. He assisted on a crucial goal against Philadelphia and scored in stoppage time against the Revolution the next week. Then two weeks later, he scored the game-tying goal against the Revs and hit another equalizer Friday against New York, maintaining the Lions’ undefeated home record.
“All the work I’ve been putting in over the past couple months, it shows,” Molino said. “Don’t take it for granted because I remember being away from the game for nine, 10 months so it’s just keeping that mentality and continue working hard to help the team qualify for the playoffs.
“Four goals is not enough. Ten is not enough. I need to keep going to the very end.”
Molino’s four goals have him tied with Cyle Larin for the team lead, but it’s the way he’s scoring them that has his coach excited.
“He’s starting to get himself right in the mix of the box and that’s something that we’ve spoke to him [about],” Adrian Heath said, alluding to his goals against the Revs and Red Bulls. “Keep getting in between the posts, in and around the six-yard box. Things will happen for you.
“He’s in a rich vain of form,” Heath said. “Long may that continue.”