It was a devastating moment in Orlando City’s season opener when Kaká went down in the 10th minute with a hamstring injury. Leaving the match, he made way for Giles Barnes and handed the captain’s armband off to Will Johnson.
After missing the next five matches, Kaká made his return tonight when he came on as a substitute for Mataís Perez Garcia in the 60th minute. The crowd welcomed him back with a standing ovation.
“The feeling when I came on the field and all the supporters were clapping and saying my name-- it was unbelievable,” Kaká said. “So thank you to everyone that was here today and made this day so special for me.”
Kaká made his impact felt on the match when he scored the team’s second goal in stoppage time, securing Orlando City’s victory. He ran to The Wall and celebrated with the supporters.
“I’ve been away and watching the games from the stands. I thought maybe one day, if I score a goal in front of our supporters, I would try to celebrate together with them,” Kaká said. “When I scored the goal and I was there, I just stood up and it was very good because I could feel how they feel and they could feel how I feel when I scored my goal.”
Kaká’s coaches and teammates were happy to have him back as well. While Orlando City has found their early success without their leader, he brings a whole new dynamic to the team and can only help lift the team to better things.
“It’s great having him back. He definitely gives us something that we haven’t had even in the previous games that we’ve won. I think just with his personality and just the guy that he is just strikes fear into every opposition and we saw it today. The crowd was just unbelievable when he came on,” Scott Sutter said. “I think he lifted the crowd, he lifted everyone in the stadium, and topped it off with a goal. So, it’s a great comeback for him.”
“I think [Kaká], with his experience and with his ability on the ball and his creative thinking and his ability to solve things before they happen, he gives us a bit of a different looking #10,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “Also, with his capability to run with the ball with his pace past his defenders, he gives us a different looking #10 in the diamond and the midfield. And so, he did change the game a little bit just by that.”
When Kaká stepped onto the pitch, he was given the captain’s armband by Will Johnson. The message was clear.
“Will gave him the captain’s armband and so that’s a sign to everybody that will respects him as the captain of this team,” Kreis said. “And when he’s on the field, he will be the captain.”
“It’s an important gesture from him,” Kaká said. “I really appreciate that.”
“I cannot put into words what I’m feeling,” Kaká said after the match. “What the emotion is to be back, to play, to score, and to win another game.”
Welcome home, Captain.