Kaká on his move to Orlando, MLS: 'It's a change of values'


Kaká on his move to Orlando, MLS: 'It's a change of values'

Born in Brasilia in 1982, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite - a former Ballon d'Or winner and 2002 FIFA World Cup champion with Brazil - excelled at tennis at a young age. Ricardo - better known as Kaká to supporters worldwide - pulled up stakes and migrated with his family to São Paulo, which triggered him to pursue soccer, however, joining the local club as a 15-year-old.

Eighteen years on - and at one point the sport's most expensive player following his move from AC Milan to Real Madrid in 2009 - the 33-year-old has been showered with praise for turning back the years with his new lease on his career with Orlando City SC.

One of the most venerated players of his era, Kaká's stature as an innovator and dynamic playmaker testifies to his genius to glide eloquently past the opposition, continually rip defenses apart with lacerating passes and demonstrate a knack for hitting the back of the net. His first two months since joining Major League Soccer and launching the newest chapter of a fabled career in "The City Beautiful" have been nothing short of enriching.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey right here!]    

“It’s a great experience,” he said Friday. “I’m so happy with what I decided. Everything is nil. It’s a new experience, with a lot of difference between playing here and in Europe. But good things, not bad things."

Having reached a virtually unparalleled level of stardom during his life's work in comparison with perhaps some of the league's fellow Designated Players, Kaká's undying humility and pure love for the game - evidenced by his now obsolete Twitter bio, reading "Christian, husband and father who loves football" - is being wielded within head coach Adrian Heath's camp.      

“I think it’s a change of values,” he said, stressing the importance of learning from his teammates. “I can teach them some of the experience I’ve had in my career and, for sure, I’ve learned a lot from them. We have very good players; a lot of them play for the national teams and it’s good.”

[RELATED: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City]

With a team-high six goals and six assists through 13 matches, the Brazilian has fared reasonably well and made his transition into MLS fairly seamless. So much so that the Lions' star man was added to the Seleção's 30-man preliminary roster ahead of the Copa América - South America's biggest international tournament - last month, but failed to make head coach Dunga's final 23-man squad.
Instead, he will return to the Windy City after a previous visit with the national team, and line up for Orlando against the Chicago Fire (7:30 p.m. on CSN) at Toyota Park on Saturday. Level on points in the Eastern Conference, a first-ever meeting beckons for two playoff-hopeful sides. 
“More or less, we are in the same position in the table," he added. "We have [played] one more game than them, but the game, for this reason, is going to be hard because we need to win, they need to win. They come from a loss against D.C. and we are three games without losing, so, for us it’s a big moment. It’s time to get some points to get up in the table.”
“I’ve been here once with the national team and it’s a great city. When I’ve been here before, we went out and knew a little bit of the city. I’ll try to have another opportunity to go around." 
Check out the video above to hear what else Kaká had to say.  

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason


Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away


Injuries affecting Fire's preseason with season three weeks away

It may be a good thing that the Fire’s originally scheduled season opener March 3 at Colorado got moved back.

The Fire’s preseason has been riddled with injuries to key players and the extra week may end up being needed to get the team ready for the season. Four players (not counting the already known long-term injuries to Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic) sat out Saturday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast University due to injury: Daniel Johnson (a right ankle injury suffered in a game against Philadelphia on Feb. 8), Grant Lillard (left knee), Matt Polster (left knee) and Luis Solignac (left hip).

Polster’s injury is especially notable because he has had recurring left knee problems since first suffering a sprain in the 2016 season finale at Toronto. Polster missed the first nine games of 2017 due to the injury and missed three more in August due to a related injury.

The 24-year-old, who is now the longest tenured player on the team and the only player remaining from before general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s tenure began at the end of the 2015 season, arrived with the Fire after playing with the U.S. national team in January. He played all 90 minutes on Jan. 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bastian Schweinsteiger still hasn’t played in the preseason and the team hasn’t listed him as injured.

All the absences, combined with rest for some of the team’s regulars, resulted in a starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast that featured two players who have appeared in an official match with the Fire. Three trialists and four draft picks started.

Four of the Fire’s seven scheduled preseason matches are in the books. The Fire lost 2-1 to Montreal on Feb. 14. One of the bright spots was a rare set piece goal after the Fire trailed the Impact 2-0. Dax McCarty headed in a free kick from Diego Campos. Campos has been dangerous on set pieces, hitting the post with a free kick and assisting a goal from a corner kick in Saturday’s 2-0 win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Next up is a match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Feb. 21. Next Saturday the Fire play at Orlando to finish up play in Florida.

The Fire close out the preseason March 3 against the team’s USL affiliate, Tulsa, at Toyota Park before the season opener on March 10.