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

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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.

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“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.  

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of MLSsoccer.com, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof was involved in a car accident on his way to practice Thursday morning that sent him to the hospital with minor injuries.

According to authorities and the Secretary of State’s Office, a box truck crashed into the Dutch player’s 2013 Volkswagen and another vehicle in the 5900 block of South Harlem. Kappelhof’s vehicle rolled over and two people fled from the scene.

The driver ran on foot and the passenger moved into the driver’s seat before driving the truck onto the Stevenson Expressway after the crash, officials said. After the damaged vehicle broke down, police say the same passenger tried to jump into the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Both were taken into custody.

Team officials said Kappelhof was treated and released from the hospital without indicators of a concussion. The 27-year-old was reportedly seen at Toyota Park after the crash and did not have any serious injuries. The other driver who was hit by the box truck was also treated, police said.

This season in league play with the Fire, Kappelhof has three assists in 16 games. The international product was a 2017 MLS All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year for the Fire last season. He was signed in 2016 and has made one MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.