Orlando City SC can still make playoffs in 'very competitive' MLS - Kaka
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Orlando City SC midfielder Kaka said that it won't take drastic changes to get the Lions back in the playoff places.
Orlando currently sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the New England Revolution for the sixth and final playoff spot. That proximity to a place in the postseason was still not enough to prevent Adrian Heath, Orlando's manager dating back to its days in the USL, from losing his job. Heath was let go on July 6, with the club hiring former Real Salt Lake and New York City FC manager Jason Kreis to take his place last week.
Kaka is convinced that Orlando has the players to make the postseason, and have deserved better from its first 20 games.
"I think we have not just played better, but we have a group that should be in a better position in the table," he said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC. "I think with some adjustments, we can be much better in the table, and probably we will be [in it] until the last game of the regular season."
But Kaka also warned that the margin for error in terms of getting more points is perilously thin.
"This league, it's very competitive," he said. "If you miss some details during the game, you tie or your lose ... just for little mistakes. So probably we had some mistakes that cost us a few points that probably could leave us in a better position in the table. But it didn't happen, and this is something that we have to fix if you want to make the playoffs."
Kaka said he has had only one brief, 10-minute conversation with Kreis since he was hired. The Brazilian has since headed west to take part in Thursday's MLS All-Star Game (7:30 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), where he will captain the All-Stars against Premier League side Arsenal.
"Probably in the next weeks, the next days, we will have more time to talk about some specifics," said Kaka about his new manager. "But now he started [Monday] to train the team, and he will be ready for the next game at home."
Orlando has undergone a fair bit of upheaval in both the management and executive ranks in the past nine months. GM Paul McDonough saw his responsibilities reduced late last year in favor of Armando Carneiro. McDonough left to take a job with Atlanta United, but then Carneiro departed before the end of 2015 with minority owner Phil Rawlins taking over as GM. Now Heath is out of the picture, and Kaka indicated this might have had an impact on the younger players of the team.
"We try one GM, we tried one coach, we're going to try another one; this is part of the process," he said. " I don't think it's a big issue. Of course for some players, it's new, a new situation. They never had this situation before; change the coach, change the GM. But it's a normal situation in soccer."
In the meantime, Kaka will be trying to stay injury-free, something that has proven difficult in 2016. The Brazilian international has played in just half of Orlando's 20 league games, after missing just six league matches all of last year.
"It hasn't been an easy season for me, but I'm a positive guy," he said. "The rest of the season, I hope the last injury that I had was the last one, so I'm doing my best to be ready, fit and to play all the games that we need to in the rest of the season. I hope I can help the team on the field and not [just] off the field."
Heath's departure isn't the only managerial change Kaka has observed this season. Dunga was made to pay for Brazil's elimination in the group stage of the Copa America Centenario, a tournament that Kaka was in line to play in before an injury ruled him out.
"Every championship that Brazil participates, we have the responsibility to win; every time," he said. "So when we don't win, it's considered as a failure. This time is not different. It seems that in Brazil, failure in the Copa America changes the coach.
"Now we have a new coach, new perspectives. But I'm sure that Brazil will be ready for the next World Cup. We'll be there. Now it's time for the qualifying and everything. Tite is the new coach. He's a very good name. I think he did a very good job with Corinthians, and Brazil will be ready for Russia."
And will Kaka ? It seems a long shot, but the Orlando captain isn't ruling anything out.
"In this moment I'm thinking about me, to be ready and fit to play with Orlando the most games that I can and help my team to make the playoffs," he said. "After that, if I'm playing good, and Tite, the national team coach thinks that I can help the national team, I'll be ready for that."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.