Orlando MLS club formally introduces Kaka

By Dan Ryan

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 1 2014 11:46 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 1 2014 11:46 a.m. MDT

Brazilian soccer star Kaka, center, surrounded by security and police officers, makes his way through a crowd of fans at Orlando International Airport, Monday, June 30, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. Kaka is the first designated player to sign with the Orlando City Soccer Club and the team will begin play in Major League Soccer in 2015.

John Raoux, Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City owner Flavio Augusto da Silva knows there's no way his MLS expansion franchise could take the place of any Brazil club in the hearts of any Brazilian soccer fan.

But with the signing of Kaka, da Silva hopes there's one room for more.

"We want to be that second club," da Silva said Tuesday when Orlando FC formally introduced the Brazilian three-time World Cup participant.

The 32-year old midfielder, whose full name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, will join the MLS club when it begins play in January 2015. Until then, he will be on loan to San Paulo FC. He most recently played for AC Milan, terminating that contract last week.

"This is not about the money," Kaka said. "I know you know my resume. I can play anywhere else if money were the top question. This is a life opportunity, for myself, for my family. Players from now on will be looking for soccer opportunity in the United States."

Over 200 fans greeted Kaka Monday night at Orlando International Airport. He was expected to join a watch party of the United States-Belgium World Cup match Tuesday afternoon. Some City streetlights had a "#komingsoon" hashtag with Kafka's silhouette outside the downtown club where the press conference was held

Kaka was expected to join a watch party of the United States-Belgium World Cup match Tuesday afternoon.

The signing was the culmination of two years of "flirting" between da Silva and Kaka ("I love Flavio, but I'm married and so is he," Kaka joked) after the World Cup champion MVP served as a spokesman for one of da Silva's companies. Even after da Silva sold the company, his pursuit continued as Kaka entertained some MLS offers, most notably from New York.

Both Kaka's appreciation of the Orlando market as well as Brazil delivering the highest number of international visitors to the destination, influenced his decision to become the face of Orlando's startup efforts as the MLS' 21st franchise. The team has won two USL Pro regular season titles and two post season championships.

Orlando City co-owner Phil Rawlins said that signing Kaka was one of the franchise's primary goals.

"Not only did we sign a Brazilian superstar, we signed a world superstar," Rawlins said. "Kaka is not here to retire, he's here to win. We've put the MLS on notice."

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