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Kaka calls it a career; Won World Cup, Ballon d’Or

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He’s the last Ballon d’Or winner neither named Messi nor Ronaldo, and he’s calling it a career.

Kaka announced his retirement on Sunday after a gleaming career on three continents.

Born Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, Kaka won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil and also boasts two Confederations Cup wins amongst his 92 caps and 29 international goals.

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Kaka debuted for Sao Paolo in 2001, and left for AC Milan three seasons later. Thrice names in the UEFA Team of the Year and twice the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Kaka won Serie A with Milan and La Liga with Real Madrid.

He spent the final three seasons of his career in Major League Soccer with Orlando City SC, and was magnificent. The 35-year-old scored 25 goals with 19 assists for the Lions.

Orlando City’s Kaka announces he’ll leave club after 2017 season

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Injuries have hurt his time on the pitch since joining MLS, and it appears Kaka’s time in the United States will end very soon.

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The Brazilian announced on Wednesday that he won’t renew his contract with Orlando City SC, which ends at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

“As you all know, my contract with Orlando City ends this year. My final decision is not to renew,” Kaka said.

“I will honor this jersey ’til the end as always,” he continued.

Kaka, 35, joined the Lions in 2014 prior to the club’s official start in MLS, after making a name for himself with the likes of Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Since coming to the Eastern Conference side, Kaka has netted 23 goals in all competitions, but only managed four this season in 15 matches after battling numerous injuries.

It is unclear whether or not the Brazilian will continue his playing career beyond 2017, but if he does, it almost certainly won’t be in MLS.

Report: Big decision coming for Kaka

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One of Major League Soccer’s highest-profile Designated Players could be leaving the league this winter.

In an interview with Brazilian publication Globo Esporte, Orlando City SC star Kaka revealed he’s considering three options this winter: Extend his stay in Orlando, move to Sao Paulo FC, or retire.

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“(When I) finish a game you feel a lot of pain, the body begins to feel, so it’s not so much more pleasure,” Kaka said. “A kid plays today and tomorrow again. I’m 35, it takes longer to recover, it’s another rhythm. You feel the time is coming.”

Kaka has previously said that he would be open to signing a new contract with his current $6.6 million per year deal ending this December. He’s currently one of the highest paid players in MLS. Kaka’s scored six goals and added 4 assists in 22 games, but he’s missed time due to injury and Orlando City has already been eliminated from playoff contention for the third-straight season.

If he does retire, Kaka said he’d like to follow Zinedine Zidane’s example. Take a year off and then get into coaching.

“He paused, took a break, saw even if it was really what he loved, studied, took a course, started on the basis of category,” Kaka said. “I’m more on that side as well. Now, some people think you’re ready.”

Kaka’s signing marked another major notch on MLS’ belt in terms of bringing high-profile stars to the league, but he hasn’t been able to have the impact many in Orlando had hoped for. He’s accumulated 25 goals and 19 assists in 76 games in all competitions, but missing the playoffs three-straight years has been tough for fans to swallow, especially with the first-year success of Atlanta United this year as well as Seattle’s second-half turnaround to the title last year.

It would be fitting for Kaka to finish his career in Sao Paulo, where it all started. But it’s likely that if Kaka becomes a coach, we could see him again in the U.S. earning his way up as Patrick Vieira is doing now.

MLS All Star Game preview: Surprise us, please?

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I’ll just say it: I’d rather watch Real Madrid play almost any singular MLS playoff team in a friendly than spy Wednesday night’s MLS All Star Game in Chicago.

Realizing that it’s a terrific event for Chicago and not a bad thing for some younger All Stars hoping to catch the eye of new fans or suitors — cough, Miguel Almiron and Kellyn Acosta — I have a hard time thinking casual sports fans are aiming to lock themselves in for two hours or even 45 minutes of TV time.

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It’s not even particularly special for the All Stars themselves. Nemanja Nikolic played against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League last season. David Villa has lined up across from Real on numerous occasions, and the same can be said for Giovani dos Santos, Kaka, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Heck, ol’ Basti knocked Real out of the UCL, period:

So forgive me if my excitement level for watching the match on television is linked directly to my pleasure at having a live match to monitor during my PST shift (and for that early August opportunity, MLS, I applaud you). Now in person? Heck yes, live soccer!

I’m neither the fun police nor a hater of All Star Games in general, but honestly I think we’re past this.

Consider this same premise, but now conducted intra-league. Sure it’s going to be harder to fill up a giant venue, but you’re still talking about Kaka, Villa, Schweinsteiger, and Giovinco in the same building, a clarion call for MLS, soccer, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Italy, and American fans.

Now would I prefer Real vs. the MLS All Stars in a Best of Three super series with the All Stars given more than five minutes to train together? Sure.

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Would I sign up for an in-game gimmick that leads to must-see TV? Yeah, sure (How about: if the All Stars win, they get to actually participate as Real in the club’s first group stage game against a European minnow. Almiron, get ready to meet FC Astana of the Kazakhstan Premier League!).

I don’t blame MLS for having the event, but I’m far past the point of “This’ll be great.” And I think 99 percent of American soccer fans and a strong number of sports fans are past the point of needing primers on who Real Madrid is, or will be sold on this game “mattering” as some sort of MLS litmus test.

Major League Soccer is so, so much better than when Michael Parkhurst, a 2017 All Star, trotted out for the All Stars’ 2-0 win over Celtic in 2007. Much better. It’s even much improved from the highly-publicized waxings doled out by Manchester United in the 2010 and 2011 editions.

I get why Real Madrid wants to play the game and boost their global brand. I get why the host cities want in, and why MLS feels like “It ain’t broke so we won’t fix it.”

Yet as those of us who watch MLS regularly can often wonder how Toronto FC or New York City FC might fare in meaningful matches against low-tier teams from the Bundesliga, La Liga, or the Premier League, or as part of a ‘our best 20 versus your best 20’ showcase against the Football League Championship or 2.Bundesliga, I can guarantee you even the biggest MLS honk doesn’t think anything about this game merits projecting the result in a single meaningful way.

Pardon me for not shining my shoes.

Now I suppose this year is as good as any to project MLS All Stars rebounding from a loss to Arsenal to claim a fourth win in six years. The men are in better shape and form thanks to the unorthodox MLS season, Cristiano Ronaldo is not available, and Real didn’t exactly shrink from the weekend’s Stateside Clasico versus Barca.

Being one week from Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup Final against Manchester United in Macedonia, Zinedine Zidane will have his eye on putting his squad in well-oiled order, so perhaps that will provide more fire in Real’s belly.

Call it 3-2 to the All Stars, and we’ll see you in Astana.

MLS Snapshot: Kaka’s stunner spoiled late; ATL, ORL draw 1-1

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The game in 100 words (or less): Eight days ago, Atlanta United visited Orlando City SC and departed central Florida with three points, courtesy of Hector Villalba’s 86th-minute winner. On Saturday, Orlando so nearly returned the favor — invading their southeastern neighbors and walking out of Bobby Dodd Stadium with a 1-0 victory of their own, courtesy of Kaka’s 25-yard bomb five minutes before halftime; it would be Orlando’s lone shot on target all afternoon — but Villalba played the part of late-game hero for a second straight week, slipping behind the backline and equalizing in the 92nd minute. Miguel Almiron hit the post twice (in nine total shots). The point pushes Orlando to within two of sixth-place Columbus Crew SC, while Atlanta remain fourth, four points back of third-place New York City FC.

[ MORE: SKC trade Dwyer to ORL | Sigi back to LA | LAFC hire Bradley ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Almiron hits the post from 25 — Bendik probably has it covered if its on target, but he’ll be happy he didn’t have to make the save on this one.

39′ — Almiron hits woodwork again — More of the slick, outside-in counter-attacking we’ve come to know and love from Atlanta. Unfortunately for Tata Martino’s side, Almiron found nothing but (the other) post.

40′ — Kaka smashes from distance for 1-0 — The ensuing goal kick found Cyle Larin, who laid the ball off for Kaka, and the 2007 World Player of the Year knew what to do from there.

90+2′ — Villalba slips in, makes it 1-1 — He was so nearly offside as Yamil Asad played the final ball through, and Villalba hammered it home inside the near post to rescue a point.

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Man of the match: Miguel Almiron

Goalscorers: Kaka (40′), Villalba (90+2′)