If you follow Orlando City on social media, since Thursday your twitter feed has blown up with panic and hand-wringing over Kaka's call-up by the Brazilian national team for some friendly matches. Some so-called fans are losing their alleged minds with worry if Kaka would accept the call-up while the club is in the middle of a playoff push. Others seem to be hinting at some sort of conspiracy theory by the powers that be in MLS to keep yet another expansion team out of the playoffs.
I'm a bit more philosophical. A decade or more ago there was a syndicated show on local sports radio hosted by someone who called herself "The Fabulous Sports Babe," and she always took short shrift with callers who whined about teams losing important games or missing the playoffs due to an injury to a player, a bad call by a ref, or some other single pivotal moment or individual. Her refrain was always the same: "score more points!" If you scored more points then the bad call by the ref would be irrelevant. If you scored more points then the injury or ejection of that player wouldn't make a difference.
As far as I'm concerned that's what a lot of Orlando City fans need to remember. Kaka's call-up would take him out of only one match, and that is a match in the seventh month of an eight-month regular season. Orlando City finds themselves fighting for their playoff lives at this point in the season because they have failed to score more points when they had the chance in many matches throughout the season. If we look back to the early part of the year when the lads gave up late goals in stoppage time to lose all the points at home, and if we look at more recent efforts like the failure to put any goals in the net against the worst defensive team in the league last weekend against Philadelphia. And we could talk about many more matches in between where the club failed to take any or all of the points that they should have taken.
The bottom line is that one player--even a former Ballon d'Or winner like Kaka--being gone for one match is not the critical deciding factor in the team getting into the playoffs. If the club was not able to accumulate enough points throughout the season to make it comfortably into the playoffs, then none of our fans have the right to blame Kaka or cry foul at the Brazilian national team for calling him up for matches at this point in the season. Instead we should celebrate that Kaka has been selected to represent his country, and understand that it's a milestone not only for our club but for the league as a whole. According to a story on MLS.com, it's a rare privilege for the MLS to have one of their own players called up by Brazil, whose national team owns more World Cup trophies than any other nation.
So could Kaka's absence from the club hurt Orlando City's chances to make the playoffs? Of course it could--but no more than the absence of players like Brek Shea and Kevin Molino for injury for a number of months, and no more than the club's failure to get results in a number of matches that they simply gave away at many times during the season. Making the playoffs is a season-long effort. Any fan who wants to point a finger at one player for one match and try to pin the blame on that for jeopardizing the team's chances needs to just remember the words of the Sports Babe and just, "Score more points!"