Alejandro Romero Gamarra enjoyed a successful MLS debut for the Red Bulls. (Photo by Matthew Levine)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — In his first Major League Soccer start for the Red Bulls, Alejandro Romero Gamarra certainly got his kicks.
His pass set up the opening goal in New York’s 4-0 rout of the Portland Timbers in its season opener at Red Bull Arena Saturday night.
As it turned out, the midfielder aka Kaku also discovered he wasn’t kicked as much as he had been in his native country.
If the talented Argentine midfield lives up to the hype, he should expect that that to change this season. But then again, that comes with the territory when you are a key player.
“To be honest, it’s very different because over there, I had to play out wide and there wasn’t a lot of space,” Kaku said through an interpreter. “You get kicked a lot more. There is more space here and I’m playing more on the inside.”
There is little question about Kaku’s attacking capabilities. His No. 1 priority these days is adapting to the Red Bulls’ pressing defense and his overall defensive responsibilities.
“Little by little, I’m adapting to Jesse’s system, what he wants on the field and to my teammates,” he said of head coach Jesse Marsch.
“You have to help out your team.”
Marsch has liked what he has seen.
“Listen, everyone here knows that Kaku is a great player,” he said. “The best part for me is that every day he’s trying to figure out how to fit into our system, how to now understand what we do a little bit clearer. … This game versus the second Olimpia game, he looks like more of a Red Bull player. He looks more — fits into the tactics more.”
The Red Bulls head coach was referring to the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 series.
“We’re only three weeks into our time with him and we know that it’s only going to get bigger and bigger and better and better,” Marsch said. “So the excitement of his ease of slowing plays down, of seeing final plays, of setting the next attacker up, is very, very good, and we feel like that will fit really well with what we do. ”
For the most part, Kaku looked comfortable on the pitch, running the hosts’ attack.
Eighteen minutes into the match, he made his greatest impact, sending a Derrick Etienne, Jr. feed to forward Ben Mines, who converted on the right side of the goalkeepers’ mouth for the Red Bulls’ first goal.
“The whole play on the first goal was fantastic but his pass was spot on,” Marsch said.