Kaku celebrates his goal with his Red Bulls teammates. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — What a difference a few days can make.
Four days after using Alejandro Romero Gamarra — aka Kaku — as a substitute in the Red Bulls’ scoreless draw with Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, head coach Jesse Marsch says it is time to let the creative midfielder loose.
After Kaku’s brilliant performance in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact, it was never more apparent.
“This was Kaku’s best game by a mile,” Marsch said.
By a country mile and then some.
“You know, part of what I said that we’ve had — after the Chivas game I said we’ve missed steps,” Marsch added. “Some of it is to do with Kaku, that we’ve had to take more time to kind of continue to work him into things. But you know, now — Matt Harmon [Red Bulls radio] asked me before the game, is it time to take the handcuffs off? The answer’s yes.
“It’s time to let him go and understand and allow him to really fit into the group, and today I think he showed everyone, including himself, that he’s going to be a really good fit here and he’s going to be a big player here.”
Kaku demonstrated why with the way he touched the ball, passed it to teammates and of course, on how he drilled a Bradley Wright-Phillips feed past goalkeeper Evan Bush that lifted the host side into a 2-1 advantage in the 57th minute.
It was his second goal as a Red Bull, the first in Major League Soccer.
“What a great finish, right?” Marsch said. “It wasn’t easy because it came in kind of fast on him and he was compact but he just in a real clean way put the ball where it needed to go, so really good game from Kaku, really good.”
After watching Kaku play Saturday, Tuesday night was brought up. Many members of the media and fans second-guessed Marsch for not starting Kaku in the second leg of the semifinals, given his creativeness.
“When you see tonight, of course, well, everyone is going to say he should have played in Tuesday,” Marsch said. “That game was a very different game. Very different game. It was a game about them locking in on us, not having any space, about mobility, about movement up top, and so — and it’s not to say that Kaku couldn’t have fit in there and we couldn’t have helped him do certain thing. But we made that decision based on what we thought that game would require. And if he came in late, there might be more space and he might be able to make some plays and he almost did.”