Sebastian Giovinco Versus Kaka: The Great MLS Debate

We like to call them the great bar debates. Everyone has had one. Two friends at a bar kicking back a few cold ones and debating the ‘big’ topics of the day. Now the term ‘big’ should be used loosely because rarely are important topics like religion, politics, or Donald Trump’s hair discussed. More often it is topics The Rolling Stones versus The Beatles, movies, or great beers being discussed. Sports are also a big topic of discussion (apparently bars like to show matches. The rumor is that there is money to be made out of it).

In Major League Soccer there is perhaps no greater bar debate going on right now than that of Kaka versus Sebastian Giovinco. Two of the biggest signings in the MLS off-season both players have paid off immeasurably for Orlando City SC and Toronto FC. Half-way through the MLS season, both Designated Players have their teams in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference and have their  supporters thinking of greater glory.

Perhaps what makes the debate so fascinating is that the players play very similar positions. Although Giovinco is more of an attacking midfielder than a center-midfielder like Kaka, both players are extremely instrumental in their club’s attack. Giovinco has scored 8 goals and tallied 6 assists in his 2015 campaign for Toronto while Kaka has netted 5 goals but hit 10 assists.

Last night was a perfect example of what each player brings to their team. In Toronto FC’s 3-1 victory over the Montreal Impact, Giovinco assisted on Michael Bradley’s goal in the 27th minute and added a penalty kick goal in the 82nd minute.

Meanwhile in the Sunshine state, Kaka would put away the Colorado Rapids with an absolute clinical strike. Credit also to midfielder Cristian Higuita with the well-timed pass.

As an attacking midfielder Giovinco has found his greatest success making the diagonal run on the attack aimed at disrupting the structure of the opponent’s back four. By breaking in between the right and right-center back he breaks open that left side of the defense which can either be used to either rip a shot off of either foot or to find center-forward Jozy Altidore with a goal. That is what makes Giovinco such an exceptional talent.

His attitude also seems to have taken with the rest of the squad. While he is certainly not Toronto FC’s first Designated Player signing nor their most famous he has been one of their most effective. Although his addition as well as that of Jozy Altidore were significant they did not come with all of the hoops, bells, and whistles of that of Bradley, Jermain Defoe, and Julio Cesar. Flying under the radar seems to have worked for TFC with the club in fourth place in the Eastern Conference (7-6-1, 22 points).

The same can be said for Kaka. While Giovinco was expected to succeed on some level with Toronto FC due to his age, Kaka was more of an unknown quantity. It is through no fault of Kaka but because of his age and injury history, the spotty track record of prominent Brazilians coming to MLS (Denilson, anyone?) and that Orlando City SC is an expansion team there were more questions with regards to him coming to MLS. Of course it does not help that the league downplayed Orlando City entering the league and harped on New York City FC’s arrival.

Kaka has proved his doubters wrong, often at times putting an injury-ravaged squad on his back to achieve results. As a center-midfielder he has often had to play the roles of play-maker, coach, and teacher all at the same time on the pitch. But through his wizardry at making plays in small spaces and maintaining possession during critical moments Orlando has overcome those injury woes and now find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference (6-6-5, 23 points).

Much like Gionvinco in Toronto with Altidore, Kaka has helped those around them improve and gain confidence. Although Giovinco had a bit of a different task with a more polished Altidore, Kaka has had to work with some young, raw prospects. Players like Cyle Larin (who scored last night,) Bryan Rochez, and Carlos Rivas have all taken their lumps this season and seem to be turning the page at just the right time.

So who is the more important player for their team? It is really a tough call. Both players are integral to what their teams do on the attack and both seem to elevate the play of those around them.

Here is the good news: the two get to play each two more times this season in August, once in Orlando City and once in Toronto. Who will come out on top? Who do you think is the important player for their squad? Give us your thoughts below!