New York Red Bulls Kaku
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo, Getty Images

Ahead of a crucial season, the New York Red Bulls need the brilliance of a star playmaker for the team to revolve around. It’s Kaku’s time.

Onz Chery

With everything that happened in 2019, Alejandro “Kaku” Romero’s relationship with the New York Red Bulls was just destined to end. He even tweeted: “Don’t give up, sometimes the last key is the one that opens the door” when New York didn’t grant him his wish to join Mexican powerhouse Club America last year in January.

He kicked the ball at a Sporting Kansas City fan in April. The fans had enough and wanted him out. Some even predicted that the team was going to get rid of him after the incident. RBNY head coach, Chris Armas, didn’t include him in his game-day roster in the team’s outing versus San Jose Earthquakes early last season because of an “internal issue.”

Most of the episodes of The Kaku Saga foreshadowed one grand finale: “Kaku is out.”

Plot-twist, he finished last season with the Red Bulls. And he stayed with them during this offseason, one in which the team did a major clean-up and some players’ wishes to leave the team were granted.

Who would’ve thought that the Red Bulls would’ve parted ways with their former captain Luis Robles before Kaku? New York’s all-time leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips is gone too. All-star left back, Kemar Lawrence, openly said he wanted to leave the team during the offseason and now he’s in Belgium now with RSC Anderlecht.

Amir Murillo is in Anderlecht with Lawrence. Derrick Etienne Jr. is with the Columbus Crew. It was just departures after departures. But the one guy who was destined to leave the team a couple of times is still at Red Bull Arena—Kaku. And he’s here in a tough time, when things aren’t looking too promising on paper.

Some of the players who left New York were valuable to the team as Lawrence and Robles. The club didn’t bring in any blockbuster signings to replace the players who left—expect for Josh Sims, but he’s with RBNY on loan. The Red Bulls don’t have the most alluring roster, some MLS fans even joked and said they mistook RBNY for a USL roster.

Despite that, Kaku still wanted to wear New York’s jersey this season—he does look good in the new black and red jersey. There wasn’t a drop of Kaku transfer saga this offseason. There weren’t any poetic tweets that were clearly conveying that he wanted to flee.

Instead, there were plain and simple tweets of him wanting to be with the Red Bulls:

Kaku is still a Red Bull. He’s happy to be one and he needs to be their superstar more than ever. None of the soccer experts on the Red Bulls’ season preview via predicted the team to finish higher than in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Metros’ supporters aren’t too hopeful either.

New Jersey desperately needs a star. Aaron Long is one of the best defenders in the league. Exactly, he’s a defender, he’s not there to score that game-winning goal or start it with a decisive pass. Sims is a Premier League winger, but he’s here on loan, meaning that if he performs well, he might go back to his mother team, Southampton F.C. or elsewhere in Europe.

The strikers—Mathias Jorgensen, Brian White, and Tom Barlow—have shown promise, but not enough to expect them to be the face of the team during this early stage of their careers.

Daniel Royer is a consistent scorer and assist man but he’s a winger, not someone who will be the heartbeat of the midfield.

And that’s what the Red Bulls needed last season: creativity in the midfield, someone who will play a killer pass, someone who’s brave enough to pull the strings high in the midfield for the team to have a rhythm in the final third. Someone who’s confident enough to take players on, score goals when needed late in games or send one of his teammates on goal.

That’s Kaku in a nutshell, he’s a South American No. 10. He has it in him, that’s why the Red Bulls fought to bring him to New Jersey. The 25-year-old has proven that he can be the No. 10 New York needs him to be: one of the best in the MLS.

Kaku had an assist and three shots in his first MLS game with New York. In his third month with the club, May 2018, the South American racked up seven assists in four straight games. But he hasn’t been the most consistent player and his passion takes control, sometimes leading to internal conflicts.

But, as noted, he’s happy to be with the Red Bulls. A happy player is likely to perform at his best or close to it.

Unlike the Red Bulls fans and the MLS analysts, the players have high hopes for this season. There’s something exciting in the air, and that should never be taken for granted, even if the team has a weak roster.

No. 10 is one of the key components in turning that excitement into success on the pitch. Kaku needs play to his potential consistently—without any off-the-field drama—and it starts on Sunday in the Red Bulls’ season opener versus F.C. Cincinnati home at RBA at 1 p.m. ET.

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.