When the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City battled it out to a 2-2 draw in league action, there was well over ninety minutes of action. But it seems the only thing people are talking about is a stoppage time moment of frustration that sent shockwaves across MLS.
Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, angered after not receiving a pass, kicked the ball out of the bounds and into the stands at Children’s Mercy Park, where it struck a fan seated in the front row. The action earned Kaku a red card following a scuffle between the teams that also resulted in yellow cards for the Red Bulls captain Luis Robles and Sporting’s Krisztian Nemeth.
This is just the latest installment in what has become a saga over Kaku’s tenure with Red Bull New York. When it was first rumored that he would be signed from Club Atletico Huracan in Argentina, fans were excited for the addition. Kaku is a Young Designated Player with the price tag to go with it. He spent the first part of his rookie season with the team smiling through training sessions and trying to nutmeg everyone in sight. He and his toddler son Milo received cheers after every match, with coach Jesse Marsch stumbling through his Spanish to direct his path.
Kaku’s productivity has stalled since Chris Armas has become the RBNY manager. He goes wide with Sean Davis controlling the center of the pitch, and doesn’t disrupt the early attack the way Alex Muyl does. He sees players like Marc Rzatkowski and Cristian Casseres Jr. vie for spots in the starting XI. Add to that a three-game slide for the team and a one-game suspension for himself for what Armas referred to as “an internal issue,” and the frustration builds.
Triste cuando te das cuenta, que no eres tan importante como lo creías— kaku (@kakuromero17) March 13, 2019
This is not the first time Kaku has kicked the ball away from the field in frustration, nor is he the only player on the team to do so. But the stakes have risen with the injury to the fan. The rest of the team on the field at the end of the match personally greeted the injured fan, who also received the game jersey from Sporting KC’s Andreu Fontas.
The New York Red Bulls have issued the following statement in response to the incident:
“The New York Red Bull organization does not condone the type of behavior displayed near the end of Sunday night’s match in Kansas City. We hold everyone in our organization to a high standard of conduct. The matter will continued to be discussed internally and we will have no further comment at this time.”
Prior to the season, rumors swirled about interest in Kaku at Club America in Liga MX, citing the difficulty his family has had visiting him in the US. Similar to the hype from RBNY fans, tweets from Club America fans praised the potential move.
Similar tweets continue despite the deal falling through. The Red Bulls reportedly set Kaku’s price at $12 million, double the amount they paid Huracan. Mexican media and Kaku’s agent further muddied the waters, implying Kaku felt mistreated and generally unhappy in New York.
Kaku tallied his first assist for 2019 in the match against SKC, when his cross found Brian White’s head for the go-ahead goal. Overall, his play Sunday night looked more inspired than any match in 2019 so far, but the late dismissal paints Kaku in a poor light.
This red card incident can be a turning point for Kaku. The MLS Disciplinary Committee (known as DisCo) will hand down his official league punishment this week. He is expected to receive a multi-game suspension.
The player and the team need to take this time to re-assess how the remainder of the season will look. Will another team or another league try to snap up the 23-year-old International in the summer transfer window? Has any of this affected his price tag? Or will Kaku decide to make the best of his situation and reaffirm his loyalty to the Red Bulls in a measurable way on the pitch? Time will tell.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography