Kaka still adapting to life in MLS, while helping teammates with 'bad habits'

SAN JOSE, California -- Orlando City midfielder Kaka said that playing in Major League Soccer has required him to be more patient, even as he tries to help his teammates correct "bad habits."

The one-time Ballon d'Or winner is now in his third season with the Lions, but previously played with teams like AC Milan, Real Madrid and Brazil's national team and Kaka said that he's had to adapt his game in the U.S.

"I had to change a lot," he said in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC. "Sometimes I want to participate in the game more, so I have to go back to our defenders to get the ball. Or I have to wait to get the ball because the midfielders cannot get the ball to me because the lines are so close.

"But now, in two years, I've been working on that, to be more calm, and wait for the right moment. There are some games where I have to run and run and then wait for the right moment. A lot of games in the last two years, I get impatient.

"I think the end of last season, and the start of this season, I'm trying to play in this way more, to be more patient. I feel like it's working very good. Now I have better choices, I can make better decisions."

That Orlando is much improved this season has helped Kaka's cause. The club failed to make the playoffs in their first two years of existence, but are off to a 6-3-1 start, good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference. And while the Brazilian missed the first two months of the season with a hamstring injury he sustained in the season opener, he's scored three times since his return.

"We had a very good start, but I think we have a lot of things to improve," he said. "Right now, we are 60, 70 percent of what we can achieve. I think this team, this group, can make a lot of progress this season. I think we are almost there."

As for the league itself, Kaka noted how much MLS has grown, with the arrival of new teams and new stadiums. He's seen the on-field product evolve as well.

"I think the level is growing," he said. "A lot of good players are coming. Now we have Atlanta with good players, a good coach; Minnesota as well. But Atlanta is doing well. They have an important coach [in Tata Martino]. He coached in Europe, in Argentina. This kind of things shows me things are changing.

"The technical level that you see, it's different. In these three years I can see this kind of thing change, and also how the teams are behaving on the field; the shapes, the tactics. This is something that is increasing and growing as well."

Kaka added that the level is high enough that when combined with the league's athleticism, it can come as a shock to players who come from abroad.

"Sometimes, I think players come from Europe who were with big clubs and were big players, and I think a lot of them underestimate the league and the players," he said. "But when they arrive here, they see that this league is very competitive and very tough. You have to run as well to play good."

Kaka also spoke highly of manager Jason Kreis, and noted that there are moments when the World Cup-winner tries to impart some wisdom to his teammates as well.

"Most of the players, they listen, but sometimes it's difficult to change habits, because most of them have a lot of bad habits," he said. "Sometimes it's not easy to change that, but every day, every training, repeating the exercises, I say, 'It may be boring, but I think it works.' We repeat the same thing a lot of times, this is the way to change some habits."