In his first MLS season with the New York Red Bulls, Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra has taken the league by storm. Despite now being a Paraguay international, he made a name for himself in his native Argentina with Huracán before moving to the East Coast in December. At Huracán he was part of the side that won the Copa and Supercopa Argentina in 2014.

Since his move to the States, he’s been nothing short of amazing. He’s able to play across the three behind the striker but is often most effective as a 10. This has been reflected in his performances as he’s racked up a league-high 10 assists in 2018. In his 19 MLS games he’s also chipped in with three goals, but here’s why he’s such a prolific assister.

Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
Heatmap sourced from wyscout.

As you can see above, Kaku spends most of his time where you would call, in between the lines. This makes him hard to pick up for opposition markers but his skill also allows him to operate at a high level in these positions. Here’s how.

Finding Space Between The Lines

It’s all well and good that he spends most of his time in between the lines, but if Kaku wasn’t actually finding space there, it’d be pointless. Kaku is a great thinker on the pitch and isn’t scared to dictate what happens on the pitch to help his side gain small advantages, here’s an example of how:

Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
As Murrilo moves forward, Kaku instructs the deeper midfielder to advance before dropping and calling for the ball.
Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
The midfielder’s forward run puts the highlighted DC United defender in two minds. This hesitation creates a massive space for Kaku to receive the ball in.
Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
Kaku hasn’t just created space for himself on the ball. Now with the DC backline out of shape, this creates a passing lane in behind for Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Communication is key in any position, but here we saw Kaku is clearly in tune with his midfield partners and is able to turn his visions into reality very quickly. With this being the case, Kaku and his teammates earn more time to work their magic and get closer to goal.

Chemistry & Delivery

Most of Kaku’s assists for the Red Bulls this season have come from the highlighted area on his heatmap. A fair few of these assists have come from crosses too thanks to Kaku’s ability to identify and attack spaces.

Its also fair to say that a key part in the amount of assists Kaku has made is the chemistry he’s build with his frontline and Bradley Wright-Phillips in particular. This partnership is clear for everyone to see as six of Kaku’s 11 assists in all competitions have been for BWP and helped him reach the 100 MLS goal tally a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s an example of Kaku’s intelligence to find the space and his delivery once in the space:

Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
As Davis drops back, Kaku spots all the New England defenders are ball watching. He makes an almost unstoppable third man into the space where he can be dangerous.
Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
Kaku’s third man run pays off as Fagúndez follows the ball to Davis, therefore giving him less time to catch Kaku.
Alejandro ‘Kaku’ Romero Gamarra New York Red Bulls MLS Tactical Analysis
The extra seconds help Kaku as Fagúndez can’t reach him in time. In the position he’s most effective, he play an inch perfect ball to BWP in behind for another assist.

Here we saw the almost telepathic nature of Kaku and BWP’s partnership. As a player who likes to get in behind, BWP is a dream for Kaku to work with as he is able to pick him out in those spaces for fun. In this sequence Kaku also shows how much of an impact he can have in between the lines as his decision making and skill created that goal.

Summary

The signing of Kaku for this MLS has proven to be a great one. New York Red Bulls currently sit 2nd in the Eastern Conference just four points behind Atlanta United with two games in hand and he’s had a massive part to play in that.

Should the Red Bulls go on and make it to the play offs, something they probably will do, I reckon Kaku will continue to flourish and be one of the players to make a difference for them. With BWP alongside him they may even lead the Red Bulls to their first MLS Cup.

Although at the moment, Kaku’s presence is great for the Red Bulls at the moment, this could change. I wouldn’t be surprised to see in the next year or two, some European clubs sniffing around for the 23 year old. However, as a league that is still trying to be considered equal to the European leagues, if this happens it could help convince more people to take an interest in MLS, much like the Alphonso Davies deal.

For now anyway, Kaku is the Red Bulls’ to enjoy so watch his space and see him rack up even more assists this year in MLS.