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Kaku: The Art Of Nutmegging

RBNY’s poetically-minded playmaker sits down in Arizona with OaM’s own profe Juan Mesa to offer his thoughts on the aesthetics of soccer’s most devastating move

New York Red Bulls Vs Orlando City Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Since 2015 New York Red Bulls supporters have been spoiled with nutmegging artists on the field. It all started with Glen Cove’s son Mike Grella, who left us one for the ages when he megged Frank Lampard during a home Hudson Derby in 2015.

In 2018, the club spent a club record transfer fee to bring in Alejandro Romero Gamarra, the Argentine-born Paraguay international better known by now as Kaku, whose first pass in MLS was a nutmeg.

At a hotel nestled in the foothills north of Tucson for RBNY’s preseason camp, I had the privilege to sit down with Kaku to talk about the art of tirar caños, as Argentines call nutmegging, as well as the upcoming season and why New York fans should pray for technology that can make Bradley Carnell 25 years younger...

MLS: New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Mesa: Is nutmegging your favorite play in soccer?

Kaku: Yes, it’s the one that I like the most. People remember you because of it. I want to nutmeg at least once during a game. You know, rival players come to you quick, tired, they don’t know their legs are open and I just take advantage of it. And it’s something I practice. Every day I look at my teammates when they walk to see if there is any opening, and I try to nutmeg them.

JM: Is this something you have been doing since you were a kid?

Kaku: I used to play with my brothers, they are good players, all lefties. When we played together it was about who gets to do more nutmegs or who nutmegs more during games.

JM: What about the coaches? Did they encourage you to nutmeg people when you were in the youth system?

Kaku: When I was in the academy (at Buenos Aires club Huracán) I had a coach that wanted me to have fun, and nutmeg as much as I wanted, but when I made the first team I tried nutmegging the coach and he got mad. He told me that I shouldn’t be doing those things because he was the boss. I told him that it was just a game. He was walking, and I tried to find a space between his legs. It’s something that is cool with me, but for others is not so cool. But Chris [Armas] doesn’t get mad if try to do it on him, for example.

New York Red Bulls Vs Toronto FC Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

JM: Growing up, which players did you admire for their nutmegs?

Kaku: Andrés D’Alessandro, the Internacional de Porto Alegre player. He used to have this play in which he would step on the ball, pull it back, and when the defender would stretch out his leg, he would slowly pass the ball between the defender legs. Another player was (former Argentine international Juan) Roman Riquelme, he had some beautiful caños.

JM: Is there a part of the field where is easier to nutmeg?

Kaku: Wide on the field. It’s easier there because the players want to win ball quickly for them to have a counter. They come desperate so a pass between their legs is good way to release the pressure.

JM: And once is done, you are in a better position as well, right?

Kaku: Yes, that happened in my first game against NYCFC. They all came to the side of the field to pressure us and we passed them with a nutmeg.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

JM: What would be the step-by-step guide to nutmegging?

Kaku: The first thing is to control the ball well. It’s the most important part because if you have good control you will have more time than the rival player. Then you feint with your waist, and finish with a smooth pass between the legs.

JM: And after the ball passes…

Kaku: Whoever plays number eight should be there ready to receive a pass, when you nutmeg, it is because you know a teammate will be there on the other side.

JM: Interesting that you see this moment of individual brilliance as a team work play...

Kaku: Yes, I see it like that. When I nutmeg I could be making a through ball that can lead to a three against two situation.

JM: How do you feel when you are the victim of a nutmeg?

Kaku: It hurts because I feel how it should feel when I do it. During one of our training sessions, Bradley Carnell (the South African assistant coach), who plays with us in practice, nutmegged me and even worse it was recorded on video. The video hurt me more because they showed it to all later (laughs.)

JM: So Bradley Carnell still is a good player…

Yes, not for nothing he played in Europe for so long, especially for the way he controls the ball, his intelligence, we learn a lot from him.