For the past five years, the Vancouver Whitecaps have been on an upward trend. After their abysmal debut season in 2011, the boys in white have been get- ting slowly but steadily better. The past season the Whitecaps were a defensive juggernaut, letting in the least amount of goals in the league. What prevented a run at the MLS cup, though, was their inability to score up front. Coach Carl Robinson addressed that issue over the winter break by signing Japanese striker Masato Kudo.
Kudo’s previous club was Kashiwa Reysol, in Japan’s J.League. Though this team is probably not a household name here in Canada, the J.League is one of the strongest leagues in Asia, and has produced a plethora of talent over the years. In 2011, Kudo was a big part of Kashiwa Reysol capturing the league title, and Whitecaps fans will be hoping that Kudo can replicate that win- ning form here on the west coast.
Kudo’s stats definitely deserve kudos. In 189 games, he has scored 66 goals, for an average of just over one goal every three games. If he could continue that from here, it would really help solidify Vancou- ver’s attack, and give some needed experience to the Caps’ up and coming forwards such as Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero.
When it comes to players from the other side of the Pa- cific, the Vancouver Whitecaps have a long history of success- ful signings. The most prolific player of Asian descent to play for Vancouver was Y.P Lee. A legend back in his home country of South Korea, he was part of the national team that came fourth in the 2002 World Cup. In his prime, he played for European giants such as PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, and Borussia Dortmund before signing on with the Whitecaps. The first Asian player to play for Vancouver was China’s Long Tan back in 2011. In fact was the first ever Chinese-born player to play in the MLS. More recently, Iran’s Steven Beitashour was a solid part of Vancouver’s back line before being traded to Toronto FC this offseason.
The Asian country most represented for Vancouver is actually Masuto Kudo’s home nation of Japan. Tokyo born Jun Marques Davidson played 50 games for the Whitecaps in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, before moving on to play for Carolina and eventually in the Thai Premier League. A Vancouver alumnus who still plies his trade in the MLS is Daigo Kobayashi, who, after playing for the Whitecaps in 2013, was traded to the New England Revolution and remains a key part of their squad.
No other team in the MLS has had as many players from Asia as Vancouver, with six. In the past most of these signings were integral parts of the team, and Masato Kudo will be looking to add on to these previous successes. Right in the prime of his career at 25 years old and with a long history of goal scoring, he just might be the spark that sets off the Vancouver Whitecaps on their best year yet.