It appears that the Vancouver Whitecaps have added to their striker contingent with Kashiwa Reysol of the J-League confirming that Masato Kudo has been transferred to the team, pending a medical physical. The signing is a bit out-of-the-box for Carl Robinson as he has a preference for Central and South American. On the other hand, this signing also speaks to the creative methods Robbo will go to improve the club.
*edit* The Whitecaps have now also confirmed the signing. More info can be found here. Kudo comes on a free transfer. A nice 'steal' for the Caps as transfers can heavily impact signings given the salary cap restrictions.
Kudo is a 25-year-old Japanese striker who stands 5 ft 9 in. He has played at Kashiwa Reysol since 2009 and has scored 66 goals in 185 appearances; although, his strike rate has dipped in the previous two years, with 11 goals in 45 appearances in 2014 and 16 goals in 43 appearances in 2015. He has also suited up for the Japanese National Team four times since 2013, scoring twice. In 2011, Kudo and Kashiwa Reysol also played in the FIFA Club World Cup, where Kudo scored in the quarter-finals match against Auckland City. That year Kashiwa Reysol reached the third-place match, losing to Al-Sadd on penalties.
It can be difficult to ascertain how a player will fit into a club when they come from another league, and it will be interesting to see how the Japanese player acclimatizes to the clearly South American locker room. However, at 25 Kudo is not a wide-eyed youth and Vancouver should feel quite comfortable for him given the Asian influence in the city. Despite the difficulties in translating skillsets between leagues, we do know a little bit about Kudo. He is a quick, agile player, who seems to have the ability to put some space between himself and the defender. He also appears to be skilled with the ball at his feet, something that cannot be said about some of the past few options at striker! Given the preference last season for the Whitecaps to play through the midfield and try to setup a shot, Kudo’s ability to dribble through defenders could prove to be quite beneficial.
Kudo is great in the air with a deadly accurate head. Have a look at the video package (around 1 minute) and you will see two powerful headers, with the first occurring in traffic and the second coming from a cross in the deep corner. Given his shorter stature, it is unclear whether this will translate as smoothly to MLS. Nevertheless, with the Jordans (Harvey and Smith) manning the fullback positions, Kudo should have plenty of opportunities for getting his head on a few balls; aided by his speed and agility.
Kudo is also both-footed. When you move away from the top-tier leagues, you find players heavily favoring one foot or the other. How many times do you remember being frustrated by Hurtado, Mattocks, and even Techera because they did not take the shot when they had the opportunity as it was not on their ‘favourite’ foot? While Kudo is right-footed, he looks happy to pull the trigger with either foot and appears adept at scoring with both. Although Manneh can score with either foot, this ‘ability’ has been missing from the striker position since the departure of Camilo.
It is unclear right now how Kudo will be utilized by the Whitecaps. Last year Robbo had a clear preference for the one-striker formation. I am hoping that he moves away from this setup and employs a two-striker front more regularly. I believe that the speed and agility of Kudo will play well with the strength and ball-control of Rivero. If the Whitecaps can retain Techera, a front of Manneh, Morales/Mezquida, Techera, Kudo, and Rivero is quite deadly. With the Whitecaps once again playing across three competitions this season, there will be plenty of minutes to go around and so we should not see any problems with playing time.
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