This time last year, fans around the Whitecaps were touting the potential impact of their technically gifted Japanese important, Daigo Kobayashi. Today, Kobayashi’s Vancouver adventure ended, with New England giving up a fourth round draft pick to acquire the 31-year-old.
Kobayashi was already training with the Revolution, so the final destination isn’t much of a surprise, but given the hopes attached to the midfielder after his winter 2013 arrival, the move’s worth some reflection. Though it’s always difficult to tell how players will adapt to Major League Soccer, some projected Kobayashi’s skill to translate into one of the league’s better creative presences. Throughout the 2013 season, however, Kobayashi never validated those hopes, scoring twice and registering four assists during 30 appearances (21 starts).
“Daigo is a good person and player but we just didn’t see a spot for him on the team moving forward,” Carl Robinson, the teams new head coach, said in a club statement sent out by the team. “We wish him the best of luck in New England.”
With former Toronto midfielder Matias Laba landing in Vancouver, spots in the Whitecaps midfield become precious. Nigel Reo-Coker seems destined to start in the pivot, with the young Argentine likely to partner him in front of the defense. Kenny Miller and Russell Teibert give Robinson two players capable of starting above that pair, with Gershon Koffie another player worthy of minutes (and this is before we even get to the pure depth guys).
So there was no room in Vancouver, but if you’re inclined to see Kobayashi as a starter-level talent, the fit in New England is a curious one. But given the importance Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe have in Jay Heaps’ set up, the acquisition makes sense in terms of depth. Both Nguyen and Rowe are skill first, middle-of-the-park creators. With Kobayashi’s acquisition, New England has insurance should either go down, not to mention somebody who came fill in wide in New England the 4-1-4-1 formation Heaps used last season.
“Daigo is a technically gifted player who fits into our system well,” Michael Burns, New England’s general manager, said as his team announced the deal. “He assimilated well with our club when he was in Tucson with us, and we are looking forward to his return to the club soon.”
With all the comings and going of talents being imported into Major League Soccer, it’s always interesting to see how quickly reputations are made and revised. With home fans having developing the earliest investment in new players, it makes sense that so many arrivals see hopes transcend realistic expectations.
On a talented Vancouver team, that’s what happened with Kobayashi – a player how hasn’t been a prolific attacking force since his time in Norway in 2009. With Martin Rennie no longer on the sidelines for the Whitecaps, Kobayashi was always destined to land someplace new.