Daigo Kobayashi

Goal-starved New England looking to add offense on “international scouting trip”

Leave a comment

With one point through three matches and exactly zero goals on the season, the New England Revolution continue to search for offensive production.

We’re not just talking about on-field scoring from new blood like Teal Bunbury and Daigo Kobayashi, rather using New England’s two available roster sports on starters… even stars.

Revs general manager Michael Burns:

“We still have two roster spots to go and that’s without making any other additional moves. So we’re still looking for another midfielder and we’re still looking for another forward.”

“We’re not just looking for guys that we think are going to be role guys. We’re trying to find another player or two that we think can come in and be a starter.”

Burns, the 75-times capped USMNT defender, told the Revs site that his staff is out on an “international scouting trip” this week, but declined to give specifics on the regions or players being scoured for talent.

The Revs only Designated Player is Honduras’ Jerry Bengtson, so it’s not ridiculous for Revs fans to dream big (though obviously there are limitations given the March date).

Daigo Kobayashi has a new home, traded from Vancouver to New England

2 Comments

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.

Why Martin Rennie failed in Vancouver … and a warning for the Whitecaps:

4 Comments

Martin Rennie just proved that it takes more than a good soccer mind to get it right in MLS.

Rennie knows the game and always seemed equipped with the tactical acumen to make some hay in MLS. He had certainly done so previously in domestic soccer’s lower tiers with the Carolina Railhawks.

But Xs and Os only work when a manager gets the personnel calls right, and that was Rennie’s failing.

You never quite know who might be pulling strings behind the scenes (or who is chiefly shaping the roster at a larger level). Either way, Rennie’s choices really were all over the road, sometimes with little logic behind them. (Or, perhaps, without transparency. And if a manager isn’t communicating his thoughts on why fill-in-the-blank plays here instead of there, or why Tommy gets the start instead of Timmy, we can only assume that he’s playing hunches or hatching half-baked plans).

Player selection really is where it begins and ends with managers. It’s not “tactics” so much as identifying the tactics that best fit the personnel. It’s really about picking the right guys and then setting them up for success. And that’s where Rennie never quite seemed to get it right in Vancouver.

(MORE: Rennie is out after two years with the Whitecaps)

There’s a lot of young talent around BC Place, for instance – but also questions aplenty about why we didn’t see a little more of them, a little more Russell Tiebert or Kekuta Manneh or others in 2013?

We saw Darren Mattocks in and out of the lineup, too. Perhaps it’s not Rennie’s fault, exactly, but the young forward’s upside seems so tantalizingly vast – and you wonder if it is being developed properly?

And then there’s Gershon Koffie, who has so much promise – but curiously started just 21 games this year. Plus, shifting midfield roles never quite allowed the 22-year-old Ghanaian settle into a comfortable groove.

When the right guys were on the field, there were too many times when they just didn’t seem to find the right placements. Creatively inclined Daigo Kobayashi needed to be in the middle; by the time he finally got there, it was too late. (Rennie lost fan support and probably damaged his relationship with upper management by not offering a credible explanation for that one.)

Nigel Reo-Coker seemed well suited for the center of the park, or for a slightly offset role, where he spent most of the year. But right back? He didn’t play there much, but he did sometimes look like a fish out of water when assigned to that less suitable role.

Like so many of Rennie’s choice, it just looked … weird. A Premier League midfielder, asked to play at right back? Surely there was a better way around that one, a better way to keep Reo-Coker closer to his strongest role?

source:
Darren Mattocks … seven goals as a rookie in 2012, but just three for the speedy young forward in 2013.

Injuries definitely affected the bottom line, particularly the crusher to inspirational center back Jay DeMerit just minutes into the 2013 season.

Then again, every team deals with injuries. What every team doesn’t do is fade toward the end. In 2012, the Whitecaps were a healthy 9-5-5 on July 20 (even without DeMerit). They finished on a 2-8-5 slide.

This year, Rennie’s bunch was 7-3-5 in late June. They finished on a 5-9-4 slide.

When a team finishes going the wrong way once, it might be an accident. Two in a row is starting to look like an uncomfortable trend. Enough of the ownership, apparently divided on this choice, according to reports, was apparently convinced so.

In a league built on parity, maximizing the talent on hand is the bottom line. Possible catchy MLS managers’ mantra: “Use it wise if you want to survive.”

All that said, here is the warning: The Whitecaps are about to be on their fourth manager … hardly a convincing track record for a club just finishing its third MLS season.

Teitur Thordarson didn’t last long enough, about three months into his first season as an MLS coach, to make even half the league stops. (Too bad, too … Utah is vastly underrated as an MLS destination!)  Tom Soehn became interim manager; but it’s always awkward with the technical director fires the coach and then names himself as replacement, even if it’s just on interim basis. Next came Rennie, and he’s gone now.

Does this remind anyone of another Canadian club, one on the perpetual merry-go-round of remodeling? Yes, Vancouver Whitecaps, you are wading a little too close to the Toronto FC zone.

(MORE: The MLS coaching carousel is about to get crazy)

(MORE: With coaching vacancies ahead, there should be a race for Tab Ramos)

MLS Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

1 Comment

These two clubs are going to get to know each other really well over the course of the next week.

With the playoffs nearly in the clutches of the Colorado Rapids, they have to negotiate a home-and-home series with Vancouver to make it to the promised land.

Colorado sits in fifth place, just a point ahead of the infamous red line, where Whitecaps lurk along with San Jose.

The Rapids are reeling after a tough 1-0 loss at San Jose, but they’ll be happy to return home for such an important game.  They haven’t lost at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since June 15.

“If we lose, we’re out of the playoffs,” said Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey. “If we win, we live to fight another day.”

Colorado’s in a better position, but for Vancouver, that is the reality. Lose and it’s over for the Whitecaps.  Three points back of Colorado, they would be mathematically eliminated with a loss Saturday.

Last week’s 4-1 victory over Seattle was monstrous for not only their playoff chances, but their confidence as well.  Coming off the bench for much of the season, 18-year-old Kekuta Manneh’s hat-trick was from as out-of-nowhere as it gets, but just as impressive – and promising – was the play of secondary striker Diago Kobayashi.

“Daigo is a No. 10” said Nigel Reo-Coker. “I’ve always been a big Daigo fan. Technically he’s such a great player. He’s one of the best technical players I think in the league and a lot of people just haven’t had the opportunity to see that yet consistently. But he can see a pass, he can make a pass and he’s the perfect No. 10. He’s one of the best ones in the league, and hopefully he’ll get a bit more credit for his ability.”

The 30-year-old assisted two of Manneh’s goals last Saturday, and will be vastly important for Vancouver as they try to unlock the Colorado defense.

There’s goals in this match, and with so many playoff scenarios hinging on this result, it will be one of the most exciting matchups of the weekend.

Highlights and context of Vancouver’s draw at San Jose

Leave a comment

You never want to drop points at home, but for San Jose, things need to be put in perspective. The Supporters’ Shield holders had to push through March with injuries to Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Marvin Chavez and Steven Beitashour. With their striking duo back, the Earthquakes can start assembling the team that will compete over the rest of the season.

That doesn’t mean everything’s going to come together overnight. On Saturday, the team looked a lot better with Gordon in the starting XI. He provided the focal point off which Chris Wondolowski likes to play, a dynamic that produced San Jose’s first half goal.

When Steven Lenhart made his season debut in the second half, San Jose had their two number nines on the field together for the first time this season.

But the `Quakes still aren’t clicking to the same degree as last year, so when Corey Hertzog equalized for Vancouver in the second half, San Jose didn’t have enough for their trademark Goonie response. The match was left drawn, 1-1.

For Frank Yallop’s team, it was a step forward. You could see the team San Jose will be two, three months from now. With the attack starting to come together, the Earthquakes can start moving forward. Their proof (or re-proof) of concept is in place. They can be happy with the performance, if not necessarily the result.

For Vancouver? They just got a point on the road again last year’s Western Conference champions. Of course this was a good result, especially considering Kenny Miller was unable to do. They needed a bit of luck for Daigo Kobayashi’s deflected ball to fall to Hertzog, but holding San Jose to one goal, they made their luck standup.

Here are the highlights from Saturday’s 1-1 in Santa Clara.