Masato Kudo

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MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Portland Timbers (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers were on their way to taking a massive three points away to their Cascadia Cup rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, before a pair of goalkeeper gaffes by Jake Gleeson unwound a perfectly good road performance in the span of six second-half minutes (the 25-year-old was otherwise solid, making 11 total saves on 13 shots on target). Fanendo Adi, Darlington Nagbe and Nat Borchers connected to open the scoring for the Timbers just past the half-hour mark, but Masato Kudo bagged his first MLS goal right on 60 minutes, with Gleeson whiffing on the near-post shot, followed by an otherworldly blunder on 66 minutes that ushered Christian Bolaños’s harmlessly lofted ball over the goal line. The result sees the Whitecaps leapfrog their southern neighbors for seventh place in the log-jammed Western Conference. At present, three points separate the top-seven spots in the West.

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Three moments that mattered

34′ — Borchers bundles it home from Nagbe’s shot/cross — Nagbe might have been shooting, and he might have been passing, but he’ll take the assist either way.

60′ — Kudo’s first MLS goal is the equalizer — For all of Gleeson’s heroics last week, getting beat at the near post right here is a might awful look.

66′ — Gleeson’s epic gaffe makes it 2-1 — Speaking of shocking mistakes that’ll rock the confidence of a young goalkeeper…

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Man of the match: Masato Kudo

Goalscorers: Borchers (34′), Kudo (60′), Bolaños (66′)

Vancouver’s Japanese star latest signing to tick all the ‘Caps boxes

Masashi Hara / Getty Images Sport
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Putting all cards of bias and/or opinion on the table right away, I’m an admirer of what Carl Robinson has done at Vancouver since becoming the “fall back” option as head coach.

That started with his bristling at the notion that being second (or third) choice for the job is any sort of big thing, as if there were only 20 coaches going for 20 coaches jobs in the world.

And it continued with his massaging of an array of talent and egos into different roles. When you have successful transitions like the one for Designated Player Matias Laba, whose head must’ve been spinning after being shopped by Toronto FC because of their DP saturation, it’s thumbs up territory.

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Toss in the smart signings of Octavio Rivero and Kendall Waston, the acquisition of Pedro Morales, and the drafting of Tim Parker at No. 15 overall. Player personnel? Check. The navigation of veterans exits with Jay Demerit and Kenny Miller (two entirely different scenarios, but both tricky)? You’ve had a lot of solid work by Robinson and the ‘Caps higher-ups.

Now the reigning Canadian Championship winners have to find that next level in Year Three of the Robinson era. And because of their success in player personnel, the ‘Caps have earned our leaning toward “This will work” when it comes to new players we haven’t seen play too often.

Enter J-League striker Masato Kudo, scooped up on a free transfer. The goal reel is impressive — the ‘Caps posted a “Top Ten” of his tallies here — and the risk is calculated. He’s 25-years-old and carries the all-time goals record for his club, Kashiwa Reysol, where he’s been since 2009.

From WhitecapsFC.com:

“Masato has a very good goalscoring record and we are always looking at adding to the group,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “He has a natural ability to find space in the box, which generates goalscoring opportunities. He is technically good with both feet and, as always required, he is a hard working player. Masato can play as a lone forward, or in a partnership, and is able to play wide when called upon. We are delighted to welcome him and his wife to our club and city.”

Yes, of course, there are risks. Kudo is smallish (a generous 5’10” or a stingy 5’9″) and coming from an entirely different sporting and living culture, but — again — Vancouver has earned our “wait and see” here. And we tend to think we’ll see success.