For being a major occasion – FC Cincinnati’s second-ever Designated Player and MLS’ first Japanese DP – Yuya Kubo’s suggested he was more interested in exciting fans on the field than sitting in a press conference focused on him.
It’s clear Kubo wants to make an impression on the pitch, just like the 26-year-old winger’s done for big clubs in Europe and with the Japan National Team.
“I’m really happy to be here and join this club,” Kubo said. “I can’t wait to get started playing.” (Kubo’s understanding of English is proficient, but his spoken English is limited. During the press event, FCC’s Japanese-born manager of soccer operations, Satoshi Tatsumi, sat by Kubo’s side just in case a quick translation or clarification was needed.)
GM Gerard Nijkamp and coach Ron Jans sat by Kubo’s side. During Monday morning’s press conference at the Mercy Health Training Center, the latter said it’s easy to identify a good player, but difficult to sign one. He and Nijkamp had just achieved it, and wanted to share how and why.
And that was the focus of Monday’s press conference: how FCC signed Kubo, why he’s so important to the team and how the player could help future transfer business.
How Kubo and FCC decided on one another
The Japanese winger arrives with serious credentials.
He’s already made 13 appearances for his national team and just left K.A.A. Gent – a massive club in Belgium. But with his playing time being limited recently after a loan stint to the Bundesliga’s FC Nürnberg, the 26-year-old was looking for other opportunities and met with FC Cincinnati.
Having already played in Switzerland, Germany and in Belgium, he opted for an MLS club in a country he’d only visited once previously – on a trip to New York City.
“The reason why I moved here to FC Cincinnati is there are a lot of good fans in stadium every game, and I would like to play here and want a new challenge with this club,” Kubo said.
From the team perspective, Nijkamp and Jans visited Kubo at Gent back in November. Driving from the Netherlands into neighboring Belgium, the duo came equipped with a presentation about FCC, about Cincinnati and how the player would be utilized in their team.
Jans said he could tell Kubo seemed interested, but the FCC representatives went home without a confirmed signing. That trip eventually paid off.
“I live in the north of Holland and he’s in the middle of Belgium, so I put some effort into it,” Jans jokingly said of the drive. “But it was worth every meter.”
Why FCC believe in their new DP
“He is for us an impact player,” Nijkamp said of Kubo. “For us, he can make the difference for our roster in MLS in 2020.”
The GM said the new player will play on the wing but can also play as a center-attacking midfielder. He highlighted his comfort on the ball, both as a passer or someone who can dribble into space.
As FCC transition from the 2019 roster - which was built with a more direct approach - to the 2020 identity of a possession-based style, Kubo is a player who fits the club’s tactics.
“He will help, especially in the attack because he can play in a lot of positions,” Jans said of Kubo. “He’s more of an attacking midfielder or winger who plays on the inside. He can play in more positions and I think he will deliver assists and goals together with being a team player.”
For a team that lacked scoring power in 2019, Kubo’s arrival is a clear indication that’s changing.
Nijkamp on FCC’s previous and ongoing transfer business
The Orange and Blue have added six players during the offseason:
- Saad Abdul-Salaam (defender)
- Zico Bailey (defender)
- Yuya Kubo (winger)
- Haris Medunjanin (midfielder)
- Tom Pettersson (defender)
- Brandon Vazquez (forward)
Additionally, the team picked Rey Ortiz (forward) No. 29 overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft last Thursday, and added Joris Ahlinvi (forward) with the 53rd pick on Monday afternoon.
“(Transfer business) is very important because we want to improve ourselves as a club on the roster to become better compared to last season,” the GM said. “How we will be better for 2020, we cannot say yet because we are still in the process.”
With Kubo becoming FCC’s second Designated Player, Nijkamp said the club is trying to fill the third and final open DP slot. He said the focus is on an attacking-minded player.
“We are finding out what would be best,” he said. “Would that be a striker? Is that made another offensive player to add to the roster? … Now with the second DP as an impact player with Yuya Kubo, we will come closer to our picture we have of the roster for 2020 to compete in this competition.”
Nijkamp also said the club could move players during the window. An hour before that remark, FCC sold Leo Bertone to FC Thun of the Swiss Super League.