TUCSON, Ariz. – Daigo Kobayashi has only officially been a member of the New England Revolution for about 24 hours, but fans of the club have already decided on a nickname.
The 31-year-old playmaking midfielder was secretively referred to as “Player X” during his first preseason appearance with the Revs last Wednesday while his previous club, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, still maintained his rights. That lasted all of about 20 minutes until word spread through social media that the mysterious Player X was, in fact, Kobayashi. But it didn’t matter. He was Player X.
Oddly enough considering the secrecy, Kobayashi is actually a player who’ll be quite familiar to fans of MLS. After spending more than a decade in Norway, Greece and his native Japan, he played the 2013 season in Vancouver, where he registered two goals and four assists in 30 appearances.
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps followed Kobayashi’s progression closely last season, but actually began tracking the Japanese midfielder before he ever made his way stateside.
“He adds some depth in the midfield and a little bit of experience and class on the ball that we need at certain times,” Heaps said. “He’s a player that I actually enjoyed quite a bit last year, but also a player that was on my radar before he got into the league. So when he came into MLS, obviously I kept a keen eye and we’re excited to have him.”
It’s been a hectic week for Kobayashi, who spent five days training with the Revolution in Tucson, Ariz., last week, before returning to Vancouver while the Revs worked out a deal with the Whitecaps. An agreement was reached earlier this week and Kobayashi returned to Tucson in time to be on the bench for the Revolution’s preseason victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.
While Kobayashi said he’s still working on returning to full fitness – he spent Thursday morning’s training session working out with strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing – he’s happy to have settled in New England, where the club’s free-flowing attacking style meshes well with his creative mentality.
“They play good, simple, quick soccer,” Kobayashi said of his new teammates. “I think this style is good for me. I think it’s easy to fit into the team.”
Heaps agrees. While Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe are the returning starters in the Revolution’s two-pronged central attacking midfield, Kobayashi’s inventive nature similarly complements what New England aims to accomplish in the final third.
“He’s so quick on the ball, he makes good forward passes and he’s very attack-minded,” Heaps said. “That’s what we need in that position. He’s going to push the guys in front of him.”