Real Salt Lake have taken their search for talent to a whole new part of the world for the club.
Early in December, general manager Garth Lagerwey journeyed to Japan for the first time to scout some J-League talent. The trip, albeit brief, was a productive one for the RSL boss.
“J-League is, I think, pretty similar to MLS,” Lagerwey reported to MLSsoccer.com this week. “It’s a league that’s full of technical, hard-working players. It’s not as physical as MLS is, but we feel like long term, it’s a league where we can draw some players from.
“We’re not going to get a center back from Japan probably – these aren’t 6-foot-4, burly athletes, but they’re technical and they’re hard-working.”
A prime example would be Colorado Rapids right back Kosuke Kimura. The 27-year-old is the first – and so far only – Japanese-born player in MLS, and he’s distinguished himself as one of the more tenacious fullbacks in the league thanks to his determined and dogged play.
In fact, Kimura’s run to the MLS Cup title with the Rapids in 2010 was front-page news in Japan, so while MLS teams may be interested in Japanese talent, so, too, are Japanese players aware of and interested in playing in MLS.
“I don’t know if there is a specific draw to MLS,” said Lagerwey, “but going abroad is viewed as a mark of distinction. I don’t pretend to understand what motivates all Japanese players, but at least the guys we talked to seemed excited about the prospects of playing abroad.”
Lagerwey’s trip was facilitated by an MLS representative that helped with much of the logistics and who was also able to introduce Lagerwey to all the right people.
“In this case, MLS has an agent in Asia, and so he hosted us and D.C.,” Lagerwey explained. “Almost always you try to have someone on the ground if for no other reason they are going to know the people who run the clubs, they’re going to have personal relationships.”
It’s too soon to know if there are tangible dividends from the trip, although over the next several weeks, it’s likely that RSL will add several players to make up for the departures of Andy Williams, Robbie Russell and Arturo Alvarez earlier in the offseason.