VANCOUVER, BC – Daigo Kobayashi was not a household name when he signed up with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but at least the highlight videos sure looked impressive.
As with any player coming from a foreign league, though, there were question marks – how will he adapt? Will there be a settling in period? Will language and cultural situations be a problem?
So far, things look to be going pretty slick for the once-capped Japanese international. As for that highlight reel? Well, after Saturday, he’s got a new clip for the collection, after he spotted Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum off his line and found the roof of the net just six minutes in.
“I thought it was fantastic,” head coach Martin Rennie said of the midfielder’s goal. “As soon as he hit it I thought it was in. I don’t know if I’ve jumped quite so high for a while as when I saw that go in. At that spell in the game I thought we were playing very well. The movement that we got from Daigo got him on the ball a lot in dangerous areas and they backed off a little bit and he couldn’t have hit it any better.
“Has there been a better goal than that in BC Place for a while? I don’t think so. Certainly since it’s been renovated that’s the best one I’m sure.”
Even Crew coach Robert Warzycha couldn’t help but admire Kobayashi’s opening goal.
“That was a very good shot from distance,” Warzycha said on Saturday. “From where I was sitting, the goalkeeper maybe misjudged the ball and it ended up in the net. But the shot was pretty good…that’s why you come to the stadium, to see goals like this, yeah?”
As for Kobayashi himself, he’s happy to have opened his goalscoring account so early, after setting Gershon Koffie up for the winning goal on opening day.
“I felt it was a little bit too long,” Kobayashi said of his initial thoughts after seeing Gruenebaum out of position. “But I have my experience – from that area I [have scored many previously].”
So, he took a crack despite some doubts, and it worked out – but his contribution didn’t stop with the goal. His off-the-ball movement and ability to hold the ball under pressure was a big part in an excellent first half of possession for the ‘Caps, as they held in excess of 57 percent of the ball.
“I feel really good,” Kobayashi said of how he’s fitting in with the group. “We have really good players – if we play [simply], we can do better.”