VANCOUVER, BC – Heading into the offseason, Vancouver Whitecaps FC sporting director Axel Schuster had a clear idea of the additions he wanted to make to the roster.
One of the positions he wanted to fill was goalkeeper, but not just any goalkeeper.
It needed to be someone with experience.
Someone who had not only gained plenty of experience at a top level, but someone who had a winning mentality.
On Friday, the ‘Caps got their man, acquiring Japanese goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka from J1 League side Yokohama F. Marinos. The 26-year-old agreed to a contract through 2024, with a club option for 2025.
“When I got the offer, I was so happy, I feel this is a good opportunity for me, I felt it was time for me to take on the next challenge [in my career],” explained Takaoka.
“I think this will be a good challenge for me, I needed a new challenge and that’s why I came here. I’m looking forward to everything, from living in Vancouver to playing new teams and doing my best for the club. I look forward to seeing all the fans soon at BC Place.”
- Catch Yohei at BC Place in 2023, with Single Match Tickets starting as low as $28 – secure your seats at whitecapsfc.com/tickets
Last season, Takaoka starred for Marinos as he recorded the second-most clean sheets in the league with 13 across 34 starts.
He was also named to the J1 League’s Best XI, becoming only the second Yokohama F. Marinos goalkeeper to receive the honour.
His performances, and his team’s fine form, earned him the chance to experience the feeling of winning, with the club capturing the 2022 J1 League Championship.
Prior to that, Takaoka had never experienced the feeling of being a winner.
“That experience was so wonderful and that moment I’ll never forget,” recalled Takaoka. “I’ll never forget that kind of feeling.”
To no surprise, Takaoka’s success caught the eye of the ‘Caps.
He’s now hoping to experience that same winning feeling in the Blue and White.
“I want to feel that kind of feeling again, again, and again, I want to give my everything for the club.”
Not only is Takaoka hoping to bring his winning mentality to the ‘Caps, he’s also looking forward to connecting with the Japanese community across Vancouver.
“I’ve heard that Vancouver has a lot of Japanese people and I hope to see them come to the stadium, it would be good for me and for them as well. I hope to have a good relationship with them, to connect with them.”
Takaoka will look to follow in the footsteps of past Japanese players who have been with the club, including the late Masato Kudo, midfielders Daigo Kobayashi and Jun Marques Davidson, as well as Takashi Hirano, who spent two years with the ‘Caps in the club’s USL days.
“I checked those players, I want to play well and I know past Japanese players here have done well,” said Takaoka. “I have a responsibility to show my worth and I need to show what Japanese players can do.”
Overall, as previously mentioned, Takaoka has a hunger to win and has specific goals he wants to accomplish during his time with the ‘Caps.
“Last year, the team was in ninth placed in the league, this year, I want to get to the playoffs and get through to win the playoffs. I want to be a champion, that’s my dream for the club.”
Be sure to catch Takaoka and the rest of the ‘Caps this season at BC Place, starting with the MLS season opener against Western Conference side Real Salt Lake this Saturday, February 25. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT. Tickets are available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.