Whitecaps sign Hirano

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have announced the signing of former J.League and FIFA World Cup midfielder Takashi Hirano. Hirano has agreed to a one-year contract, plus an option. Hirano, 33, comes to Vancouver after playing the last 15 years in Japan’s J.League Division 1 (J1). The five-foot-eleven, 160-pound left midfielder, is one of 11 players to have reached the mark of 350 total appearances in Japan’s top division. The majority of those games came during his eight seasons at Nagoya Grampus Eight after being discovered by former head coach, and current Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. While with Nagoya, Hirano played 222 matches and recorded 43 goals. The midfielder won the Emperor's Cup competition with Nagoya in both the 1995 and 1999 seasons, and the Japanese Super Cup in 1996. In 1997, Hirano was part of the Grampus side that reached the final of the Asian Cup Winners Cup. In 2000, Hirano ended his distinguished spell at Nagoya and joined Kyoto Purple Sanga. From 2001 to 2007, Hirano played for Jubilo Iwata, Vissel Kobe, Tokyo Verdy, Yokohama F. Marinos and finally, Omiya Ardija in 2007. In total, Hirano, played in 352 matches and scored 54 goals in J1. Hirano, a native of Shimizu City, Japan, has also earned 15 senior caps and scored four goals for his country. The midfielder earned his first start and goal with the national team on June 8, 1997, in a 4-3 victory over Croatia. In 1998, Hirano was a member of the squad that represented Japan at FIFA World Cup. Drawn in Group H at France '98, the midfielder was an 84th-minute substitute in a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in Toulouse on June 14. On June 26, Hirano played the final 32 minutes of the 2-1 defeat to Jamaica in Lyon, as Japan went out of their first-ever World Cup finals at the group stage. Hirano was also part of the 1992 U-19 side in the AFC Youth Championship. Vancouver Whitecaps open the 2008 regular season at Swangard Stadium against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, April 12. Season tickets are now on sale, starting at $199. Call 604.669.WAVE (9283) or CLICK HERE for more information.