FC Cincinnati are reportedly close to signing Japanese striker Yuya Kubo as a Designated Player. But who is the Gent attacker and what can be expected of him?
My thanks to KAA Gent journalist Stefan Smet for his time. You can follow him on Twitter, @Stefan_gent
2019 was a historically poor year for new expansion side FC Cincinnati. Only 24 points, ten fewer than any other team in the league and only three more than San Jose’s record 2018 campaign, scoring less than a goal per game and conceding a record 75 goals. Everything that could go wrong for Cincinnati did.
But while the extent of their failure was a little jarring, shocking almost, the warning signs were there from the off. Even during their first MLS offseason, plenty of analysts were raising their concerns regarding the team building that was conducted. The lack of a creative playmaker, Fanendo Adi as a Designated Player, the curiously vast number of defensive midfielders. Problems existed.
And so it played out. FC Cincinnati were as poor as many thought they might be, and it stemmed from a sheer lack of playing talent on the pitch. No matter how capable your coaching is, if you have substandard players, you will struggle. FCC experienced this in 2019.
Now in their second offseason, FC Cincinnati are conducting a massive reboot of the roster. Six players had their option declined or contract expire after the 2019 season, while Alvas Powell departed in the expansion draft. Meanwhile, Haris Medunjanin arrived on waivers, Saad Abdul-Salaam was selected in the re-entry draft, Zico Bailey also came from the LA Galaxy, while Atlanta United striker Brandon Vazquez arrived in a trade and Tom Pettersson came on a free transfer from Swedish side Ostersunds FK.
FCC still have two open Designated Player slots — they are also desperate to open up the third by offloading the disastrous Adi — and are looking to invest heavily in a team that was simply short of the necessary standard last season.
And it looks as though they are nearing their first major acquisition. Per Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio of The Athletic, FC Cincinnati are close to signing KAA Gent striker Yuya Kubo. The Japanese centre-forward will arrive in Cincinnati this week to complete a transfer that will see him become a DP. But just who is Kubo and what can FCC expect from him when he takes to the pitch in 2020 and beyond?
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
I asked Stefan Smet, a football journalist who covers KAA Gent, for a little background information on Kubo. Via text, Smet praised Kubo’s ‘technical skills’ and eye for goal, stating that he quickly became famous in Belgian football ‘because of his goals’ — Kubo scored 22 goals across his first two seasons including five goals in his first seven appearances.
A coaching change then saw a new approach implemented with a different ‘vision of football’. Kubo’s role in the squad diminished as a result and he was eventually loaned out to Nuremberg in the Bundesliga, where he scored just once in 22 appearances. He has ‘not got many chances’ to play since that time, but per Smet, his ‘special personality’ has come to the surface as a result. Kubo is a private, closed person who ‘will never get in touch with media to tell what is on his mind’. Smet suggests there was a cultural clash between his childhood in Japan and his footballing career in Europe which may have hampered his overall impact on Gent, Nuremberg and beyond.
Smet closed by telling me that, ‘on a football level, he [Kubo] certainly has potential’, but that there are personal clashes regarding culture and character that have been difficult for him to overcome.
Quite what can be expected of Kubo when he arrives at FC Cincinnati is difficult to say. MLS is unlike any other league in the world. Some players flourish; others flounder. But he does represent FCC investing in the roster and supplying a higher level of talent. 2019 was a disaster, and at the very least, FCC are attempting to fix it.