Mina Tanaka the hope for Utah Royals

The signing of Mina Tanaka by Utah Royals FC could help transform the team
Japan v North Korea - AFC Women's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 Asian Final Qualifier 2nd
Japan v North Korea - AFC Women's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024 Asian Final Qualifier 2nd / Masashi Hara/GettyImages

The Utah Royals have made an audacious move and brought a real star into their ranks: Mina Tanaka. The Japanese striker, who recently left Kobe Leonessa of the Japanese WE League, arrives at the club with an enviable CV. With 58 appearances and 37 goals to her name, Tanaka brings a wealth of experience and a winning mentality to a team currently struggling in the NWSL. Signed until 2025, she is the Royals' big bet to turn the season around.

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At 30, Tanaka comes from an illustrious career in Japan. With spells at Tokyo Verdy Beleza and INAC Kobe Leonessa, she has shown her talent time and time again, including a brief spell in the German Frauen-Bundesliga. With 211 goals in 308 club games and 30 goals in 74 international games, Mina is a veritable goal machine. His signing is a clear sign that the Utah Royals are willing to do whatever it takes to move up the table.

Kelly Cousins, the Utah Royals' sporting director, didn't hide her excitement about the new signing. "Mina is an experienced player who can have an immediate impact on our team. Her experience will be essential to the development and culture of our young team," said Cousins. And no wonder. With four Nadeshiko League golden boot titles and several inclusions in the league's Best XI, Tanaka is a major addition.

Tanaka's arrival couldn't have come at a more crucial time. The Utah Royals are in an uncomfortable position in the table, with a record of 2-11-2 and 10 points behind the current playoff line. The team has struggled to find its form, and the presence of a top scorer like Tanaka could be just what they need to turn things around. His nose for goals and his ability in decisive moments will be key for the Royals in the coming challenges.

As well as her skills on the pitch, Tanaka brings a champion's mentality that could inspire her new teammates. In statements before her transfer, she highlighted her enthusiasm for being part of the Royals' project and her desire to help the team compete. "I'm very determined to be part of this club, taking the team to the level of competing in the championship title race. I'm looking forward to my journey in Utah. We'll do it together," said Tanaka, making it clear that she is ready to give her all for the club.

Tanaka's signing is also a strategic move for the Royals, who are looking not only to improve their performance, but also to attract more attention and support from fans. A player of international caliber like Tanaka will certainly bring more visibility to the team and could help galvanize the fans around the team. With her imminent participation in the 2024 Olympics for Japan, Tanaka will be in the spotlight, and this could greatly benefit the Utah Royals in terms of marketing and fan engagement.

However, it won't be an easy road. Japan's Olympic group with Spain, Brazil and Nigeria promises to be a real litmus test. Tanaka, however, has already shown that he is capable of shining in the biggest competitions, having scored in the final Group D match at the 2023 World Cup, helping Japan beat eventual champions Spain 4-0. Her performance in international tournaments only reinforces her reputation as a top-level player, ready for any challenge.

For the Royals, Tanaka's presence could be the spark that ignites a turnaround in the season. Her ability to score goals in all sorts of ways and her international experience bring a new dimension to the team. The challenge now is to integrate Tanaka into the team's style of play and make the most of his abilities.