“Masato has a very good goal scoring record and we are always looking at adding to the group. He has a natural ability to find space in the box, which generates goal scoring opportunities. He is technically good with both feet and, as always required, he is a hard working player.”
That is what Carl Robinson said of the prized Japanese signing back in December, when the deal was finalized. The optimism was oozing, and why shouldn’t it be? At just 25 years of age, he had already put 92 balls into the net in 260 appearances. The experience and the goal-scoring ability was there. It was just a matter of translating that to United States’ success.
Unfortunately, those 92 goals have been lost in translation, as Masato Kudo has fallen out of the starting XI just in time for Vancouver to finally put together some offensive relevance.
After making two brief cameos to open the season, Kudo was given two consecutive starts, but it was short lived. He drew the controversial penalty against Houston that would lead to a belated suspension and he returned looking rather shaken. It was against D.C. United that Kudo looked completely worse for wear.
United stomped Vancouver by a score of 4-0. Kudo played the full 90, yet only managed one shot and it was off target. Meanwhile, he was offside twice and dispossessed four times. Hardly a recipe for a successful striker.
Kudo would go on to play 12 minutes against Real Salt Lake before his very position was removed against FC Dallas. Perhaps unfortunately for Kudo, removing the second striker gave way to one of the most impressive wins in MLS this year, as the Whitecaps took the Dynamo recipe for beating FC Dallas and enacted it themselves, winning 3-0 with a newly-minted 4-2-3-1 formation that allows Octavio Rivero to serve as the sole front man.
So where does that leave Kudo? To be fair, Vancouver has not exactly been scoring a lot of goals from open play. In fact, Manneh’s goal against Dallas was their first of the year. Also to be fair, Rivero has yet to tally a goal either.
But Rivero has come close. He puts himself in positions to be productive, to take shots and to win headers. He fires over 2.5 shots per game, the majority of which are on target.
Kudo is a different story. He is averaging just .4 shots per game. That is equal to the number of times he is dispossessed a game and half as many times as he is offside. Let me restate that so it can be properly digested. Kudo is dispossessed as many times as he shoots and he is offsides twice as much.
Then there is the matter of shot accuracy. Given the minuscule amount of shots he has, only half of them arrive on target. In total, across five appearances and 195 minutes played, Masato Kudo has put just one shot on target.
The experiment is still in its infancy, and Vancouver has clearly shown that this experiment will not make or break their season. But it still has to be a bit of a bother that Kudo has been able to do so little with what he’s been given.