By DAN KARELL
It didn’t take long for Satoru Kashiwase to make up his mind.
About a month ago, the Director of Football at J-League side Shimizu S-Pulse, Yasushi Hara, came up to Kashiwase and asked the 20-year-old forward if he’d be interested in a move to the United States.
Within a few days of that conversation, Kashiwase was on his way to New York, where on Monday he was announced as the New York Cosmos’s latest signing, a loan move that makes him the youngest native Japanese player to ever play soccer in North America.
“I was very surprised at first,” Kashiwase said through a translator. “But at the same time I knew that the soccer level in the United States is growing, and I took it as an opportunity. I wanted to go right away, I wanted to be a part of the team.”
As a forward, the 6-foot-tall Kashiwase said he was excited to come to a club with an outstanding history of goal scoring strikers, the likes of Pele, Giorgio Chinaglia, and Mordechai Spiegler all wearing the colors of the Cosmos in the past.
In addition, the Chiba, Japan, native will be playing for Giovanni Savarese, an original member of the New York Metrostars and a Venezuela international striker during his nearly 18 year professional career.
“I am excited to be coached by someone that’s a forward and knows how to score goals,” Kashiwase said of Savarese. “I have been getting tips already from (Savarese) and I hope that will it help me a lot down the road.”
Savarese himself echoed those sentiments, saying he was looking forward to working with a player who is also worthy of a potential place in Japan’s national team.
“This is definitely a special opportunity for our soccer club, to bring a young talent like Satoru to the U.S.,” Savarese said in a statement on the Cosmos website. “He is a very technically gifted goal-scorer and we’re excited to be a part of his developmental process.”
Kashiwase has played for the Japanese Under-17 and Under-18 national teams before, but when asked about a player he’d like to model himself after, Kashiwase said his idol was one of the greatest Dutch forwards of all time.
“The player I like is Ruud Van Nistelrooy,” Kashiwase said. “Van Nistelrooy is not very big, speedy, or strong, but his goals are very impressive. The way he is aggressive towards the goal, the way he opens himself up in front of the goal, that’s something I want to learn from.”
While the Cosmos certainly aren’t getting a player of Van Nistelrooy’s quality, Kashiwase is going to have to prove his worth, as he becomes the fifth forward on the team and will need to work hard to get a regular place on the field.
Even more, as a Japanese native, he’s going to be watched closely by the Japanese community in New York and maybe all around the country, adding more pressure on the young man’s plate.
“I feel that being the youngest Japanese player in America, I’m going to get a lot of attention from the Japanese and Asian community,” Kashiwase said. ” I want to play hard every game and score a lot of goals for them.”
As the Cosmos gear up for their return to professional soccer on August 3, Kashiwase said he was thrilled to be on a club with so much history, and already wants to give back to the club for being so welcoming in his first few weeks in New York.
“I’m happy to be a part of the team that has made a huge comeback and be a part of that starting group. I’m excited about my personal goals, but that of the group as well,” Kashiwase said. “All the (Cosmos) staff members are nice and they are treating me very well, so I want to succeed here to even more to thank them.”
Before he left his club in Japan, the general manager Hara offered Satoru some words of advice.
“(Hara) told me to learn as much as possible in front of the net, and score as many goals as I could,” Kashiwase said.