MILFORD — Yuya Kubo maneuvered the ball to his right foot about 20 yards from goal on Saturday, then delivered a vicious strike that seemed to defy the laws of physics, leaving Atlanta United keeper Brad Guzan paralyzed as the ball battered the back of the net to bring FC Cincinnati within a goal.
There was no celebration from Kubo, only encouragement offered for his teammates to find their way back into the match which they ultimately lost, 2-1.
“It wasn’t really a time to celebrate,” Kubo said, via club translator and manager of soccer operations Satoshi Tatsumi.
Kubo’s time for celebration will come, hopefully sooner than later. His goal completed a collective hat trick for FCC’s designated players. In the first two matches, Jurgen Locadia, Allan Cruz and Kubo each scored a goal.
Kubo’s comfort level with his new teammates is continuing to develop each week in training. That was apparent during Saturday’s match with the Japanese international recording three shots with a couple of key passes and of course, a wonder strike. Kubo said his goal on Saturday wasn’t the first time he scored from that distance, suggesting it won’t be the last time either.
“It’s been good to be able to train with everyone,” Kubo said. “Jurgen, I have faith that he can score goals, and I can score goals, so we look forward to connecting even more on the field.”
Kubo, 26, was among FC Cincy’s significant offseason acquisitions after he scored 86 goals with 23 assists over 10 professional seasons in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
At the time of his signing from Belgium side KAA Gent, Kubo had made 12 appearances, including six starts, while scoring three goals and adding two assists across all competitions.
“We’ve made it a priority to bring impact players to Cincinnati, and we believe Yuya’s versatility as an attacking player will be a great addition to our current group,” said FCC general manager Gerard Nijkamp.
The question was how quickly it would take Kubo to adapt, not just to MLS, but to a new country and city and within the scope of a rebuilding project for a second-year expansion club. Well, the early returns are positive.
One thing was clear from the off, and that’s that Kubo checks all the boxes in terms of professionalism, coachability, leadership and soccer smarts. And communicating with teammates hasn’t been an issue either. While Kubo prefers to answer reporters’ questions with help from a translator, he fully understands what’s being asked in English.
Kubo says he has acclimated well to U.S. culture and to Cincinnati. He hasn’t had much time to explore the city with a hectic training schedule and with the club being on the road the first two weeks coming off a preseason in Arizona and Florida. But, so far, the Japanese cuisine in the Queen City has sufficed, he says.
Kubo’s relationship with Tatsumi has been beneficial as well. Tatsumi was hired by FCC in January 2019 as team administrator after working for Portland Timbers 2. At the time of his arrival, FCC did not have a Japanese player. After Kubo was signed, Tatsumi was handed the added responsibility of serving as his translator and mentor to help get him settled.
“The support from the team and Tatsumi has been great,” Kubo said. “It’s been an easy transition.”
Kubo’s first goal is out of the way, which is important to remove some pressure for any attacking player who just joined a new club. Kubo hopes that the next time he finds the net, a celebration will be warranted. No better time for that to happen than at home, during final season at Nippert Stadium.
“It’s a great feeling to get my first goal out of the way and hopefully this translates to the home match this weekend,” Kubo said. “The (first) two games helped me get used to the MLS atmosphere, but I heard it’s even better at Nippert so I’m looking forward to it.”