Reports out of Japan have it that former Japanese international Akira Kaji will be joining Chivas USA once the current international transfer window opens up next month. Articles, including this one from Nikkansports.com (Japanese), say Kaji will be taking a physical today in California to finalize the deal.
Kaji, 34, is a right back who has played his entire professional career in Japan, most recently for Gamba Osaka, where he's been since 2006, racking up 225 appearances with that club. He was also a member of Japan's national team from 2003-08, racking up 64 caps for his country, and playing in the 2006 World Cup.
The move, if true, is intriguing on several fronts. Chivas USA have never had a Japanese player (although Paulo Nagamura, a Brazilian, is of Japanese descent), and besides the general quality of the J-League, I think one of the main reasons East Asian players haven't really come to MLS is due to the language barrier. I have no idea if Kaji speaks English, but the rest of CUSA's backline currently does, and playing with one player who couldn't communicate with the rest of the team could prove problematic. But again, maybe he does speak English, and maybe the language thing wouldn't be an issue.
This move also is interesting because it would continue the policy of bringing aboard very experienced defenders who once played in the World Cup, but who no longer feature for their clubs, following Carlos Bocanegra and Tony Lochhead. As we have seen with Boca and Lochhead, however, they can both provide good performances and look well past it, depending on the game. Of course, if Chivas signed Kaji, it would likely represent an end to the Eric Avila at right back experiment, as the team would finally have a proper right back.
The other angle, which is in the realm of pure speculation right now, is that this move could be made with the blessing/behest of Chivas USA's new owners, if they indeed have new owners in place. And getting a player with a pretty good resume aboard that would help represent one of Southern California's ethnic groups could prove useful for marketing purposes.
The MLS summer transfer window opens July 9. Chivas USA do have international slots open, and I'm presuming this would be a free transfer, though we would have to wait for word on that.
We'll see if this deal has legs, but remember, we're in the rumor zone for the moment. As always, we'll keep you posted with any updates.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!