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scouting

Bucheon Transfer - Wataru Murofushi

Bucheon have signed their first ever Japanese player in the club's history, in the form of central midfielder Wataru Murofushi from Canadian club York United. In order to better understand the 25 year old, Bucheon columnist George Slade first takes a look at the new signing's career to date. Then, George speaks to York United fan and sports blogger Namu Yoon to find out more about what Bucheon fans can expect.

(Image courtesy of Bucheon FC 1995)

Albirex Niigata Singapore

Upon graduating Juntendo University in Japan in 2017, Wataru signed for his first professional club Albirex Niigata Singapore for the upcoming Singapore Premier League 2018 season. What happened next was nothing short of a dream debut season, as the club won all three domestic honours (SPL, Singapore Cup, Singapore Community Shield) completely unbeaten in all three competitions. Wataru himself also won the SPL Player of the Year, was named in the Fan XI, and scored 13 goals in 28 matches, including a brace each in the semi-final and final of the cup.

York 9 FC

His exploits did not not go unnoticed and Wataru departed the club for Canadian Premier League team York 9 FC (now known as York United) of Toronto for the inaugural season of the CPL in 2019. In the club's debut season Wataru played 23 matches and scored three goals in the brand new seven team league. He could not prevent the club from finishing in a disappointing sixth place in the Spring season, however, things improved late on and the club finished third in the Autumm season. York also reached the third qualifying round of the Canadian Championship, managing to only just lose out to MLS side Montreal Impact 3-2 on aggregate. Wataru played in all six games of that tournament.

With the expansion of the CPL to eight teams in 2020 the league planned to forgo the split format and instead have everyone play each other four times in a single league. Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic the CPL had to get creative. In what became known as The Island Games, all teams met on Prince Edward Island for a shortened season. Every team would play each other once, with the top four teams progressing to the next round. Those four teams would then play each other once, with the top two progressing to a one-legged final to decide the champion and the CPL entrant into the shortened Canadian Championship. Despite only losing once York could only manage to finish in fifth place, just one point behind Pacific FC. Wataru was ever-present, playing in all seven of York's matches in their season.


Namu Yoon Interview

Namu Yoon is a season ticket holder and supporter group member for York United, who has written his own sports blog and contributed to others in the past. He also formerly lived in Daejeon and is a fan of Daejeon Hana Citizen, who Bucheon face at home in their opening fixture of the season on Sunday 28th February. 

GS: What type of player is he? 

NY: His positions are CM, CAM, CDM, in that order. He is better at offense than defence, while his strengths are keeping the ball and distribution. His weakness is a lack of strength. 

He can play as a metronome-like CM that dictates the tempo of the team's play. But he can also play in the hole as a CAM that plays little cute through balls to the striker or the wingers if Bucheon ever needs.


GS: How was he viewed in Canada? 

NY: Starter, but not undisputed, as he was often misplayed at CDM, where he could distribute but not protect the defence. The CPL is also Canadian-centric, so he didnt get to play his favoured LCM position. He was often labelled underrated and steady by league pundits. 


GS: Can he make the transition to K League 2?

NY: Yes but it will be tough. The only Korean player in CPL was Son Yong-chan who I believe couldn't make KL3 or KL4 sides. I do believe at the moment that KL2 is a step up from CPL, but Wataru has the technical abilities needed to succeed at KL2. May need to get adjusted to the faster pace. 

GS: How do you feel about the move? 

NY: Very happy overall because of the two worlds of mine colliding. 

GS: Any other comments? 

NY: I think a lot of CPL/Y9 fans hope he does well, because CPL is such a new league still, and fans always wonder what the benchmark of the level is like, so for a CPL alumni to do well at KL2 would be great for CPL for sure. Like I said though, I think it's a step up and that KL2 is more technical than CPL.

Conclusion

It would not take much for Wataru to leave some type of legacy at Bucheon. Of the 23 foreign players to have played for Bucheon, the majority (15) have come from South America and several of their hold records at Bucheon. The eight, however, have faired less well and have only earned 14 appearances for the club between them. The most-capped non-South American foreign player for Bucheon was Uzbekistan player Bakhodir Pardaev with seven matches, and his one goal for the team means he is the only non-South American foreigner to score for Bucheon. If Wataru plays with any kind of regularity he will be the best non-South American in the club's history and may encourage Bucheon to expand their scouting range.


However, Wataru's aims for for this season will surely be a lot higher than just playing some matches and scoring a handful of goals. He has been a regular starter in all three seasons of his profesional career and will definitely want that to continue. Bucheon's central midfield is crowded, even their captain Cho Soo-chul plays there, but it seems like Wataru provides a skillset that is in short supply in the Bucheon team. Many players at the club have good physical attributes, however, last season creativity was in short supply as the club struggled for goals. Having an intelligent player that can dictate the tempo and patiently construct attacks could see Bucheon improve on their finish from last season and may even be dark horses for promotion. 

Despite this optimism, this season is very much shrouded in mystery as the club have a new manager and brought in a lot of new players. It is unclear if Wataru was brought in because he fits in with the new manager's system perfectly or if he was more of an impulse signing. Time will surely tell, but what is definitely known is there will be many eyes on multiple continents looking to see if Wataru can make a success of himself. The implications for the CPL and its reputation in the game could be massive.

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