By The North American Post Staff
Seattle has recently become a mecca for Japanese professional athletes as several players have joined local teams. The Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League announced this month that two players, Rumi Utsugi and Naho Kawasumi, signed with the team for the rest of the 2016 season.
Both are international level players. Utsugi, 27, has played for six seasons for the Montpellier HSC in France and marked 19 goals in 109 games. She has amassed 87 caps representing the Japanese national team including the 2007, 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It is a dream to play in a country ranked #1 in the world in women’s soccer,” she said. “I have decided to challenge myself to play in this country. Seattle Reign FC is a young team with enormous potential. I want to contribute to Reign FC’s potential to go even farther in the league. I’m looking forward to joining the team.”
Kawasumi, who mostly played for the INAC Kobe Leonesa in Japan during her career, has played for the Reign FC in the 2014 season. She scored nine goals and five assists to be named one of the league’s best 11 players. As with other team sports, the local Japanese community celebrated Japan Night in the final game of the 2014 regular season at Memorial Stadium in the Seattle Center.
“I’m back to Seattle again, and I’m so happy to join Seattle Reign FC,” Kawasumi said. “I will do my best for the team.”
The 30-year-old Kawasumi has amassed 82 caps playing for the Japanese national team including the 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
According to the Reign FC, both players will begin playing for the team in July, possibly on the July 2 game for Kawasumi and the July 9 game for Utsugi after completing their previous contracts, having a month-long break during the Olympics period in July and August. The Reign FC will have 11 games including five home games left by Sept. 25 and possibly meet playoff games. The team is now placed sixth in the league as of June 22.
Team general manager and coach Laura Harvey said that they have looked at Utsugi’s performance since the World Cup last year that she showed her high performance in “high-pressure situations against some of the world’s most talented players and teams.”
“We believe Rumi’s experience with Japan and Montpellier make her well-suited to our style of play. She’ll add experience and depth to our midfield and backline, something that will be very helpful given the number of injuries we’ve been dealing with this season.”
The coach added her excitement on Kawasumi’s return to Seattle.
“[Kawasumi] was a huge influence on our group when she was a Reign player before and having someone of her quality and experience back with this team is really exciting,” she said.
Five Japanese professional players now belong to local teams including Utsugi and Kawasumi of the Reign FC, Ramu Tokashiki of the Seattle Storm and Hisashi Iwakuma and Nori Aoki of the Seattle Mariners.
More information about the Reign FC can be found at www.reignfc.com.