By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Atop the roof of the Space Needle on April 2, the Seattle Reign FC unveiled its new “kits,” a soccer term for uniforms, for the 2014 season. Among the team members for the professional women’s soccer club braving the dry, chilly mid-morning day was Nahomi Kawasumi. Kawasumi, or “Naho” as she is known to her teammates, is a Japanese goal-scoring forward who should add experience to the team.
Kawasumi was signed by the Reign in February and is one of the few international players on a predominantly American team. The 28-year-old was born and raised in the Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan, where she began playing soccer, following in the footsteps of her older sister. She played soccer throughout her youth and became a prolific goal scorer. In 2008, at the age of 23, she signed with a club team in Japan, and was chosen to play on Japan’s women’s national team the same year.
In the team’s second year of existence, the 5’2” Kawasumi is one of the bigger signings for the Reign. Hope Solo is also a member of the club. Solo is a former University of Washington goalie and member of the U.S. women’s World Cup team that played against Kawasumi in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship. Kawasumi and Team Japan prevailed in the game in penalty kicks to clinch the gold medal.
“She’s awesome,” Kawasumi said through an interpreter. “I knew she (Solo) was great, even though we only saw her play for a week.”
Kawasumi did not score a goal in the gold medal game, but she scored two crucial goals in the semifinal against Sweden, which made the difference in Japan’s 3-1 victory.
Last year, Kawasumi played for Japan’s INAC Kobe Leonessa and earned 2013 MVP honors. She was the second leading scorer in the league.
Kawasumi had multiple offers from teams in the National Women’s Soccer League, but decided to sign with Seattle because it was “familiar,” she said, noting that the climate and environment are similar to her home in Kobe, Japan.
“Last year, I played against this team (Reign) and they gave me an offer,” Kawasumi said.
“They had hope for me.” Although there were multiple offers on the table, she said “instinct” brought her to Seattle.
General manager and head coach Laura Harvey told the Seattle Times that Naho was “a world-class talent who will add a different dimension to our front line in the coming season. She is a proven winner in both league and international play and will bring that important mentality and experience to our club.”
“I’m very happy to be a member of Seattle Reign FC,” Kawasumi told the Seattle Times.
“Though it’s my first time to live and play in the U.S., I will adapt myself to my new life as soon as possible. I’ll try to do my best for the victory of Seattle Reign FC. You can count on my play.”
Kawasumi modeled the Reign’s new black uniforms, which the team will wear at all their away games. The team will wear its white uniforms for home games.
“I’ve never worn black uniforms,” Kawasumi said. “They are very cool.” (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.