Kimura's unwavering commitment to improve impacting younger players
In a season with plenty of challenges, one interesting change for the Portland Timbers has been the solidifying presence of right back Kosuke Kimura. A six-year veteran of MLS with an 2010 MLS Cup title to his name, the first-ever Japanese player in the league was acquired from the Colorado Rapids in early July and has been a mainstay in the Portland XI ever since.
But the transition to his new surroundings hasn’t been automatic.
“It’s been definitely tough for me to adjust to a new situation, new players, new tactics, new coaches and all that,” said Kimura. “But as a professional, that’s part of our job description. You have to deal with that and how well you can deal with that will give me a better chance to become a better professional, I think.”
Kimura has been a particularly dedicated professional. Among the last players to leave the pitch after training sessions, the defender is often seen putting in extra work with ball skills, crosses, passing and more.
That commitment stems from his early years on Colorado. With few opportunities to play either with the first team or the reserves, he and his then roommate Omar Cummings started working a little bit longer after every training session to keep fresh and to be ready when called upon.
“You do a little extra. You keep working on it and keep working on it,” said Kimura. “You’re constantly working on your technique and skill. Then when you get the chance, you feel much more confident.”
As his time in Colorado progressed and he became a veteran player, Kimura noticed new young players coming into the league every year facing many of the same challenges and frustrations he had gone through. Rather than view them as competition, Kimura reached out to them with a desire to help them get better.
“I started telling younger guys, ‘Your time will come but when that time comes, you have to make it accountable,’” he said.
Though Kimura’s time in Portland has not been long, he can already be seen doing much the same work with younger players like Charles Renken and Ryan Kawulok long after the official training session has finished. While Kimura’s not ready to say he wants to be a coach someday, it’s clear he remains steadfast in his belief of working with developing players. Nor is the work merely charity as Kimura receives something too.
“I get to work on my stuff too, you know?” he says with a smile. “So I started helping out.”
However, the offer for extra work for younger players is not a hard sell.
“The one thing is, I cannot make them want it,” said Kimura. “I’ll try a little bit, push them a little bit, but if they don’t want it, I’m not going to force them to do it because that’s not going to help them. They have to want it.”
Now with the team returning to his old stomping grounds in Mile High country on Wednesday night (6 pm PT, NBC Sports Network, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940)—an environment he knows well given his over 100 appearances for Colorado—Kimura is upbeat about the Timbers chances not just against the Rapids on Wednesday night, but also through the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be tough for us when we go there because of altitude, but you can’t think about that when you play the game. You have to stick to the game plan and just play your game,” he said.
“The mentality on our team is coming up right now. We’ve been playing well and everybody has a confidence all of a sudden. We will work for each other.”
Knowing Kimura’s unwavering enthusiasm, that commitment to work for each other comes as no surprise.