After a disappointing fifth-place finish last season, ambitious Taichung Futuro have rung in the changes with several new players joining the team.
The Japanese contingent has been further increased by owner Yoshitaka Komori. Three Japanese players have been added to the team and Japanese manager Toshiaki Imai has been brought in.
Imai is well-known to many in Taiwan and was the national team manager between 2005-2007 and again in 2016. Imai brings with him a wealth of knowledge accumulated over a 27-year management career, which has seen him managing men’s and women’s teams in Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia and the Philippines.
For a Futuro side who have openly stated their desire to compete for the title this season, having a coach of Imai’s calibre can only be an asset.
“Last year was definitely disappointing, we had good players but [the] first year in a league is never easy,” explains left back Keisuke Ogawa. “We’re looking forward for this year with a good preparation… our target is obviously to win it all [and] we’ll do our best to reach it.”
To prepare for a title campaign, Imai has been given Japanese fullbacks Kohei Ueda, 21 and Keita Yamauchi, 25 from J3 League side YSCC Yokohama.
More experience has been added by signing 36-year-old Japanese goalkeeper Jun Kochi. The former Albirex Nigata player, who has spent most of his recent career playing in Thailand, Myanmar and the Maldives, should be a leader and a mentor for the other new players.
However, Futuro have declined to sign a centre-back to replace Luis Galo, who left for FC Tatung. Futuro will instead put their trust in Japanese veteran Yugo Ichiyanagi and Taiwan international Hung Tzu-Kuei to keep a defence, which conceded the third-fewest goals last season, watertight.
Whilst Futuro were defensively fairly solid last season, they struggled in attack, scoring fewer than half as many as winners Tatung. This issue may well have been rectified with the signing of Hang Yuan FC forward Joo Ik-Seong.
The lightning fast South Korean, who can play on the wing or through the middle, scored 20 goals for Hang Yuan last season and terrified defenders with his dribbling and direct play. Futuro will depend on him to give the forward line the added firepower that is needed to make a credible challenge for the league title.
Whilst it is never wise to put too much stock in pre-season results, Joo appears to have settled into the team and scored his first Futuro goal in a 1-3 friendly defeat to Taiwan Steel on March 22.
Joo also appears to have the confidence of his teammates: “Seong is a real striker, he will bring a lot to the team with his scoring abilities,” claims Ogawa.
Imai will hope that Joo is able to combine with Taiwan international striker Li Mao, whose excellent hold-up play should benefit the Korean. Li Mao will himself hope to improve on his seven goals from last season.
With a number of new players arriving, one of Imai’s biggest challenges may be ensuring squad cohesion as quickly as possible. If he is able to do so, this is a team that is more than capable of causing an upset in what looks to be one of the most competitive seasons in some time.