Jun Marques Davidson isn’t your typical Major League Soccer defensive midfielder.
While many teams opt for a destroyer, a player who relies on athleticism and power to shut down opponents, Davidson should offer something a little more cultured for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“He’s got great experience having played since he was 18 years old in the J-League,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com during a recent phone interview. “Being around some great coaches and great players, playing in big games with good teams. Technically, he’s a very clever player. He has excellent vision, reads the game defensively, he’s disciplined, sits in midfield and breaks up play.
“But he can get on the ball in tight spaces and is comfortable receiving it with pressure on him,” Rennie continued. “If you want to be a good passing team, it’s important to have someone like that involved in your group.”
With the club’s preseason underway in Arizona, it’s the perfect time for the 28-year-old to meet teammates old and new. Despite playing for Tokushima Vortis in Japan’s second tier last season, Davidson has plenty of connections with Rennie’s edition of the Whitecaps, having played under the Scotsman and his assistant Paul Ritchie in 2010 with the Carolina RailHawks.
Matt Watson, signed by the club in December, and Etienne Barbara, who is training with the club but has not yet signed a contract, are two other familiar faces from that squad.
“It’s a big plus for the player,” Davidson told MLSsoccer.com from Arizona this week of seeing a few familiar faces. “You feel at home – you don’t feel that much stress in yourself in a new team, so I feel very comfortable right now.”
Ultimately, a big part of Davidson’s return to North America was Rennie himself, and the way in which the coach interacts with his players.
“One of the things is the communication between Martin and his players – there’s some coaches that don’t do that very often,” Davidson said. “But he’s straightforward, and if a player has any problems or if he’s [upset] at not playing, you can talk to him and he’ll reply, so that’s a good plus for the players.
“He’s a great motivator, he’s always positive and he brings the right mentality.”
After playing the majority of his career in Japan’s top two tiers, the Japanese-American has had a taste of the difference in styles from his single season in the NASL, but says he’s ready for the challenge of MLS.
“I have the image of playing in Carolina two years ago,” Davidson said. “There’s a slight difference between Japan and MLS, which is more of a technical part. It’s more physical and more speed in North America.
“I’m not trying to make myself into a completely different player,” Davidson continued. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m good at – keeping the ball with the team, and keeping the balance. If the fullbacks go forward, then I’ll cover the space. I’ll sit in the middle, keep the balance and help the ball go forward to the strikers and midfielders.”
For a team which struggled at times to achieve that balance in 2011, a player with Davidson’s understated traits could be just what the doctor ordered.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com