All about Hina Sugita — Hear from Hina — Must-click woso links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, April 18, 2022

The NWSL got to see a glimpse of what Hina Sugita brings to the Thorns on Sunday, when the 25-year-old had a pair of goals — her first for Portland — in a 3-2 victory over the San Diego Wave.

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Hina came to the Thorns after playing for INAC Kobe of the Nadeshiko League for seven seasons. Kobe became part of the new WE League last season.

She was signed by Portland in January to a three-year deal, which had been in the works for a while but was slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the delayed Tokyo Games last summer.

What is immediately apparent upon seeing Hina play is her is versatility. She can play a variety of positions. She’s technically adept and reads the field well.

It’s also clear that she’s developed a good relationship with fellow midfielder Rocky Rodriguez, as well as Christine Sinclair. The development of those relationships is vital following the departure of Lindsey Horan.

“I think if you watched her the last few games, this is what she’s been doing, and we’ve wanted her to shoot a couple times and I think even the crowd has been like ‘shoot’. She’s finding herself in good pockets. I think last game she did have some opportunities to shoot, and she tried to pass. I think she’s just gaining confidence every game and did very well today,” said Thorns coach Rhian Wilkinson.

Hina spoke to the media through a translator, and addressed her role in the midfield.

“Sam (Coffey) is more on the defensive side, and then Christine and Rocky are more aggressively going forward. It depends on where the ball is, and then thinking about the balance of what they are doing is key” she said.

You can see more from the post-game with Hina below!

Hina has been in Japan’s national team system since she was 15. She made her senior debut in 2018 and played in both the Olympics and the 2019 World Cup. With the national team, she has scored two goals in 21+ appearances.

I have been told by all the Thorns I have asked that Hina is just a lovely person, even though there’s a language barrier.

Wilkinson said the team — and Hina — have found ways to communicate.

“We use the tactical board a lot. We make sure we use a lot of video footage, which is helpful for the whole team different learning styles, different ways we can get our point across. And she’s very good — well first, the interpreters are fantastic and lovely people as well, but she’s very good at making sure she’s writing down her questions and she always comes for extra explanations afterwards. So she makes sure she’s very clear on everything which is testament to her character,” Wilkinson said.

As to how she’s fitting in, well, Wilkinson had noting but good things to say: “She’s one of these teammates who the team wants to play with.”


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Julie Foudy asks if the young USWNT players are ready for bigger challenges.


Here’s the postgame with Hina for those of you who want to watch:

Question: How do you like Portland, and how did it feel to scored 2 goals today?

Hina: “I like Portland very much, and of course I was very happy to score two goals. But I was more excited with the fact that the team won today though, so that made me real’s what I was really happy about.”

Question: What was going through your head with the second goal?

Hina: “I was surprised. I didn’t think I would make it but I was very happy.”

Question: What is the biggest difference between soccer here and in Japan?

Hina: “The biggest difference is that the speed of the pass, and the speed of the game, is much faster here. That’s the really big difference between soccer in Japan and America.”

Question: What players have you looked up to?

Hina: “I don’t have a specific superstar, but when I was playing in Japan for Kobe, the Spanish player (Andrés) Iniesta came and played for Kobe. I was always watching him play and that was really inspiring while I was there.”

Question: How do you deal with the language barrier?

Hina: “I can’t quite talk to my teammates just yet, so I watch my teammates play and then try to match them. I interpret what they are doing, and then try to play my soccer.”

Question: How do you rotate in the outfield?

Hina: “Sam [Coffey] is more on the defensive side, and then Christine [Sinclair] and Rocky [Rodríguez] are more aggressively going forward. It depends on where the ball is, and then thinking about the balance between them is a key.”

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson