Veteran Kobayashi making his teammates better

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Daigo Kobayashi knows that he's no spring chicken, especially when he sees all the twentysomethings around him on the training pitch. But that hasn't stopped him from filling an important role for the Revolution this year.

With vocal veteran Jermaine Jones on the shelf due to sports hernia surgery in early-February, Kobayashi has done more than just don the No. 8 shirt in his place. He's provided guidance and support to his younger teammates while Jones works his way back to health.

"I'm old (for) this team," Kobayashi said. "Jermaine's still injured, so I have to play strong, and sometimes shout. I have to lead this team as an older player."

No one will dispute Kobayashi's credentials as a leader. He's played professionally for 15 years across four leagues and three continents. But the unassuming Japanese midfielder isn't one to let his resume do the talking.

On the pitch, Kobayashi uses his vision and technical skill to help create opportunities for others, often with little fanfare -- which is just fine by him. Instead of threading the killer pass, or scoring a spectacular goal, he'd rather set the table and watch his teammates get the glory.

One teammate he has frequently collaborated with this year is Lee Nguyen, whose skill set is quite similar Kobayashi's. But the difference between the two is that Kobayashi is a facilitator while Nguyen is a finisher.

"We know each other and how we play," Kobayashi said of Nguyen. "But I have to find him every time because he has good technique, and he's a key player. I (get) him a lot of touches, as many as possible. So I have to find him, and pass to him."

But just because he's willing to take a back seat and allow the likes of Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo get the spotlight, coach Jay Heaps hasn't overlooked how important Kobayashi's contributions have been during Jones' absence.

"He can play," Heaps said. "No matter where you put him, or how you put him, he's going to slow the game down with his technique, and he's going to open other players up."

The statistics bear that out, as well. Through four games, Kobayashi has completed 90.1 percent of his passes, tops among MLS players with over 300 minutes of action this year. During Saturday's win, he completed 93 percent of his passes, which was slightly down from the 97 percent clip he put together during the first half.

As impressive as those stats are, perhaps the most notable aspect of Kobayashi's performance on Saturday was the ball he won from Shaun Francis in the middle of the park to help orchestrate Rowe's opening goal in the 21st minute.

"He reads the game really well," Heaps said. "He's a smart player, so you feel comfortable with him on the field at all times."

Kobayashi's ability to diagnose the play in front of him and make real-time adjustments has made him indispensable to the Revolution, especially during Jones' absence. And while Kobayashi will likely have his playing time cut once Jones returns, Heaps has high praise for the Japanese midfielder.

"Daigo's the most technical player I've ever seen," Heaps said. "Seeing Daigo up close, and seeing other players in this league -- Daigo's as technical as they come. He can do pretty much anything he wants with the ball."

Kobayashi also happens to be one of the team's most consistent performers, as well. Since the start of the 2014 campaign, he is the only player on the roster to play in every single regular-season match. But that stat means little to Kobayashi, who would rather see his club continue to improve upon its 1-2-1 record than extend his appearance streak.

"I think we're a really good-quality team, so I'm not satisfied with the results so far," Kobayashi said. "I think we could've played better, but we need to just keep going."