Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo got 12 goals from Anderson Lopes this season, the second-most of any player in the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE. With him up top, any team would feel confident in their ability to bag goals, but unfortunately for Sapporo, the Brazilian no longer plays for them, having moved to China last week.

Now, an attacking void has emerged—and Takuro Kaneko stepping up to fill it may be exactly what Consadole need.

Last season was the 23-year-old Kaneko’s first full top-flight season and he showed promise with a four-goal campaign. He’s already topped that this year, scoring five. He’s even outright won a match for Sapporo, scoring both goals in their 2-0 win over Oita Trinita three weeks ago.

Kaneko has much of the time been asked to operate as a creative threat behind the Consadole striker. This season that’s meant combining with Anderson Lopes, which he did splendidly, then finding connections with Jay Bothroyd, Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa or Takuma Arano, who have all rotated in and out of that center forward role. It hasn’t been easy for Kaneko, with so many different players up top, but he’s managed it all well.

Now, Sapporo will likely lean on him considerably more, as he is asked to do more scoring and to get more touches in the attack without Lopes in the mix. That opens the door for Kaneko to not only make a bigger impact but to show just where he ranks among the most dynamic young players of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE.

This weekend, Sapporo take on a Vegalta Sendai team that has given up the second-most goals in the entire league. That’s a great situation for Kaneko to put his stamp on the match and drive Sapporo to victory. It’s his time to shine.