The Houston Dash have announced the signing of Japanese international, Aya Sameshima. Sameshima played most recently for Vegalta Sendai of the Japan L-League where she has been since July 2012 after returning home from French club Montpellier. Sameshima has made 52 appearances and scored 2 goals for the Japan national team, starting all 6 matches at the 2011 Women’s World Cup including the Final in which Japan beat the United States on penalties.
Sameshima began her career in 2006 with TEPCO Mareese, a club backed by Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”). The club practiced at the famous J-Village, the main soccer training grounds in Japan located near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where the national team often trained as well. Many members of the team worked at the power plant during the day and practiced with the club at night.
Fortunately for Sameshima, she and her teammates were at a training camp in the south of Japan on March 11, 2011 when first the earthquake and then the tsunami that triggered the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown hit. The players were told to go to their parents’ homes and await further instruction from TEPCO. However, it quickly became clear that the club would not be reformed given the ever worsening situation and pressure on TEPCO. The club was officially disbanded in September 2011.
Sameshima was unable to join another Japanese club while in limbo. Therefore, she made the move to the United States in June 2011 where she joined the Boston Breakers of the NWSL whose coach at the time was Tony DiCicco, a Dash consultant since December 2013.
Sameshima played half a season with the Breakers making 5 appearances before joining Montpellier in August 2011. During the 2011/2012 season, she made 18 league appearances for Montpellier and played in the Coupe Nationale 5 times. She returned to Japan following the season to re-join former TEPCO Mareese teammates with Vegalta Sendai in the second-tier Challenge League. The club was newly formed to replace TEPCO Mareese in the Tohoku region. Sameshima has indicated that her decision to return to Sendai, where she attended high school, was driven by a desire to bring cheer to an area hardest hit by the earthquake. The club achieved promotion to the L-League in October 2012 by winning the Challenge League title.
Sameshima plays at left fullback for the national team, however at Vegalta Sendai she was deployed in in the midfield. She has been described as being an elegant yet aggressive defender. As with most of the Japanese national team, she has strong technical skills allowing her to get the ball forward quickly and beat opponents one-on-one.
The presence of DiCicco on the Dash staff and his familiarity with the player no doubt played a key role in acquiring Sameshima. She should fit well with Dash Coach Randy Waldrum’s preferred tactical system, a 4-3-3 that emphasizes possession and attack.
— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) January 24, 2014