Terukazu Tanaka was discovered in Tokyo by Lagerway earlier this year, and soon after, Tanaka became just the second Japanese player ever to sign with an MLS team.
"We told him about our system," Lagerway said. "We told him about that the team is the star and how we were looking for a complementary player that fit in with our group. He was really into that and he was really motivated."
To come to foreign country without knowing a single soul and without speaking the language, Tanaka had to have been very brave to make the move.
"I think that you have got it exactly right, that's a very brave thing to do," said head coach Jason Kreis. "It takes a certain special character to be able to do it successfully."
"It's very brave," agreed defender Tony Beltran. "It's got to be very difficult. I've never been in that situation. But he's a very nice guy, a very hard worker and a very good soccer player. He's adapted very well."
Tanaka is learning English day by day, but it is still very difficult to communicate with his team.
"A little English, slowly," said Tanaka, who had never been to the United States until moving to Utah in March. "Everybody is a nice guy."
Asked if he knew any Japanese, Kreis said, "No. It's been a challenge for sure. But we tend to get our point across whether it's hand gestures or slowing things down and show him on a board."
"He's excellent with his effort to try to communicate," said defender Chris Wingert. "I've been really impressed with him. Even when he couldn't speak a word, he was still verbalizing something. He's learned a lot. Once in a while, he's breaking out the Spanish too. I think the Spanish guys are teaching him a few words."
"Absolutely," said Beltran. "We definitely have the Latin flavor on our team, so it's tough because he has to learn two languages."
Asked if he's improving his Spanish, Tanaka said, "Poco."
Tanaka has played well when called upon this season. He started and played 90 minutes in two games and even recorded an assist against FC Dallas.
"From what I've seen of the two Japanese players that have been here, Tanaka and [Kosuke] Kimura of Colorado, I think they're both very good technical players," said Kreis. "They work very hard and are very coachable."
While Tanaka is adjusting to life in America, he has brought a little Japanese culture with him. Tanaka does not own a car, and bikes to the TRAX station every day before and after practice.
"Even when it's raining," said Wingert. "He's with his umbrella and riding his bike, so that was pretty impressive."