A CHRISTMAS shopping spree in Japan could provide the key to the Sunshine Coast Fire's return to the NPL finals.
Sunshine Coast FC founder Noel Woodall has secured a defender with experience playing in Germany and believes he will finalise a deal this week to recruit a youth player from a Japanese Division 1 club.
Woodall hopes the addition of both players will help the Coast return to the finals after missing out for the first time last season.
"We spent a lot of time this year trying to make sure we get the right kind of player," Woodall said.
"We put together two very high-quality players, one as a defender, one as a striker - both ends of the field. We think it will add an extra dimension to the players we've already got."
He hopes the recruitment of defender Takumi Kinoshita will add some physicality to a Fire group that was one of the youngest in the league last season.
Kinoshita was a junior representative star in the heavily populated Chiba Prefecture before spending last season at the German lower-league club FC Inde Hahn.
Woodall said the tall defender could also play in the midfield and would give the Fire more penetration from the back.
"He's got a very good, accurate kick," Woodall said. "He's really good at bringing the ball forward and he comes highly recommended by our scout, who is probably the most senior coach in the Yokohama region."
The 23-year-old could also provide an aerial threat that would add another dimension to a Fire team that finished in the bottom four in goals scored last season.
"He's got a good header and he's a big target," Woodall said.
The second recruit's contract has not been finalised, but Woodall said he was deep in negotiations with a striker from one of the country's top nurseries.
Woodall said the target was a striker who played with the youth team for Division 1 powerhouse Yokohama Marinos.
"We've signed one and we're hoping to have the other one signed by Friday," Woodall said.
"They don't have a Christmas break in Japan so we should be able to get the deal done."
The aim is to improve a squad that finished last season with 11 wins, four draws and nine losses - three wins outside the top four.
Fire had established itself as a perennial powerhouse since its first season in the 2008, winning three titles in the now defunct Queensland State League.
The core of that team had moved on before last year, leaving behind a group of young players and a rebuilding task for the club.
Coach Kevin A'herne-Evans left after last season and took over the Brisbane Strikers, leaving former captain Paul Arnison in control.