Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tokyo soccer and the Yokohama game

Sota Hirayama news in a moment, but Eyewitness report of the Kazu derby.

It was my first Verdy game live in over a month and I thought it was going to be another dog. The good news was that it was being held in my favorite Verdy venue, Nishigaoka stadium (or as Ken Matsushima of Rising Sun News likes to call it.........the dump). Maybe it's the intimate surroundings, the illusion of a full house, the relatively close proximity to the field (from a spectator point of view), or the fact that Verdy seems to do well there. Whatever, anyways that was one thing that was looking up in Verdy's favor. The downside was the opponent, Yokohama FC. The road trip to Nissan stadium had to be one of the most excruciatingly dull exercises in bunker ball I've had the misfortune of seeing in my short time as a fan of the beautiful game. The bane of every footie fans existence, the 0-0 tie, loomed large as the squads took the field.

The lineups were announced with a few surpises. Big Takagi took his rightful place between the pipe for Team Green, filling in for the imminently overmatched Mizuhara. Ramos then went with a back 4 of Ishikawa, Togawa, Hagimura, and Kaimoto.You might remember this group from the last game of Kazunori Iio, a 4-1 debacle to Kashiwa Reysol at Hitachi which sent the team into an upheaval. the midfield was a virtually unchanged quartet of Ze Luis, Marcus, Kanazawa, and Sugawara. The big shock however was in the front line. New scoring machine Silva was paired with perennial practice player Nozomi Hirayama. Scoring leader Hiramoto found himself on the bench and Masa Saito found himself in the cheap seats.

What happened next was nothing short of inspiring. Both teams attacked. And kept attacking. Hiroyama and Silva hustled for loose balls, Togawa muscled up on goal a game former Sanga striker Alemon, Ze Luis and Kanazawa found themselves in good positions for scoring. Sugeno found himself in the middle of an assault. At this point, I put the pen down and just watched the game. Ze Luis barely missed with a header off the far post. Kunihiko Takizawa countered with a dangerous shot that ricocheted off the crossbar. Alemon, who at this point was in a fascinating personal battle with Togawa, took a shot that caught Takagi flatfooted......fortunately for Verdy, the ball hit in the same place as Takizawas thunderous shot and bounced harmlessly away.

Finally, Ze Luis took first blood with yet another header off a cross. 1-0 Verdy and the half ended.

The second half became more chippy and intense as Defender (and constant Soilent Green whipping boy) got into minor physical shenanigans with GK Sugeno and Alemon. 15 minutes in, Alemon would draw Yokohama level with a quick strike from outside the box. An akward angle leaving Takagi vulnerable. The last 30 minutes saw Yokohama get more control of the line of play but both teams failed to threaten after that . A couple of yellows for Verdy, a couple of stoppages for Augustos "tragic" injuries and the game was in the books. Play was good, both teams were good, and the refs (with the exception of a few borderline play-ons in the box for Yokohama) were competent. 1-1 final.....a fitting result to an entertaining match.

The thing I liked most about the game was the intensity and focus that Verdy played with during the game. I loved seeing Hirayama scramble for loose balls and Silva make diving, all-out efforts on balls that seemed hopeless. The passes were crisp and the team played at a higher speed than usual. Things actually slowed down with the loping Hiramoto on the substitution. Kudos to Ramos for putting a guy in who was 100% effort and hustle, Hirayama actually played like a guy who was all about the green. It was one of the few times we saw a team effort that could be considered "THE VERDY WAY".

Even though the result probably crippled Verdy's hopes for promotion, the effort was more than welcome. The team needs to build on it for next year's campaign and guys who can't bring this kind of effort need to be shown the door.

If anybody saw the match or has views on the last fourth of the 2006 campaign please send in your views!

Sota Hirayama to Tokyo?

The shock news that Dutch league phenom Sota Hirayama was turning his back on Eurostardom in order to come back and continue his studies has caused tidal waves of speculation. The latest one has Hirayama suiting up for FC Tokyo

Sponichi Annex of Sports and Naughty pictures

According to reports at least 10 squads in J1 and Vissel Kobe in J2 have put in bids for the 21 year old phenom. Nikkan Sports had a report that Gamba Osaka was dropped earlier because they couldn't match the price. Others who have been named in news reports included Kashima (prefectural neighbor with Sota's chosen university.....Tsukuba Daigaku), Both Osaka squads, Avispa Fukuoka, and FC Tokyo. Reports from numerous papers also stated that the process would be completed soon in order for Hirayama to start training with the U-21s in preparation for Beijing Olympic qualifiers.

Arguably, FC Tokyo has alot to offer Hirayama. A plethora of young talent and an attacking style allows Hirayama to make his mark in a hurry. A signing like this also lengthens the chasm between FC Tokyo and current second squad Verdy, entrenching FC Tokyo as the capital team. Tokyo is turning blue.

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