Saturday, February 17, 2007

2007 Preview- Thespa Kusatsu

Thespa Kusatsu
2006 Season 9 wins 15 ties 24 losses 54 goals 86 goals against -32 goal differential

It's difficult not to root Verdy's foe in the 2007 opener. Thespa Kusatsu is a little team created to give some publicity to a little spa in Gunma. their players used to work at the spa, they earned promotion from the 4th division to their current place in a mere 4 years and even fought against the odds to beat the defending J League champions while being 2 men down. It's a cinderella story that you just hope will go on for years and years.

Then you look at the roster.

Thespa Kusatsu cut alot of dead weight in the offseason, 14 players in all. Of that group 2 retired and 8 are still looking for work. Unfortunately, they lost 2 of their best as well. GK Takahiro Takagi, who performed bravely behind a patchwork defense joins up with his former Omiya coach to help shore up the goal for Consadole Sapporo. In his place comes longtime backup Seiji Honda who had one disasterous game for newly promoted Vissel Kobe. Another man signed up to compete for the keeper job is a familiar face, former Verdy 3rd stringer Satoshi Tokizawa. Tokizawa is hoping to recreate the magic of Takagi from a season ago.

The biggest loss to Thespa actually comes in a the very diminutive shape of MF playmaker Yusuke Shimada. Shimada takes his 9 goals and league leading 15 assists back to Omiya in hopes of being a J1 cotributor.

There are a couple of guys who stuck around for 2007. FW Yasunori Takada will be the main man to shoulder the scoring load after chipping in a team leading 12 last season. Brazilian Defender Chika comes in for his third campaign as the anchor of a defense that left alot to be desired. One of the brightest lights for the squad was MF Nobuhito Toriizuka who played admirably out of position for the squad last year. Toriizuka is in the twilight of his career, approaching the ripe age of 35.

Thespa did bring in a couple of young guys with potential, including former Mito MF Takeshi Kuwahara as well as young DF Daisuke Fujii from Albirex. They also brought in FW/MF Koji Maatsura for, ummmm, laughs I guess. Anyhow, Thespa signed alot of young guys who could be the nucleus of a decent team in 5 years. Included in this group is Brazilian teenager Marlin, who played his high school ball in Japan.

Potential Lineup 4-4-2

GK Seiji Honda DF Takeshi Terada

DF Chika

DF Daisuke Fujii

DF Sotaro Sada

MF Takeshi Kuwahara

MF Kazuki Sakurada

MF Yoshiki Nakai

MF Nobuhito Toriizuka

FW Yasunori Takada

FW Marlin

2007 Prediction 11th place

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