18,000 people showed up to watch a FREE training match between the two Tokyo powerhouses. The streets were festooned with FC Tokyo banners and flags. Outside Tobitakyu Station booths were set up selling Rolling Stone and nWo ripoff shirts. Scarves embroidered with slogans cheering Wanchope and lambasting Verdy. Welcome home boys.........Chofu hates you!
Inside the stadium it was a little more hospitable, FC Tokyo had the numbers but the Tokyo Hearts and Brigata Verdista had the voices. Banners across the field celebrated "Sexy Soccer" . I guess this type of Sexy was an old married couple trying it out after a long hiatus because the product on the field was tedious and uninspired.
I had to keep telling myself....."It's only a practice. It's only a practice."
FC Tokyo are tipped to be one of the preseason favorites to steal the J League crown from Urawa. It looks like they are going to do it by grabbing, holding, biting, and headlocking because that's the techniques they used to stop the Verdy offense. Paulo Wanchope was less than scintillating......he had a few chances but chose to do more short-cutting and diving than actually trying to play. I was disappointed in the highly touted import, I was expecting him to dazzle with a play or two, but it seemed like he was doing his best Romario impersonation, sticking himself in front of the goal and waiting for an easy stickback or a gift PK. There was no Lucas in the practice game so maybe he'll light it up with a better partner. If he decides to play like this, he'll be gone by June.
Verdy on the other hand looked a bit disjointed on the offensive side. Actually, let me give you the starting 11
Subs 45 min Fukuda, Yoshihara, Funakoshi, Sato, Kanazawa
No Ze Luis in this little encounter. Let me get back to the offense. The Ono-Diego combination was a bit stiff. Neither one has good pace right now and seemed a step slow. Hiramoto and Hulk were just missing on passes in the first half. You could see what they wanted to do, but the combination of still having a lack of familiarity and FC Tokyo playing a 4-4-Hulk Hogan defense was a little too much for Verdy to really open it up. Hulk seemed to be operating at a different speed than everyone else and seems to be the only attacker in season shape. Diego was still plodding along. And Ono didn't have the pace to get balls in the box.
The defense was very good with the exception of a few mental lapses by Yukio Tsuchiya. Tsuchiya really handled Wanchope and didn't have a bad game. But two of his mistakes were dangerous. First, he gave the ball away in front of the box in a miscommunication with Takagi. Wanchope chose to get cute with the ball and instead of smoking one into the net, half shot. Kaimoto, who had a great half, got in right in front of the net and cleared the ball out. The second mistake happened late in the game when Tsuchiya and Fukuda had a communication breakdown and left an unmarked Evaldo wide open in front of the net on a corner kick. Evaldo easily deposited one in the net on an out of position Yoshihara for FC Tokyo's lone goal.
I did forget to mention the OTHER goal. Actually, I'm not really sure how to explain it. A ball flew at an unaware Harutaka Ono, who was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY out of the box with his back turned. Ono managed to kick his foot out and kick it behind him towards the goal to a thouroughly unready Yoichi Doi. Doi, standing flatfooted, watched as the ball went streaking by him into the far right corner of the net for a goal. Unbelievable.
Decent match, a bit slow but Verdy held their own against a formidable J1 squad.
DF Kensuke Fukuda
The 22 year old wing back got the nod today over more established defenders like Taisei Fujita and left a couple of impressions. Fukuda is diminutive and quick. It seemed like he was lost during the first 10 minutes of his stint, getting burned on a few occasions by FC Tokyo's Ishihara. He did have some good moments, clearing the ball away and not making too many mistakes. He had a bit of trouble connecting with the attacking players but that wasn't just him today. Good athlete, his mind just needs to catch up to his body. When he figures out the right position to be in defensively, he will be pretty good.
1-1.......Let the real games begin!