Friday, March 30, 2007
While I have your attention----Takuya Yamada left MLS club FC Dallas last week, no word on what J League team he hopes to help relegate next year. Also there is no truth to the rumors that he was trialing with USL 1 squad Virginia Beach Mariners
Actually, all jokes aside, the Virginia Beach Mariners situation was pretty sad. A clown named Mike Sidebottom took over a franchise that had been through 3 owner groups in (I believe) 3 years. Sidebottom took over the debt payment and built up the hopes and dreams of all Mariners fans by acquiring talent and hiring former FC Dallas man Colin Clarke to coach the squad.
On March 15th, the checks did not go through for players and staff. Sidebottom decided that he really didn't want to be an owner and reneged on his agreement to be the principal owner. Two weeks later, the league announced the shutdown of the Virginia Beach franchise.
Japan has been relatively lucky and very smart in regards to franchise stability. The last great mistake was the Flugels Fiasco of 9 years ago, Fan support and a bottom-up approach have minimized the chances of teams going extinct. America is a completely different beast.
By my count, 16 USL/A-league squads have died off, until yesterday, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds were the most recent ones to die (2005). Major League Soccer, America's first division, has seen three squads exterminated. Tampa Bay and Miami were at opposite ends of the spectrum in 2001. Tampa Bay arguably were one of the worst franchises in American soccer history while Miami won the regular season crown (Supporters Shield). Both ceased to exist in 2002. San Jose had a rich and storied tradition dating back to the days of Pele and the NASL. A romp through the regular season was not enough to see the players moved in the middle of the night to Houston, Texas and the death of their franchise.
I count my blessings that I'm here and able to watch my team without fear of them closing shop in the middle of the night. Really, the worst that can happen is sitting through 90 minutes of Tokushima Vortis and when you think about it, it's almost a guaranteed win.
It's not all bad for my countrymen. San Jose has used a combination of grassroots support and a great guy with a baseball team and lot of money to push their way back into contention for a spot in 2008. It's possibly the only "EARTHQUAKE" I'll ever want to occur. Stadiums are being built in Colorado, New Jersey, and Salt Lake. Toronto sold a boatload of season tickets to guarantee massive crowds. And the USL welcomed the California Victory into the fold.
Unfortunately,Virginia Beach won't get to experience any of that this year. Mike Sidebottom decided that he was tired playing sports mogul and walked away without weighing the consequences. Here's hoping Mr.Sidebottom is never allowed near a pitch again.
Onto brighter things...........Cerezo Osaka FC is the 12th English blog to pop up. It's run by NipponBasse out of Norway and I look forward to reading about the mysterious pink and purple. Check it out at the link section!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This season has seen the squad go a pedestrian 1-2-1 with a goal differential of 0. Last week saw them drop their first game of the year to a mirror image Consadole squad who employs the same stifling defensive tactic. One player you won't be seeing is D mid Masaru Akiba, who managed to pick up a yellow card late in the loss to Sapporo. As always, the team relies on a stout defense led by longtime central defender Leandro and old Verdy friend Tatsuya Ishikawa.
Potential Montedio Lineup
GK Kenta Shimizu
DF Ishikawa Kobara Leandro Kimura
MF Watanabe Usui
FW Kitamura Toyoda
Keys to the game
1. Beat the branch players- Unlike in past games, Montedio boasts a muscular presence in the middle in Leandro. Verdy is going to need speed on the sides to get penetration against a defense that doesn't give up many chances. This might be a game where Fukunishi gets a quick hook for the speedier Inoue.
2. Keep your cool- If Hulk thinks that he didn't get much breathing room against Cerezo, he's gonna hate this matchup. If he has another mini meltdown, there is no doubt in my mind Verdy will be a man down.
3. Patience is a virtue- Expect Verdy to come out rusty after a good sized layoff. If the goals don't come early, the temptation will be to push guys up like Tsuchiya and Nanami into the box. DON'T DO IT......Montedio lives for the counterattack. The offensive parts (Zaizen, Kitamura, Toyoda) aren't going to dazzle you with creativity or dangerous moves. They counterpunch you and sit back. They wait like snakes in the grass.
4. NOZOMI HIROYAMA- I don't know what Ramos has up his cornhole for this guy but all he does is play effective soccer when he's on. It would be great for the innefective Ono and the erratic Diego to have a real threat on the bench waiting in the wings to pounce on the opportunity to get in the starting lineup. Nagai has been great in his role but El Capitan has offered nothing this season. Let him hang out with Hagi for awhile.
Consadole Sapporo VS Cerezo Osaka- Well, the sleeping pink giants finally shook off a little of their slumber as they had a goal explosion of 3 against league disappointment Kyoto Sanga. Things look a bit tougher as they take on the lockdown defense of Consadole Sapporo, who hopes to extend their clean sheet streak to 5 games.
Prediction: 2-0 Consadole......I think the Kyoto game was a matter of finding the wrong team at the right time, I also think Consadole will be cracked.........Just not on Saturday.
Thespa VS Shonan- I'm seriously tempted to call this a 0-0 tie considering that Shonan always seems to go for 0-0 ties. Thespa seems to be feeling good after surviving for a 1-1 tie at first place Vegalta, but the magic is gonna wear off. Again look for Adiel to get on the board.
Expulsions: MF Kosuke Nakamachi-Shonan Bellmare
Prediction: 2-1 Bellmare........This is gonna be a virtual goal avalanche for Shonan.
Tokushima VS Mito- This one is gonna be a close game, as Mito has played bad teams well. Tokushima jumped out early in the season but has been in a small funk, only gaining 1 point in three matches. Mito also managed to get their only point of the season in their one road contest.
Expulsions- D Mid Shohei Ogura-Mito Hollyhock
Prediction- 3-1 Mito......I think this is a case of a bad team being overconfident against a seemingly weaker opponent. The teams are comparable in strength and both seem to be better on the road as opposed to home.
Game of the Day: Kyoto vs Avispa- This game is a case of must win for Kyoto vs a win would be nice for Avispa. I don't think Kyoto will be bad forever and Avispa seems to shrink at bigger challenges so I think we will see a purple revival.
Expulsions- FW Hiroyuki Hayashi-Avispa Fukuoka
Prediction- 4-2 Kyoto.......we saw the emergence of Andre last week and Paulinho is always dangerous. I think with Alex, this is gonna be an up and down affair. Actually, this game could go 4-2 the other way as well but I think the Cerezo turdblossom that Kyoto laid last week will be a wakeup call.
Ehime VS Vegalta- OK, Vegalta has been perfect on the road, Ehime awful at home. Vegalta is coming off a stunning tie to Thespa, Ehime has a very young squad that wilted under the Verdy attack. Vegalta needs the win to keep in front of Verdy, Ehime doesn't start their best offensive weapon. What do I think.........Mikan Juice for everybody!
Prediction 4-0 Vegalta.......Read above. Vegalta put up 20 shots in the 1-1 tie and 68 shots total on the season. Too much pressure for a young back 4.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Well, I think I attempted this last year to mixed results, but here goes again.........
HEAT INDEX team of March- Consadole Sapporo
I chose Sapporo not because they were the best or most talented team this year (they aren't). I have been impressed with the string of clean sheets they have strung together. The Miura system of lockdown, slowdown defense is boring but seeming effective and the play of GK Takahiro Takagi and a back 4 led by Bruno Quadros have been downright stifling. A little surprised that they have been able to change their stripes so quickly. Could they be this years Yokohama FC?
1. Tokyo Verdy- second in the standings but a game in hand. Tying Vegalta in Sendai was huge but did Cerezo show a weakness by muscling up on Hulk?
2. Vegalta Sendai- How's this little factoid? 3-0-0 on the road and 0-2-0 at home. The 1-1 tie to Thespa was inexcusable.
3. Consadole Sapporo- Almost tempted to put them above Sendai. After a stumble against Kyoto, they have exerted their will on 4 opponents. 4 less than explosive opponents, mind you......but 4 skunks in a row is good.
4. Shonan Bellmare-If it wasn't for a bit of unfortunate play in the first game, they would be undefeated. I'm glad I don't have to watch this team every game because they are well on their way to breaking the record for 0-0 ties.
5. Avispa Fukuoka- This seems to be a squad that capitalizes on playing lesser clubs, which is a good quality to have. However they need to show that they can knock off one of the bigger clubs.
6. Thespa Kusatsu- After a putrid opener, Thespa has played credible in the past 4 games. Kazuki Sakurada has been great in the playmaker role and even Koji Maatsura has pitched in.
7. Montedio Yamagata- Perfect place for them because they are the epitomy of mediocre. Good defense/no offense. It's hold tight and pray for 1 goal wins.
8. Kyoto Sanga FC- Unbelievably bad start for the purple nurples. Our friend Gora has been calling for the head of Nunobe. Maybe just the porno mustache that he sports. Anyhow, I don't see the potent strike force of Paulinho and Andre being silent forever.
9. Sagan Tosu- 4 points without any contributions from new signing Anderson. I'm not sure what hurt more, losing Arai or losing Schneider.
10. Tokushima Vortis- They've been lucky to get the softer squads early but Vegalta, Verdy, and Fukuoka await and Vortis should find themselves hitting rock bottom.
11. Ehime FC- I give em credit for going young but why would you put your most potent goal scorer on the bench? Overcoaching kills you almost every time!
12. Cerezo Osaka- Huge last minute win against Kyoto. Could it be the catalyst for better things for Tsunami and friends?
13. Mito Hollyhock- Sorry Vendo, had to put somebody here. The one statistic that jumps out at ya is the 0-0-3 -6 home record. Back to back crowds of under 2000 as well.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Wis they had done it today or tomorrow because I would have ventured out. MEDIA CENSORSHIP! BOO! Scheduling practice on a school day is just wrong!
Anyhow........lineups and scores for each game were as followed
Kokushikan game lineup
DF Hagimura Sugawara Tomisawa Kaimoto
(I hope to never see this group in a game ever.......flashbacks from last year are already occuring)
MF Nagai Ono Sato Kanazawa
FW Hiroyama Inoue
Sato set up both goals as Hiroyama and Kanazawa both found the nets. However a relatively strong side only could tie the University students 2-2
DF Fujita Killoran Sonoda Miyasaka
MF Shibasaki JR. Yamamoto* Bruno* Trialist*
FW Iio Yoshitake
This game wasn't even close as Verdy got 5 on the board. Iio again showed his mastery of lower level teams as he netted 2 more. Yoshitake and Shibasaki also netted goals for the C squad.
Taisei Fujita has got to be wondering what he did wrong to end up in the depths of Verdy Satellite hell.
Here it is! http://mitohollyhock.blogspot.com/ Mito Hollyhock News and Results by Vendo Thefastlane. The title is a bit bland and to the point but the site is great, I was actually stunned to see somebody putting that much effort into the J Leagues smallest team but I for one am glad that he's doing it.
Great site, check it out and I will put up a link!
My only request is that Vendo livens up the title, maybe a play on the AC/DC classic......HIGHWAY TO HOLLYHOCK? Ehh, it's his blog and he's doing more than fine without my rude intrusions......call it what you like, just keep it up!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Vegalta VS Thespa- On paper, this game looked like it would be a blowout. Besides Verdy, Vegalta has been the most impressive team in the early going. Vegalta outplayed Thespa everywhere except the scoreboard, putting up 20 shots to 8. It looked like the game would finally break open after Lopes put a score in early in the second half, but the Kusatsu squad broke through late when (shockingly) Koji Maatsura put one in 10 minutes from the final whistle. With the point, Vegalta inches past Verdy in the standings but the Tokyo side has to feel good about today's result.
Montedio VS Consadole- MF Masaya Nishitani notched his second goal of the season as Consadole moved into 3rd place with a 1-0 win over Montedio Yamagata. Takahiro Takagi put up his fourth straight clean sheet for the Owls. Yamagata MF Masaru Akiba got run late in the game with his second yellow.
Avispa VS Mito- Pity poor Mito, who got blitzed by this year's candidate for league bullies. Lincoln had a brace and Alex and Takanori Nunobe also pitched in with scores to lead Avispa to a 4-1 drubbing of Hollyhock. Things looked a little brighter when MF Jun Muramatsu scored, but fellow mid Shohei Ogura picked up a second yellow to end all hopes for the little Ibaraki side.
Shonan VS Ehime- 5 games and 3 0-0 ties for Shonan Bellmare. Maybe you wanna rethink that strategy.
Sagan VS Tokushima- Baby steps for last year's 4th place squad as they finally get a victory over Tokushima Vortis 1-0. DF Keiji Takachi scored the only goal in a game that really wasn't close. Sagan outshot Vortis 16 to 1 but could not find the back of the net.
GAME OF THE DAY- A pair of Kansai relegation victims took the field in Osaka today as last place Cerezo Osaka battled with preseason favorites Kyoto Sanga FC. Sanga jumped out to a lead off of two goals by FW Andre, but Cerezo answered back with goals from Tatsuya Furuhashi and Ze Carlos. Finally with the closing whistle approaching, Cerezo defender Kazuya Maeda put the dagger into the heart of Kyoto. 3-2 Cerezo
So if the season were to end today Vegalta and Verdy would be in J1, Consadole would be playing Chiba in a Pro/Rel and my friend Furtho would have to be worrying about who Tokushima Vortis is starting against Ehime. That is something I would not wish on anyone.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Vegalta VS Avispa- Pierre Littbarski decided to go with the recently returned Tatsunori Hisanaga and it paid early dividends for the Fukuoka squad as he notched a goal in the 13th minute of play. However the story on the day was Ryan Yong Gi who managed to notch two in a 15 minute span to give Sendai a 2-1 victory and put them behind Verdy on goal differential.
Kyoto VS Tokushima- In another minor miracle, tokushima managed to grab a point on the road against Sanga. Tokushima led for most of the game until FW Paulinho grabbed one late to salvage a tie for the purple and red. Former Shimizu man Ryuzo Morioka got the hook with two yellows for Kyoto. 1-1
Ehime VS Mito- 0-0, nothin to see here.....move along!
Consadole VS Shonan- In a battle of defensive minded teams, it makes sense that the game ended knotted at 0-0. Takahiro Takagi is quickly claiming the mantle as J2's best keeper with his third clean sheet in 4 games.
Thespa VS Sagan- Nobuhito Triizuka scored late to salvage a tie at home for Thespa. Sagan finally managed to get a point this season.
So, only Cerezo has yet to get a point on the season.
Games for Saturday
Thespa plays Sendai in a northland squabble. Thespa has settled down after a drubbing in the opener, but Sendai is playing great ball right now. I'd look for the trend to continue at home
Montedio hosts Consadole in another matchup of defensive minded squads. I think it will be another brawling, low scoring affair
Sagan tries to build on their first point of the season as they host the increasingly improving Tokushima Vortis. I think this will be the game that Sagan gets a little on track.
Mito hosts Avispa in a contest that won't be
Shonan hopes to break out of the scoring slump as they take on the little orange squad from Ehime. I think this will be the game
Cerezo really didn't need to take on a hungry Kyoto squad who keeps falling short. Tsunami must feel a Vegalta deja vu with the mounting losses.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Ze Luis Nanami
Fukuda Togawa Tsuchiya Hattori
BENCH: Yoshihara, Nagai (81 Sato), Tomisawa (89 Nanami), Inoue (89 Funakoshi), Ono
Cerezo came out ready to brawl, it was apparent at the get go when they started to take down Hulk on drives. The volatile Brazilian scoring machine took the bait and sent a forearm shiv to the back of Kenjiro Ezoe in what would be the first of many cards to come. If truth be told, the "star" of today's contest was the erratic and moody Kenji Oogaya, who handed out cards like a 99 yen shop campaign girl hands out tissue.......erraticly and with various degrees of enthusiasm.
In all honesty, it wasn't the number of cards........Cerezo instigated and Verdy willingly retaliated....it was the unevenness. Hulk was fouled on numerous occasions and was not rewarded with a free kick. On the other hand, Hulk gave out some punishment and went over the line on a couple of occasions and probably should have gotten a second yellow. One fellow who did pick his second was MF Takuya Miyamoto on a tangle in the box during the 68th minute.
Bikkuri Donkey (AKA Yuzo Funakoshi) was the hapless victim of many shots and pulls and even one two-handed push down on a header for no call. He was rewarded in the 80th minute for his troubles with a PK when Ezoe pulled down (sort of) Donkey in the box.
J2's super scorer lined up against Cerezo's less than stellar keeper and the results were predictable...1-0 Verdy.
After the substitution of Yuskue Sato for Hideki Nagai, Verdy opened up the offense and Hulk pulled a breakaway on the side. A nice looping pass to the looming Funakoshi led to a soft roller past Yoshida and another shocking celebration. 2-0 Verdy
I was a little shocked to see Sato in the starting lineup......don't get me wrong, I think it was the right move, but I couldn't see Rui displacing his chosen man in the middle. I think Sato played the best game of any Verdy midfielders today. Takagi, and the back 4 were very efficient again, only 1 real dangerous chance really occured by Yasuhito Morishima, which Takagi swallowed up.
I liked Takagi's distribution today, very quick and decisive. Unlike last year, his punch saves were with a purpose and led to runs up the box. He wasn't doing that at all last year. Kikuchi has really turned him around from 2005.
Diego is a mess. Part of it is his fitness, which still isn't there. The other part of it is his position on the field......Ramos is using him in a distributor role, and he doesn't have the skills for that right now (or he isn't showing them). Diego needs to be in a position to ball hawk and scavenge for goals. I think he was more forward in the Kashiwa formation and he didn't have to dribble to get his chances. Numerous times, he'd get the ball and instead of makig a streaking run or quick cut, he'd stop, make a very wide turn like a mack truck, and lumber in the center or pass of to someone in a non-attack position. His defense looked better though.
My one MAJOR criticism of Rui today was not moving sooner to sub in for an offensive weapon when Cerezo went to 10 men. It was fortunate that Funakoshi go tthe call in the box with the unstable decision making of Oogawa, because Verdy did not look like they were going to get a score on their own. Inoue should have been in for somebody sooner.
Saturday is a well deserved day of rest for Verdy. The next game is at home against Montedio Yamagata on the 31st.........We'll see if the rest is good or bad.
BTW.....Here are the highlights
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Montedio Yamagata VS Kyoto Sanga- The FC from Kyoto let another chance for a full 3 points slip away as they let up a late goal to MF Masaru Akiba after leading 1-0 for the lions share of the contest. 1-1 tie
Ehime VS Sagan- Battle of the bad as two last place squads got together for a brawl down south. 22 minutes into the game, Shunsuke Ohyama scored for Ehime. That was it. 1-0 Ehime
Shonan VS Cerezo- Shonan limited Satoshi Tsunami's pink brigade to 3 shots in this affair. The Ancient Mariner, 37 year old Nozomu Kato struck very late in the contest to decide it in the mermens favor. 2-1 Bellmare
Mito vs Thespa- After falling behind early, Thespa went on a scoring barrage, knocking in 3 in the second half. Even former Verdy striker Koji Maatsura got into the action, knocking one in near the close of the game. 3-1 Thespa
仙 台 SENDAI
札 幌 SAPPORO
京 都 KYOTO
山 形 MONTEDIO
福 岡 AVISPA
湘 南 SHONAN
徳 島 TOKUSHIMA
草 津 THESPA
愛 媛 EHIME
水 戸 MITO
鳥 栖 SAGAN
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Slugfest at Sendai!! Not a game for the feint hearted today, battles galore, a bit of history between the two sides ( though probably not a lot of the same players this season as last) led to a scrap from start to finish. Not the prettiest game ever but if will to win was to count at the end of the season, both teams would be up there!! Verdy were fast out of the blocks (as usual these days...) Hulk looking lively and managing to rile the Sendai crowd with abandon!! Funakoshi did nothing to shake off his donkey tag, one spectacularly poor moment involving being clean through and spooning the ball wildly wide of the target...Diego is looking increasingly uncomfortable as the games pass, he was poor today,gave the ball away a lot,was caught in possesion and was booked trying to catch Lopes after he had been robbed. Harsh booking to be fair but he is looking a bit ropey at the minute. The defence were under a lot of pressure today and for the most part were hoping to counter,if the opportunity arose. Anyhow after doing a stellar job for the first 35 minutes, the ball came looping in from the left ,evaded everyone and the Sendai winger was left unguarded to sweep the ball past an unprotected Takagi.1-0 and not unexpected and certainly not undeserved. Anyhow, half time came and 1-0 was looking tough to come back from, but there is always a chance at 1-0. Just inside the second 45, a long punt from Schneider and one bounce,one touch from the striker and Takagi was flapping at empty air as the ball looped over him into the net.Soft goal and the way the centre half (not sure which one) was pushed off the ball like an asthma ridden weakling was embarrassing. At this point it like game over for the Boys in Green... However.anyone who had them dead and buried doesn`t know the history of Verdy!! Lost cause anyone?? Backs against the walls?? Call the Green Boys a quick reply was essential if they were gonna get anything from the game and Ze Luis was there to knock in a header from a scrappy play around the box..2-1. After this, Sendai really went to town... we couldn`t get near their box with anything worthwhile for the rest of the second period. Stout defending,the woodwork and the offside flag all conspired at times to keep the scoreline manageable. Then, with the clock winding down and a first loss looking likely, Hulk from nowhere broke free down the left channel, cut in and beat Schneider at his near post!!! A draw was probably not a just reflection in terms of quality of possesion,shots or chances created.But in terms of effort and never-say-die attitude the boys deserved the point. A good fight against one of the certs to be up their come November!! Sendai will definately feel more dissappointed than our boys. A point won by us as opposed to 2 points thrown away by them. Well Done!! Onwards and Upwards the Boys Definately March On!! Roll on Cerezo!! Im looking forward to it!! Myself and my daughter will be firmly planted behind the goal!! Posted by Nick to Soilent Green 1969 at 6:37 AM
Great writeup as always, Nick! The Hulk goal was pure talent, he stole the ball, outmuscled 4 guys and put a shot past 2 others and the keeper. Amazing. The Ze Luis muscle job was also a good one. Togawa got skewered on the long ball, kind of a karmic turn of events on that second Sendai goal, considering Takagi put one in last year in the same building.
I think we are all concerned about Ono and Diego....it seemed like the team kicked up a notch when Inoue and Sato came on for Nanami and Ono. Actually Yusuke Sato might be the best pickup of the year for Verdy because it was so under the radar. Sato has been great in his super sub role. Kind of curious to see if Rui goes with the same group on a short turnaround or if we see some of the subs against Cerezo.......Hiroyama for Diego? Sugawara for Nanami?
Anyhow, if you didn't see the game here are some highlights courtesy of Tasui105 at YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2DHY4P3J94 Full Highlights
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DVMjOEv2BQ ZE LUIS goal
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX5YNoKMO3g HULK goal
Previews and results from around J2 are coming tomorrow!
Friday, March 16, 2007
MF Ze Luis
*Side note- A Nagai will not only be on the bench for Verdy. Atsushi Nagai is a midfielder from Montedio Yamagata and the little brother of Hideki Nagai. So look for that little battle.
Well, St.Patricks Day is coming and signs point to Verdy for another victory. First is the obvious all green kit that team Tokyo sports. Second is the CyberAgent amoeba which looks strikingly similar to a clover......the symbol of Eire. The third link happens to be a certain young defender by the name of Killoran, Born in the Emerald Isle. In terms of Celtic Karma, it's in the bag for Verdy, so I can stop this column right now.........Erin Go Bragh!!!!!!
Well, let's PRETEND that this will actually be decided on the field. Verdy has a couple of things to worry about when it comes to the other Bird of Prey in J2. Sendai is making it's first appearance in front of the home crowd after a wildly successful 2 game road trip which saw a maximum 6 points go to Vegalta. After a somewhat fortuitous opening win in Shonan on an own goal and a score from forward Yuki Nakashima, Vegalta stamped out Cerezo 2-0.
Unlike last years high flying scoring machine, Sendai has relied on defense to get them through. Everything starts on defense with GK Junnsuke Schneider, who is competing with Yoshiyuki Takagi as frontrunner for best goalkeeper in J2. Offensively, Sendai relies on a midfield duo of Ryan Yong Gi and Lopes.
Projected Sendai Lineup
MF Lopes--Jonilson--Chiba--Ryan Yong Gi
Keys to the contest
1. Hulk and the Donkey vs Shirai and Kitani- Even though Vegalta has only allowed 1 goal in 2 games, they have allowed 22 shots in the game. So it's possible to get some looks against this squad. It is imperative that Hulk and Funakoshi get some chances against an older and slightly smaller central defense.
2. Crack Junnsuke- The guy has been on fire, and even recovered nicely after an early goal to Adiel in their opener. Schneider is a good keeper but he can be cracked. Constant pressure is the key.
3. Help from the wings- Diego and Ono have to show up for this game, it's a must that they play the Yong-Gi/Lopes combo even at the least. I think Lopes is the catalyst of the two, so shutting him down is a must. On the other side, Diego and Ono have to help with the counter-attacks and put pressure on Vegalta. In Basketball lingo it's called keeping em honest!
4. Keep the sheets clean- That's a good rule for anyone to abide by (ever stay in a less than reputable hotel?), but especially defenses. the late breakdown in Ehime was a bit of a disappointment but not a killer. Just don't make it a habit.
On a personal note......I liked a girl from Sendai but she gave me the brushoff, so this is one I want. Kill em all!
Takuya Yamada Coast to Coast
It looks like the Exotic Terminater World tour has found its way to Soilent Green's motherland, Sunny Carson, California. Yamada appeared in the 60th minute for CD Chivas USA of the MLS against Red Bull New York in a battle of the foreign owned and branded soccer clubs in America (or something like that). No real details on how he did but the team got the lead 9 minutes after he entered the game, only to allow the equalizer a few moments later to come away with a 2-2 tie.
Chivas USA's big brother, Chivas Guadalajara tied MLS squad DC United in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup semi-final. If they happen to win, they play in the World Club Championships in.......you guessed it.......Japan. So IF Yamada is signed by Chivas USA, AND Chivas Guadalajara qualify for the WCC, don't be surprised if ET ends up playing for the Mexican side in December.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Tokushima Vs Consadole- Vortis has been a mild suprise in their first two contests, pulling out a win and a tie. However, the results came against two teams that have to be considered lesser lights. Consadole rebounded from a tough game in Kyoto to beat a struggling Sagan Tosu in a defensive struggle. Reality will set in for Toksuhima...........if you can't score on Thespa, YOU WON'T SCORE ON SAPPORO
Mito VS Thespa- WOW, this is gonna be one to TIVO so you can replay it over and over. Two teams who have not scored at all this year. Mito put in a credible performance against Montedio but fell just short. Thespa played Tokushima to a tough draw.
Montedio Vs Kyoto- When I saw Montedio this preseason, they looked really poor. However they seemed to have turned it on in the opening. Unlucky late PK cost them 2 points against Avispa. Kyoto meanwhile got held scoreless by a tough Shonan defense. Leanardo has been brilliant anchoring the back for Yamagata but I don't see the Paulinho/Andre tandem getting shut out 2 games in a row.
Shonan Vs Cerezo- Poor Satoshi Tsunami is hitting another defensive buzzsaw in Shonan, this time on the road. I think Shonan is gonna get their offense on track and get a couple on the board........Adiel, this means you!
Sagan vs Ehime-Battle at the bottom----of Japan and the J league. Why Anderson isn't starting for a team that's been shut out two weeks running is beyond me. I also think the Tanaka sub plan has to be scrapped for Ehime.
Sagan 3-2.......They couldn't be this bad could they?
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Goals were scored by Hiroyama, Kanazawa, and Sonoda. Sonoda actually had a hat trick in this one.
Of note, players who appeared were Muro and Shibasaki in goal, Kaz Iio up top with Hiroyama
Sugawara, Kanazawa, Sonoda, and Shinmura in the middle
Kaimoto, Killoran, Bruno Cabiro (a trainee) and Fujita in the back
Also seeing time were Yamamoto (a trainee) and Mihara.
Monday, March 12, 2007
These two men are guilty.........of scoring goals. In another laugher of a contest, Tokyo Verdy took the lead early on a nice juke move by Hulk which caught Ehime's very young keeper flat footed an unprepared to cut off the goal.
Hulk goal here
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Thespa 0 Tokushima 0- Not much to say on this one. Thespa gets a point to pull out of the cellar and jump up to 9th. Tokushima is just out of promotion range in 5th (probably the last time I'll be writing this!)
Kyoto Sanga 0 Shonan Bellmare 0- The newly improved Shonan defense held a dangerous Kyoto side scoreless even after being outshot 16 to 8. Big tip of the cap goes to Yong Gwi Kim who held up in goal.
Cerezo Osaka 0 Vegalta Sendai 2-Satoshi Tsunami took on his former team in Cerezo's J2 debut. Cerezo outshot the Sendai side 14 to 7 but could not crack Junnsuke Schneider. Vegalta took an early lead on a goal from Naoki Chiba. Sendai went up by 2 when Ryan Yong Gi put a score in in the 51st minute. Masayuki Yanagisawa made his debut for the pink and purple by getting a yellow card. Rentals from Rui on the horizon?
Saturday, March 10, 2007
MF Ono-Nanami-Ze Luis-Diego
GK Akihiro Sato* (new starter)
DF Matsushita-Minami-Tetsushi Kondo* (187cm-Fukunishi stopper?)-Moriwaki
MF Inoue-Nakamura*-Shunsuke Oyama*-Takashi Fuji*
FW Kenichi Ego*-Yoshihiro Uchimura
Bench Keisuke Hada-Shingo Hoshino-Shuichi Arai-Ryota Miki-Toshiya TanakaThe ages 20/21/23/20/20/24/20/20/20/27/22
What a young squad! Ehime youth- 6 new starters too, including the ouster of Tanaka. I smell a trap!
Consadole Sapporo vs Sagan Tosu- This game saw yet another red card as Sagan's Takayuki Yamaguchi picked up 2 yellows in the first half. Didn't really matter because Consadole scored the games only goal 9 minutes earlier at the foot of U-20 midfielder Seiya Fujita. Toshiya Miura's dream match, a 1-0 slog.
So Verdy can inch ahead tomorrow with a win against Tangerine Terror.
Friday, March 09, 2007
This year's clash features a revamped Verdy squad who has more firepower than a year ago. Ehime brought a ton of youth in from Urawa, Sanfrecce, and Jubilo but still relies on its core from a season ago.
Last week saw a minor disaster for Ehime as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Tokushima Vortis. the lone bright spot for the squad was substitue midfielder Go Nakamura, who notched Ehime's lone goal.
Verdy will again be without the services of Kazuki Hiramoto who (according to el Golazo) has an injury.
Ehime Lineup (Prediction)
FW Toshiya Tanaka Susumu Oki
MF Yoshihiro Uchimura Hideto Inoue
Go Nakamura Shuichi Arai
DF Kohei Matsushita Yuzo Minami
Tomoya Kanamori Ryota Moriwaki
GK Yusuke Kawakita
Keys to the game
1. Get Hulk the ball- With the lack of ball handling skill in the midfield, the number one priority is to get the ball to the one real playmaker on the team. Verdy was at its most potent when the talented young striker had control of the ball.
2. Shut down Toshiya Tanaka- Ehime has one major goal scoring threat and Tanaka is it. If the duo of Tsuchiya and Tanaka can mark Tanaka out of the game, then the pressure will be on for the rest of Ehime to score. While there is potential from other players, the main gun is Tanaka. No Tanaka, not much chance.
3. Improved wing play- If last year was any indication, Ehime is a slogging bunch who likes to tighten up on D and scratch for 1 goal decisions. It is incumbent upon messrs Ono and Diego to step up their game this week and not make sloppy turnovers. Ball control and speed should be the mantra of this pair. It might not be an awful idea to have Nozomi Hiroyama as one of the MF subs this week as well.
4. Production from Bikkuri Donkey- Yuzo Funakoshi had an amazing goal last week. Amazing. Now do it again. the one thing the big man has is size, and he needs to use it to wear down the central mids of Ehime. Considering the slight build of both central D's, (72 kg versus 88kg for Funakoshi) it might not be a bad thing to use the big man as a battering ram for 60 minutes and go with the speed of Inoue. The big man needs to do something, even if it results in no goals.
This game will be tougher than it appears but if Verdy claws and fights, they will get a result.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
FW Paulinho Kyoto Sanga 6.5 1 goal 1 assist
MF Diego Verdy 6.5 1 goal
MF Takanori Nunobe Fukuoka 6.5 1 goal
MF Takumi Watanabe Montedio 6.5 1 goal
MF Jun Muramatsu Mito Hollyhock 6.5
DF Hiromasa Kanazawa Mito Hollyhock 6.5
DF Yukio Tsuchiya Verdy 6.5 1 goal
DF Shogo Kobara Montedio 6.5
DF Kazuki Teshima Kyoto Sanga 6.5
GK Yoshinari Takagi Verdy 6
Diego.........really? Alex from Fukuoka gets two goals on the road against a more formidable Sagan squad and he gets bumped for Diego? Really? Maybe I missed something.....for 90 minutes.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Check it out here
Also, El golazo rates the Verdy 14
Takagi 6- Although he didn't have too much to do, he stopped a couple of rockets that could have changed momentum, I think a 6 is a little low for a shutout.
Tsuchiya 7.5-Man of the match by El Golazo
Ono-Ze Luis-Diego 6.5- WHAT? Seriously too high for three non factors on offense.....of the three, I'd say Ze Luis did the best.
Nanami 5.5- I'd say he was the best of the mids and they rank him lowest......again I am stunned by the mysteries of El Golazo
Funakoshi 6.5- O.K. the goal alone gets him this result and it was a pretty recovery for the big donkey.
Hulk 7.5- Man of the Match for Soilent Green
Sato 6.0- Inoue-NR Nagai NR (I'd give em both a 6 because they assisted on the last two goals
THE WINNING 11 (J2's Best according to the rankings of EG and interpreted by me!) 4-4-2
GK Takagi Tokyo Verdy 6
DF Hiromasu Kanazawa Mito Hollyhock 6.5
DF Yukio Tsuchiya Tokyo Verdy 7.5
DF Jungo Konno Tokushima Vortis 7
DF Leonardo Montedio Yamagata 6.5
MF Lopez Vegalta Sendai 6.5
MF Daiki Niwa Tokushima Vortis 7
MF Alex Avispa Fukuoka 7
MF Takanori Nunobe Fukuoka 6.5
FW Hulk Tokyo Verdy 7.5
FW Yasuaki Oshima Tokushima Vortis 7
Bench GK Junnsuke Schneider Vegalta Sendai 6/FW Andre Kyoto Sanga 6.5/FW Paulinho Kyoto Sanga 6.5/DF Chiago Kyoto Sanga 6.5/MF Shinya Tanoue Vegalta Sendai 6.5
Manager Pierre Littbarski Fukuoaka 6.5
Sunday, March 04, 2007
MF Diego-Ze Luis-Nanami-Ono
Bench Yoshihara, Sato, Tomisawa, Nagai, Inoue
Walking around the stadium before the match, you could see some familiar faces in matching black suits. Masaki Saito was working the Kappa booth, Eugene Killoran was greeting people at the gate with Nozomi Hiroyama, Kazuki Hiramoto was.............wait, why was Kazuki Hiramoto out among the fans? I'm honestly not sure but it seems like some things never change. rui went with a shocking choice at forward in Yuzo "Tokyo Tower" Funakoshi. Another surprise was the absence of preseason starter Koijiro Kaimoto. In his place was rookie Kensuke Fukuda.
Early on it was clear that Hulk wanted to impress in his Verdy debut. Playing like a man possessed, the stout Brazilian forward dribbled down the side and put a pinpoint pass in the box to the looming Funakoshi. 57 seconds into the season and Funakoshi scores. I don't even think Funakoshi predicted that he would get the first goal of the season. Unfortunately for Thespa, that would be as close as they would get. After 45 minutes of wrestling and grappling, the team went into locker room up 1-0.
The second half saw a more determined Verdy side push up more on the attack. 8 minutes in Hulk was awarded a free kick about 35 yards out. He backed up, took a running start and put a fabulous rocket into the back corner of the net for Verdy's second goal. This seemed to cause panic in the Gunma side as Thespa's coach emptied his bench in atttempts to get some points back.
Hulk would be the catalyst for the third goal as he put a corner kick right at the feet of a charging Yukio Tsuchiya. Tsuchiya did a nice stop turn and put the goal past the feet of Thespa keeper Seiji Honda. Wait, there's more.........goal number 4 came after Ramos decided to pull Funakoshi, Nanami, and Ono for the ancient Hideki Nagai, the underrated Yusuke Sato, and the youthful Taira Inoue. Nagai was the point man on goal four as he took a pass to the box and sent a nice low pass right at the feet of the lumbering Diego. Goal number 4 and another awful celebration. Finally, Taira Inoue would contribute as well as he took a ball on the break, slowed down for a hustling Hulk and dished off........Hulk stutter stepped, stopped, let the defender run by, reversed and put an easy shot past the hapless Honda. The destruction was complete...........5-0 Verdy.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
1. Hulkamania- Hulk played at a different level than everyone else on the field. He was strong on his runs, he was fast, and most importantly HE WAS SMART. Hulk set up his teammates a bunch of times and was thinking much faster than guys like Ono, Diego, and Ze Luis. Player of the match. I was impressed with his unselfishness and the two goals were incredible.
2. New blood- After Kensuke Fukuda settled down, he really was impressive as the branch in the back. In the second half, his long passes helped to set up many scoring opportunities and a rocket shot from distance was a crossbar away from making the final result 6-0. Taira Inoue showed savvy decision making and unselfishness in dumping it off to a teammate in better position. 99 times out of 100, the average J League striker tries to bull their way into the box, either overshooting or falling down, and Inoue didn't.
3. The defense- Thespa only had a few shots that were dangerous, and Takagi made great saves on all of them. The T-triange of Takagi, Tsuchiya, and Togawa pretty much shut down Thespa. Rarely did that happen last year. It's starting to look like Tsuchiya was the most important pickup for Verdy this season.
4. Thespa supporters-Great turnout and arguably a louder element that the Tokyo faithful.
Hard to find anything truly bad about a 5-0 drubbing, but I can!
1. The wing play- Ono and Diego really were non-factors in today's game and made a ton of turnovers. Neither one of these guys has great speed, which is the one thing Verdy lacks on offense. Diego wanted to power through people on everything, whether it was passing to teammates, stealing the ball, or dribbling. Neither player had good position all day. Drives which could have provide results usually died at the feet of these two. And neither look to be in game shape. I think Hiroyama would be a better choice on the wing in the short term until either shows the capacity and the desire to play and get in shape.
2. Thespa Kusatsu- They were able to hang around for a half but it's gonna be a long season for the squad. There is no way they can survive with an attack led by Koji Maatsura.
1. The Jacket- Expect to see the Rui Ramos leisure suit again after the 5 goal performance. Did I mention that it was lime green?
2. Yuzo Funakoshi- Good on ya for notching the first goal, actually a good effort and shot. Teh other 70+ minutes were less impressive. Downright painful to watch actually. I think the big man can give a good 45 minutes tops, maybe less.
Around the League
The most impressive performance in J2 arguably was not turned in by Verdy but by Avispa Fukuoka. Fukuoka went on the road to Sagan Tosu and dismantled them 5-0.
Montedio also ventured to Mito and won 1-0
Next up is a road trip to Ehime on March 11th. I will watch the ticker!
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Keys to the game
1. Get to Honda early- Thespa's new keeper has been in the league for 11 years but only racked up 39 games in his career. If Verdy can get on the board early, it could dent the hopes of a young team and a rusty keeper.
2. Control the spine- Togawa, Tsuchiya, Ze Luis, and Nanami have to win the battle in the middle in order to get a result. NO SLOPPY BACKPASSING!
3. Keep the pressure on- If Verdy doesn't take this team seriously, it could be a very long day. Verdy cannot take anyone lightly............If Verdy gets up by 5.......go for 6. Don't dither......ATTACK!
Around the League
Kyoto and Vegalta made the first statements of the new year with victories in tough matches. Kyoto won their home opener against Toshiya Miura and Consadole Sapporo 2-0 on goals by Andre and Paulinho. Meanwhile, Vegalta came back after being down 1-0 from an Adiel goal and won 2-1 in Shonan. An own goal and a second half deposit from FW Yuki Nakashima help propel the Sendai side to their first victory. Finally, Tokushima Vortis did an about face and beat Ehime FC 2-1.
14 and a half hours till game time!
Friday, March 02, 2007
With the advent of CyberAgent, a new front office went to work, sparing no expense in bringing in talent and leadership. On paper, this team should cruise to J1. On paper, this team has more talent than at least a third of the first division squads in Japan. On paper, this squad might be the best that J2 has ever seen. On paper. It means nothing on Sunday afternoon.
There will be 8 different starters than the ones that took the field on opening day last year. Instead of Basilio and Anailson, players who were past their prime, Verdy lines up Kashiwa's 2006 MVP Diego and Consadole's 2006 goal machine Hulk. Two former World Cup vets named Nanami and Hattori take the reigns of a team severly lacking in leadership last year. A bald former Verdy man named Tsuchiya returns to take control of a central defense that leaked like a sieve with the dearth of talent that manned the position one year ago. And the bench sees an influx of talent with the addition of plenty of youths and accomplished J league contributors, most notably former Shonan Bellmare leader Yusuke Sato.
Before Verdy books reservations to the big time, some questions will need to be answered.....
1. Will the H&H combo connect?
40 goals were scored last year by the duo of Hulk and Hiramoto, by far the most prolific team of strikers in 2007's J2 campaign. A small problem with the pairing is the similarity of both strikers game.........both are target forwards who can create for themselves and their strike partners but often prefer to be up top scavenging for goals. Both Hulk and Hiramoto are prone to mental lapses, Hulk with his temper and Hiramoto with his frequent disappearances. If these two can keep their head in the game and show unselfishness, Verdy will be the most potent scoring team in J2. If not, it will get ugly.
2. How will the midfield gel?
In my opinion, the team failed last year because the midfiled was erratic and incoherent for most of the year. Injuries, bad performances, constant changes, and suspensions led to a lack of cohesiveness. The onus is on last year's captain, Harutaka Ono, to come on strong and lead the offense. He will be helped by the upgrades in 2007. Having Diego, Hiroshi Nanami, and Ze Luis as midfield partners will allow Ono to play a more relaxed game and attack. However, if the team falters, Nozomi Hiroyama and Yusuke Sato await to take a position in the starting 11. Ono looks to be the first one to get the hook.
3. Will Yoshihara help or hurt Takagi?
Last year saw a renaissance of sorts for Yoshinori Takagi. After sitting behind a less talented keeper for a fair stretch, Takagi fought his way back into the lineup and back to credibility as a keeper. Now, Takagi will be backed up by Shinya Yoshihara. If Takagi responds well to the competition, Verdy will have another weak spot taken care of. If he doesn't,Yoshihara can fill in and take it over, but it would be better if the big man does it himself.
4. Will the team get in shape?
Small dings and a late start have some of the squad looking less than effective at the start. Suspiciously, the two former Kashiwa guys, Ono and Diego, are the big culprits here. The team needs these two and certain others to be in peak condition, otherwise they will be missing fair amounts of time with hamstring problems and other nicks. Where is Flavio when you need him?
5. Will age catch up with Vets?
3 of the newcomers to Verdy are past 30, Three more are pushing to 30. In a 48 game season, it's hard to imagine that all 6 will make it through to the end unscathed. What the vets bring in experience and leadership is balanced by the mileage on their older legs. If they can stay relatively intact, Verdy will succeed.
6. Will any of the young guys step up to the fore?
Right now it appears that Yokohama Marinos youth product and former Meiji University defender Kensuke Fukuda is the early candidate to shine, after getting a coveted spot in the final 16 versus FC Tokyo. It's not necessary for the squad to get a major contribution from the rookies right away, but it would be ncie.
The most pressing question of 2007 is this one. 2006 saw a manager who was borderline brilliant with his in-game instincts and sub patterns and downright incompetent with his first team selections and roster choices. The constant indecision and lineup shuffles left the team struggling with consistency and looking for an identity. If it happens again and the team gets off to a slow start, Verdy might......no WILL...see a new head man. So the question is WWRD......What Will Ruy Do?
THE LINEUP 4-4-2
MF Diego-Nanami-Ze Luis-Ono
The first three to go
Shigenori Hagimura-Kazunori Iio-Masaki Saito (I predict Cerezo-Cerezo-Yokohama FC or Omiya)
With the additions of talent, these three are the first on the hot seat to go to another squad. Hagimura and Iio didn't appear in any of the training matches during the preseason and Saito was behind not only Funakoshi but the rookie Inoue during camp. If the strikers prove to be formidable, look for these two to move on to other clubs. Hagimura has fallen so far that even Cerezo might be a stretch. Rosso Kumamoto?
Prediction 1st place