Going into the second half of the season, Verdy finds themselves in 14th place, just a breath away from playing VegaltaCerezoMontedioSaganThespaShonan in a pro/rel playoff extravaganza. Let's take a quick look at the HIGHS and LOWS of Verdy J1 2.0.
High Point of the season- Arguably the game against then 1st place Nagoya was the best moment in a rocky first half. Verdy had come off a shelling by.....you guessed it....Kashiwa Reysol and had only one win on the entire season. A loss could have put the team in JEF Chiba territory but the men in green came through with a decent 2-0 effort and turned the season around to go on a nice 4-1-1 streak headed into the June break
Low point of the season-It wasn't the worst loss of the season scoring wise, but the 2-0 loss to Omiya after the break really was the most disheartening for a squad that had some momentum before the respite. After a tumultuos rest which saw 2 of the 3 Brazilians show up very late to training and throw the team into upheaval, the performance by Verdy was a step back. Did Coach Hashiratani lose the squad by failing to crack down on the two erstwhile mercenaries? It was a mess to be sure.
The Dedimar award- Goes to Leandro for being highly touted and offering little but excuses and uninspired performances. The man was brought into create, and create he did.........team turmoil and a poisonous atmosphere leading to bad team chemistry.
New Face Award- Of all the former J Legends to be brought in, the new face of 2008 has to be the youngster Hiroki Kawano. Kawano has managed to notch 2 goals in limited minutes and has produced numerous chances. While his slight build and defensive lapses put the team at risk from time to time, the Verdy youth product has brought excitement and hope back to Ajinomoto. And I'll go ahead and say it, this kid is much better than the more hyped Morimoto but you won't see that in the Japanese press.
MVP Defense- Yukio Tsuchiya has been the only consistent performer on an otherwise mediocre back line. Tsuchiya has disrupted and guarded well for most of the season, only having a few lapses and he's managed to be a presence in the attack on set pieces. A few more centimeters and he would have been a NT mainstay.
MVP Offense- Diego has been the only consistent performer on an otherwise mediocre front line....Deja Vu! No seriously, Hulk has had flashes of brilliance but when you shoot 100 times you should have more to show for it and Diego has nearly matched him in less than half the shots. And Diego has been professional and in shape the whole year. I had my doubts about the big man stepping up to J1 but he has been decent as a creator.
Biggest disappointment not named Hulk- Captain Toshihiro Hattori follow in the footsteps of previous captains Harutaka Ono and Takuya Yamada as guys who are known for being vocal and inspirational and truly out of their depths on the field. If Hattori isn't making an erstwhile cross, he's falling over and letting someone get off a clean shot. The team is filled with guys like this but he is the most noticeable. The policy nest year needs to be no more old dudes from Jubilo's glory days. I'm serious.
The pressure is on- Coach Hashiratani. The whole Hulk mess and Japanese player group sob really has you in a bind. Yokohama F Marinos fired their coach and arguably their squad was in much better shape. I imagine the hairdo will give you about 6 games to get the team to a respectable 10th or 11th before he cuts you out and installs a FANTASTICO big name guy to take your place. A name that starts with Rui and ends with Ramos perhaps?
Grades (on a G scale of 1 to 5....5 being best)
Doi 3 Gs- Decent performance but the age is showing. Why they didn't push harder for Sugeno is beyond me.
Wada 2Gs- Injuries and less than inspired play brings the score down on this former Fulie.
Nasu 2Gs- Another disappointment thus far. Expected more out of him as the big punsher to accent the crafty Tsuchiya
Tsuchiya 4Gs- Ohhhhh, how I wish he had never left Omiya. Good player and one of the better signings for Verdy. That's a veteran signing.
Tomisawa 1G- All around player, meaning he manages to play all positions equally bad. Why is he on the field?
Hattori 1G-Not going to beat a dead horse on this one but I'm not impressed to say the least.
Sugawara 3Gs- Really been a bit of a surprise considering he was pretty poor in J2. Quietly efficient this year and not many mistakes.
Fukunishi 2Gs- I think he is more a case of not having a set position in this team. He's too slow to be on the wings and not good enough to replace Diego up top. Decent player, bad signing.
Ono 1G-Like Fukunishi except without the talent. He's just getting in the way of Shibasaki and Kawano's development. Not a J1 player.
Kawano and Shibasaki 3Gs- Good effort in limited time. Making rookie mistakes but contributing something to the team. I'd love to see more.
Hiroyama 1G- Injuries and erratic play have hampered one of my favorite players. Here's hoping he can turn it around
Iio 2Gs- I haven't noticed him too much so that's probably a good thing.
Leandro 1G- Unbelievably bad signing. Moments of good play surrounded by piles of dreck.
Hiramoto 2Gs- Very limited time, now's your chance to show you are a player..........been waiting for a good 4 years now.
Oguro N/A- Not yet......but soon.
Funakoshi- Just kidding, Bikkuri Donkey has been on the shelf too long to get a grade.
Hulk 0Gs- 7 goals and one huge cancerous tumor have been your contributions to this squad. Bon Voyage Les Enfants Terrible..........I imagine you'll be the Jerry Lewis of soccer with your clownish facial expression and fake cries of anguish and pain. As the Nike saying goes JUST gerard deparDIEU IT.
Hasiratani 1G- I don't blame him for the results so much as his mishandling of the Brazilian situation. The second half needs to be better and the losses by 2 or 3 goals need to be cut down.