It’s been a bad month for FCT’s starting GK Hitoshi Shiota. After a poor showing during the Guam training camp, he returned to Japan suffering heatstroke, then underwent an emergency appendectomy. And now a postoperative intestinal blockage has him out until at least the middle of March, meaning the first several matches of the season, assuming he’s in playing shape when he leaves the hospital.
It’s now up to one of the other three keepers on the roster (Shuichi Gonda, Nobuyuki Abe, or Ryotaro Hironaga) to man the sticks and keep FCT’s hopes alive. All three are products of FCT’s U-18 team, but Gonda has been getting the nod in most of the preseason friendlies, so expect to see him open the season wearing the gloves. If he struggles, though, he could find himself riding pine in favor of the other preseason choice, Abe. Hironaga hasn’t seen much field time in the preseason, so he’ll probably be the desperation choice of last resort only if the two ahead of him crash and burn.
CORRECTION: Due to my (Lantis) poor kanji reading, this was originally posted as having Shiota being out for three months, rather than until mid-March. I apologize for the mistake.