The 2009 J.League Division 1 season came to a close not with a bang, but with a rain-soaked whimper at Big Swan Stadium in Niigata.
Tokyo took an early lead off of a superb goal by Hokuto Nakamura in the 12th minute and proceeded to defend and attack with valor for much of the rest of the game. Sota Hirayama in particular had several close chances and anyone watching the game could see the anguish in his face as each time he came up just short.
Unfortunately, a gift of 3 points to end the season was not meant to be as Niigata equalized in the closing seconds with a header by retiring (?) player Naoto Matsuo off, you guessed it, a corner kick. Gonda had no chance and will have to be content with tying the J.League shutout record at 15 matches.
The 2,800 (!) Tokyo fans that made the trip to Niigata were fortunate enough to see both Fujiyama and Asari take the field for the last time; Fujiyama was substituted for Hanyu late in the game and wore the captain’s mark while Asari replaced Suzuki following the equalizer goal. While it may have been hard to tell at first sight if it was tears or rain streaming down Asari’s face following the game, it would seem that many Tokyo fans could have used an umbrella as well, so to speak.
With the draw (combined with a Shimizu draw and Urawa’s loss), FC Tokyo ends the season in 5th place. This is the team’s best finish of the one-stage era (2005~) and is an improvement of one place over last year. For accomplishing this, the team will receive from J.League 40 million yen, or roughly $440,000US.
I was going to do a final “summing up the season” post here but I’m seriously lacking the energy at the moment. Many thanks are owed and they will all be written out in time, I’m sure. In the meantime a hearty otsukare to everyone out there in the blogosphere in the stands, and on the field!