Category Archives: F.C. Tokyo News

Match Report J1R5 FC Tokyo 1:2 Kawasaki

The first Tamagawa Classico of the season saw Tokyo and Kawasucki battle to “Get the River Under Control” on Sunday before 22,199 hardy souls, who braved the drizzly elements and the sight of Frontale's two ridiculous mascots (the new one resembling a spring onion with the stalk severed off) with bragging rights on the line in this burgeoning rivalry.

It was also the first visit to Todoroki for myself and tokyobairn, and while the terracing in the away end brought back happy memories of standing for hours in the freezing rain watching Falkirk for my Scottish friend, I just thought the place was a dump. But I digress….

Quite frankly, there could never have been a better time to play Kawasaki (fair enough, one Kawasucki was enough), missing their two best players (the other Nakamura, and Juninho) and having returned from a midweek trip to Melbourne where they lost 1-0 to the Victory in an ACL Group Stage game.

True, jet lag is not an issue when you travel from Japan to Australia and back, but contrast their trek with our pitstop to Kokuritsu on Wednesday and it was clear the advantage was with us. However, details like that go out the window in derby games, so “respected” football pundits like to tell us on a regular basis, and thusly Tokyo gaffer Jofuku reinforced his defence from midweek, recalling Morishige for Hiramatsu in the centre, and Nagatomo for Kim at full back. There were a couple of surprises elsewhere in selection, though, Tatsuya again preferred to Akamine upfront (Why? What has he done thus far to justify that?), and Ricardinho not even making the bench.

The first ten to fifteen minutes were mostly a case of the two teams feeling themselves out, Chong Tese headed straight at Shuichi Gonda, then Hokuto slashed wide after Ishikawa's initial effort was blocked.

To be fair to Frontale (not easy for me to do), they had had the better of the possession to this stage, and made the breakthrough in the 21st minute, when Chong blasted home from inside the area after Morishige failed to head clear from a cross.

Tokyo responded to that setback by dominating the remaining 25 minutes of the first half, Hirayama had the ball in the net after Hanyu hit the post just three minutes after Chong's goal but the big fella was ruled offside when the rebound came to him, Hokuto fired just over from a free kick in a dangerous area, Hirayama looped a header onto the crossbar and then forced a fine save from Kawashima (to be honest I didnt see the last chance, side note: about the only good thing Todoroki has going for it is the large number of urinals).

Despite all those chances and near misses the Gasmen couldn't find a way past Kawashima in the Frontale net and went back to the sheds a goal down.

Frontale had been fairly content to sit on their lead and try and hit us on the break, and after Tokyo continued to press for an equaliser, that tactic worked to a T 16 minutes into the second half when that man Chong doubled Kawasucki's advantage (sorry, couldn't help throwing another one in there).

Kim had replaced Hokuto two minutes before the goal (with Konno moving into centre mid for the third game in a row), and then two minutes after new sensation Shigematsu replaced the mostly anonymous Tatsuya, but still Tokyo lacked a real cutting edge, and Otake was introduced (for Hanyu) with 20-odd minutes remaining.

Hirayama forced a decent save from Kawashima, but despite more possession Tokyo found it hard to create clear-cut chances, with Inamoto doing a good job of protecting his back four.

The Gasmen had continued to press, and Konno got his second of the season two minutes into stoppage time after Shigematsu's shot was saved (pretty sure it was Shigematsu…I was five beers in by that time), but it was all too little too late. Tokyo probably deserved at least a point on the run of play, but were undone by a very professional performance by the home team.

The fixture man hasn't done us many favours, with the next game against Kashima (Aji Sta, 7pm, Saturday), and Jofuku has a lot to ponder at the selection table. If Kajiyama is fit to start (unlikely, I presume) does he replace Hanyu or Tokunaga? If he isn't, START KONNO IN THE CENTRE OF MIDFIELD! He's moved him in there three games in a row, so he has to start there if Casual isn't fit. Is Tatsuya out of chances to prove himself? Akamine or Shigematsu to start in his place if he is? Are we ever going to see Ricardinho start? Should I nickname him Aquilani? And so on and so forth.

Despite all those questions, Tokyo have another opportunity to really get the season going by taking one of the “big” teams down, and they don't come any bigger than the three-time defending league champions.

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Nabisco Cup Group A FC Tokyo 2:2 Nagoya Grampus

The Gasmen began their defence of the Nabisco Cup before 12,291 people on Wednesday night at Kokuritsu, the scene, of course, of last season's magnificent triumph in the Final. The visitors, Nagoya, no doubt had the 5-1 battering we handed out to them at Aji Sta in the quarter-finals last season in the back of their minds, and were out for a spot of revenge.

Both managers selected near-full strength teams, Jofuku making three changes from the win over Omiya, restoring Hiramatsu and Kim to defence in place of Morishige and Nagatomo, and giving Tatsuya another chance up front with Akamine dropping back to the bench. Also on the bench was new sensation Shigematsu, and he was to have a major say on the final result in rather exciting circumstances. Nagoya's charismatic manager Stojkovic fielded his full contingent of foreigners, including the “Aussie Jesus” Josh Kennedy.

Tokyo won a corner in the first minute but didn't really settle into a rhythm until Tatsuya shot wide about 15 minutes in. Before then Grampus had carved out a few decent chances, with Kanazaki blazing over, while their Colombian holding midfielder Danilson appeared to be chanelling Juninho when he shot over the top from eight yards just after Tatsuya's miss.

Tokyo then enjoyed ten minutes of solid pressure and a goal seemed inevitable, Hanyu smashed a shot against the bar, and then Hirayama, Hokuto and Ishikawa all spurned good chances.  Hokuto was looking bright, one brilliant run in particular got the crowd excited but was halted just outside the box by Danilson. The goal that seemed inevitable did come, but at the wrong end as a long ball over the top was chased by Kennedy, and with Gonda, who should have come out to claim the ball, stranded in no-man's land, the big Aussie calmly lobbed the keeper to put Grampus on the board first.

Jofuku reacted at half time and brought Morishige on for Hanyu, switching Konno to central midfield, but the second half (almost) started disastrously for the Gasmen as Hiramatsu hacked-down a Nagoya player in the box and gave away a penalty. Gonda then kept Tokyo in the game by guessing right and punching away Burzanovic's poorly taken pen. Shigematsu made his entrance 10 minutes into the half, and the crowd buzzed whenever he was on the ball, the youngster looking right at home in the first team.

Tokyo were having some joy down the right, Mukuhara was pushing forward whenever possible, and it was from this area that the Gasmen then drew level on 68 minutes after the Ishikawa-Hirayama hotline got back in business, Sota slotting home from Nao's excellent cross.

Otake came on for Hokuto right after goal but some shoddy defending  straight from the re-start should have seen Nagaoya go right back in front. That chance was wasted but Tokyo's defensive weakness at set-pieces (thankfully missing from the first four games of the season) resurfaced six minutes later as Chiyotanda scored.

As the clock ticked down Tokyo grew more desperate, Otake spent a lot of time on the ball but needed to move it on quicker, then in the second minute of stoppage time the wee man slipped a ball through for Shigematsu who drilled home to send Kokuritsu nuts and rescue a point for Tokyo.

Not the most convincing of displays then, Gonda atoned for his indecisiveness on Nagoya's first goal with the penalty save, but Shigematsu will get the headlines for his second goal in as many games and fair enough too. Hanyu-Tokunaga in central midfield clearly didn't work again, but I'm starting to get bored of going on about it so much, so lets just be pleased with a point having had to come from behind twice, and look forward to the Tamagawa Classico on Sunday! Hopefully Shigematsu, if given the chance, will make it three from three!

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[Match Preview] Is this the year?

November 3rd, 2004.

It's been a long time.
2009年11月08日 味の素スタジアム ● 0-1
2009年03月14日 埼玉スタジアム2002 ● 1-3
2008年08月16日 味の素スタジアム  ● 0-1
2008年07月05日 埼玉スタジアム2002 ● 0-2
2007年08月25日 埼玉スタジアム2002 ● 2-3
2007年06月17日 味の素スタジアム  ● 0-2
2006年11月26日 味の素スタジアム  △ 0-0
2006年08月12日 埼玉スタジアム2002 ● 0-4
2006年05月17日 味の素スタジアム △ 0-0
2006年03月29日 さいたま市浦和駒場 ● 0-2
2005年12月10日 愛媛県総合運動競技場 ● 0-2
2005年08月20日 埼玉スタジアム2002 ● 1-2
2005年04月16日 味の素スタジアム ● 0-2
2004年12月19日 埼玉スタジアム 2002 ● 1-2

…a very, very, very long time.

Five years, four months, and ten days have elapsed since FC Tokyo slayed Urawa Reds in penalty kicks to win the 2004 Nabisco Cup. In that space, Urawa has won 12 of 14 games played, with the other two matches (both at Ajinomoto Stadium) ending in scoreless draws. Indeed, it seems that some things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes, cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, and Urawa walking away from FC Tokyo with three points.

Like in 2009, Urawa will play host to Tokyo in its home opener after getting curbstomped 2-0 by reigning champions Kashima Antlers the previous week. Their offense will, again, be in disarray, and fans will, again, be wondering how Finke intends to salvage the team yet, as always, remain irrationally confident that Urawa will win all of the championships they are eligible for and a couple they probably aren't.

Unlike last year, however, the Reds will not be facing a reeling Tokyo squad with a rookie goalkeeper that had surrendered four goals in a horrific opening day loss to Albirex Niigata a week earlier. Instead, their opponents will be riding the momentum of a breathtaking stoppage time victory and one of Japan's most heralded back lines, with three of the four regular call-ups to the NT. Shuichi Gonda is no longer a frightened 20 year old, but instead a poised veteran who tied the J.League single-season shutout record and got a national team call-up of his own back in January. Naohiro Ishikawa, who missed last year's Urawa match following his season-ending knee injury, is likely to be back in the lineup as a “super-sub” and is expected to contribute in a similar fashion to his picture-perfect assist in last week's match. Hirayama, for several seasons a disappointment, may have finally awoken.

And that is why Tokyo could slay the Urawa dragon tomorrow in front of what's sure to be a packed house at Saitama Stadium.

In various occasions throughout the last week, players including Hirayama, Nagatomo, and Gonda have made assertive statements regarding a Tokyo victory. And you know what? This year of all years, I think it might be time to belive them.

It's generally being reported/predicted by the media that Jofuku will keep the same lineup from last week, and whether that's the best idea or not it seems like there aren't many better options.

The big question mark will, once again, involve Kajiyama and Ishikawa. Ishikawa is again set to come off the bench as a so-called “super sub”, but there are some rumblings about Kajiyama being ready to start. Unlike last week where the starting lineup was essentially announced on the FCT TV program “Tokyo Hotline,” it seems like Jofuku is playing his cards a little closer to his chest. There's also a chance that Akamine could earn a start, adding to the mystery.

Last week: Gonda; Mukuhara, Morishige, Konno, Nagatomo; Nakamura, Tokunaga, Hanyu, Matsushita; Hirayama, Suzuki

This week: Gonda; Mukuhara, Morishige, Konno, Nagatomo; Nakamura, Tokunaga, Hanyu, Matsushita; Hirayama, Akamine/Suzuki

Or if Kajiyama can start, Gonda; Tokunaga, Morishige, Konno, Nagatomo; Nakamura, Kajiyama, Mukuhara (why not, at least he'll play 90 minutes), Matsushita; Hirayama, Akamine/Suzuki

Hell, as long as I'm pulling names out of a hat let's take a page from commenter Bobby Mann Ate My Leg and spin it a little: Gonda; Tokunaga, Morishige, Hiramatsu, Nagatomo; Akamine, Mukuhara, Konno, Matsushita; Hirayama, Ricardinho

I don't imagine we'll figure out what's up until tomorrow, but the possibilities are certainly intriguing. I like Matsushita and want to see him get more playing time… I also want to see Nakamura come out and have a better outing than he did last week. At this point, Suzuki and Hanyu are really starting to become liabilities… Suzuki is a very servicable substitute but Hanyu's days as a regular starter could be numbered.

In other news…

  • FC Tokyo announced the tentative signing of 16-year-old volante Shuto Kono on Friday. The young U-17 NT player is the first pro player to emerge from the JFA Academy, a school set up by the Japanese Football Association with the goal of raising Japan's future elite class of soccer players. He was born and raised in Tokyo and has supported FCT his whole life, which makes him an ideal addition to the squad. Honestly, signing a 16-year-old probably doesn't mean much in the short term, but there's a possibility that Kono could be the next Yonemoto so in the long term it's a very smart pickup for the team.
  • Sunday's game is a near-sellout, with 2000 tickets set aside for match-day sales. Saitama Stadium's capacity is about 63,000. Last year's Urawa home opener, played in the rain, drew just over 50,000.
  • Speaking of rain, there's none expected on Sunday: partly cloudy and around 11C/50F.
  • Sota Hirayama will contribute a monthly column to Weekly Soccer Magazine with his first article to appear in Tuesday's edition.
  • FC Tokyo and derby rivals Kawasaki Frontale are set to announce details for this year's Tamagawa Classico on Monday. In addition to the usual press conference, the Tower Records in Kawasaki will be selling the official “Tamagawa Classico Anthem” CD (featuring the track “Get The River Under Control”), claimed to be the first musical collaboration between two J.League squads. I'm sure it won't be as bad as City Bred, Two Colors.
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Season Opener tomorrow! Umbrellas, lineups, and captains

All you need to know about tomorrow's match vs. Yokohama FM, in bullet point form:

  • Shunsuke Nakamura will not be playing, but apparently TBS will have a fixed camera getting his reaction or so say people on Twitter
  • It's going to rain, so bring an umbrella – particularly red or blue umbrellas if you have one!
  • Expected lineup tomorrow: Gonda; Mukuhara, Morishige, Konno, Nagatomo; Nakamura, Tokunaga, Matsushita, Hanyu; Hirayama, Suzuki
  • Kajiyama and Ishikawa will probably be on the bench but could show up in the second half
  • More Twitter rumors but Tokunaga may be the captain for this season?
  • Omiya tickets on sale tomorrow at 10AM! These are expected to go as fast if not faster than tickets to the Urawa game so buy early!
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The Season Begins! New Faces Part 1

With the team firmly encamped in Miyazaki Prefecture (save for the 4 members who are currently with the National Team), there’s really not much to report on unless I want to translate the fluff articles on Chuunichi (which I don’t), talk about how Nao is injured again (which I don’t) or lament the failings of our national team (really, really, really, really don’t).

So now, late but still in time for the season opener, here’s info on Tokyo’s new faces courtesy of the official website. This first post will cover Japanese rookies, with the next post covering everyone else.

Kentaro Shigematsu

Age: 18
Postion: Forward
Previous club: FCT U-18
Info: A strong center-forward with the ability to create chances under pressure. Kentaro has contributed to the FCT U18’s success in the last three years and was an U-18 NT player in 2009. He’ll be wearing Akamine’s old number, #24.

Hideto Takahashi

Age: 22
Position: Center Back
Previous Club: Tokyo Gakuin University
Info: Takahashi, a Special Designation Player w/ FCT, has been named to the All-Japan College Team for 3 years in a row. A level-headed decision-maker whose accurate passes are often the start for counter-attacks. In a sign of the team’s confidence in his skills, Hideto will wear #4, Bruno’s old number.

Ryo Hiraide

Age: 18
Position: All-Around Defender
Previous Club: FCT U-18
Info: A teammate of Shigematsu’s on the U-18 NT, Ryo Hiraide is a physically equipped all-around defender.  He’ll inherit #25 from Tokunaga.

Takumi Abe

Age: 18
Position: Side Back
Previous Club: FCT U-18
Info: With his small stature and high speed, Abe fits the mold of Yuto Nagatomo and could fill his position during NT absences.

Official Schedule! Plus, FCT NT news

The official schedule has been released… and the 2chantards got it right, as far as I can tell.

Bolded games are home, italicized games are Nabisco Cup fixtures.

Date Day Opponent Location Time
3/6 Saturday Yokohama F. Marinos Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
3/14 Sunday Urawa Reds Saitama Stadium 2002 2PM
3/20 Saturday Cerezo Osaka Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
3/28 Sunday Omiya Ardija NACK5 2PM
3/31 Wednesday Nagoya Grampus Kokuritsu 7PM
4/4 Sunday Kawasaki Frontale Todoroki 4PM
4/10 Saturday Kashima Antlers Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
4/14 Wednesday Omiya Ardija NACK5 7PM
4/17 Saturday Kyoto Sanga Ajinomoto Stadium 5PM
4/24 Saturday Gamba Osaka Banpaku 5PM
5/1 Saturday Sanfrecce Hiroshima Big Arch 7PM
5/5 Wednesday Vegalta Sendai Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
5/9 Sunday Montedio Yamagata 4PM
5/15 Saturday Shimizu S-Pulse Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
5/22 Saturday Albirex Niigata Komazawa Stadium 2PM
5/26 Wednesday Vegalta Sendai 7PM
6/6 Sunday Kyoto Sanga Ajinomoto Stadium 3PM
6/9 Wednesday Cerezo Osaka 7PM
7/17 Saturday Vissel Kobe Ajinomoto Stadium 6:30PM
7/25 Sunday Shonan Bellmare Hiratsuka Field 6PM
7/28 Wednesday Jubilo Iwata Kokuritsu 7PM
7/31 Saturday Albirex Niigata Big Swan 7PM
8/8 Sunday Nagoya Grampus Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
8/14 Saturday Kashima Antlers Kashima Stadium 7PM
8/18 Wednesday Cerezo Osaka 7PM
8/21 Saturday Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ajinomoto Stadium 6:30PM
8/28 Saturday Vissel Kobe 7PM
9/12 Sunday Urawa Reds Ajinomoto Stadium
9/18 Saturday Jubilo Iwata Yamaha Stadium
9/25 Saturday Omiya Ardija Ajinomoto Stadium
10/3 Sunday Shonan Bellmare Kokuritsu
10/16 Saturday Vegalta Sendai
10/23 Saturday Albirex Niigata Ajinomoto Stadium
10/30 Saturday Shimizu S-Pulse Nihondaira
11/6 Saturday Gamba Osaka Ajinomoto Stadium
11/14 Sunday Yokohama F. Marinos Nissan Stadium
11/20 Saturday Kawasaki Frontale Ajinomoto Stadium
11/23 Tuesday Nagoya Grampus
11/27 Saturday Montedio Yamagata Ajinomoto Stadium
12/4 Saturday Kyoto Sanga

In NT news, Nagatomo and Tokunaga were in the starting lineup against Venezuela last night.  While the match was a somewhat boring and disappointing 0-0 draw, Hirayama did come on as a substitute and showed enough kiai to, in my opinion, earn a spot in the starting lineup during the East Asian Cup, which starts this coming weekend.

Speaking of the East Asian Cup, Ishikawa’s apparently done something to his calf and has been left off the starting roster.  Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious!

Still alive!

A very late Happy New Year from Aishiteru Tokyo!

I haven’t been able to put as much time as I’d like towards updating the site over the winter break, but I’m still posting odds and ends on Twitter via @aishiterutokyo so if you’re a Twitter user feel free to follow!

It seems like the team officially starts activities on the 24th, which generally means a press conference with the new players (and hopefully a sponsor announcement, and a foreign striker, and ponies and rocket cars for all).

For now, news in brief:

Schedule News

-The team will have training camp in Miyazaki Prefecture this year rather than spending a million dollars going to Guam.

-Preseason Match: 2/27 at home vs. Albirex Niigata. Not quite as exotic as vs. Consadole Sapporo in Okinawa last year but hey.

-Season Opener: 3/6 at home vs. Yokohama F. Marinos. This will be the second time the two squads have met on opening day; the first was 10 years ago as FC Tokyo won its first J1 match 1-0 on a late goal by Tuto.

-Week 2: 3/13 away at Urawa Reds.  Again. Yippee. Given how much tickets go for I should just buy up as many as I can and make a profit.

Player Transfers

In: Morishige, Matsushita, and a bunch of kids from the youth squad

Out: Asari (retired), Fujiyama (to Consadole Sapporo), Kondo (to Consadole Sapporo), Bruno (unknown), Sahara (will return to Kawasaki Frontale), Moniwa (to Cerezo Osaka)

Rumors: A few still festering but nothing’s gained any traction beyond a day or two. As of right now the squad only has three experienced forwards (Akamine, Hirayama, and Suzuki) on the roster, plus I think one or two of the youth members.

NT News

-Hirayama is the new hero of Samurai Blue after scoring a hat trick to help a team of fresh faces come from behind in Yemen earlier this month.  He, along with Ishikawa, Tokunaga, Nagatomo, and Konno will be on the squad for Japan’s match against Venezuela on 2/2.

-Depending on call-ups, these 5 players may be with the NT up through March 3rd, giving Jofuku difficult circumstances under which to plan his lineup.

Wrapping up…

As the season winds down to a close, we have stuff to look forward to (or not?) next season…

First, last week’s game against Vissel Kobe.  We won, 1-0.  Hiramatsu scored a fantastic header off of a Suzuki free kick in the 87th minute.  If that was all you saw of the game, congrats: you saw the relevant bit.

Due to several fortunate results, Tokyo is now in sole possession of 5th place heading into the last game of the season vs. Albirex Niigata.  A win, plus a Hiroshima draw or loss, would put Tokyo in 4th place.  Not only would there be a decent bump to the end-of-season prize we would get from being in the top 8 (5th place receives 40 million yen while 4th gets 60 mil.), but we would have a Chance In Hell of going to the ACL next season.

I’m going to repeat that.  Despite everything the team has been through we could still conceivably play in Asia.  IF we get 4th place, and IF Kashima, Kawasaki, or Osaka wins the Emperor’s Cup.  So, to start with, go Kyoto!

The Kobe match was also a day for farewells of various sorts.  For starters, it was the final home game of “The Last Legends of Tokyo Gas” – Satoru Asari (7) and Ryuji Fujiyama (8).  With a combined 31 years of service for FC Tokyo and Tokyo Gas, the two players were often immortalized in gateflags simply as 社員.  They were celebrated in a pre-game tifo:

Following the game the two players made tearful speeches to the home supporters.  While Asari is officially retiring and may continue on with the team as a coach, Fujiyama had previously expressed his desire to continue playing “until my body falls apart” and, in a stunning announcement in front of the home crowd, announced that he will be playing for J2 side Consadole Sapporo next season.

After the speeches, the two players made their way around the pitch:

Unfortunately, it appears that the game was also the last stand at Ajinomoto for Bruno Quadros, who will not be resigning with the squad.  I’m also seeing rumors that Hideki Sahara will be returning to Kawasaki Frontale.

In even less attractive news, I give you our 2010 uniforms:

The home kits are ugly as sin and I refuse to purchase one… what were they thinking with the ‘bib’ design? To be completely honest the photo of Nagatomo makes it look worse than it actually does due to the immense number of flashes going off at once.  That said it’s still a mediocre design and adidas should be ashamed.

I could grow to like the away kit, though.

In other bulletpoint-worthy news…

-We’re after a bunch of players, and none of it’s worth reporting on until we actually sign someone.

-The team has withdrawn from its annual Guam Camp due to the costs involved (roughly $1 million) and will instead train in Miyazaki Prefecture this winter.

-World Cup draws announced! Japan in the pot with Holland, Denmark, and Cameroon.  I say we have a fair shot.

Now, to get another hour or so of sleep before I go to El Loco for the match…

[Match Report] Nabisco Cup Final FC Tokyo 2:0 (1:0) Kawasaki Frontale

2009 J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Final
First Half
1- 0
Second Half

1- 0

Final
2 – 0

August 1st 2009, 2:09PM kickoff at “Kokuritsu” National Stadium (attendance 44,308)
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 6 Yasuyuki Konno
DF 33 Kenta Mukuhara
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 40 Tatsuya Suzuki
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 24 Shingo Akamine
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
GK 1 Eiji Kawashima
DF 19 Yusuke Mori
DF 17 Kosuke Kikuchi
DF 2 Hiroki Ito
DF 26 Kazuhiro Murakami
MF 29 Hiroyuki Taniguchi
MF 18 Tomonobu Yokoyama
MF 14 Kengo Nakamura
FW 9  Chong Tese
FW 10 Juninho
FW 34 Renatinho
60′ 5 Yuto Nagatomo (for Akamine)
74′ 15 Daishi Hiramatsu (for Hanyu)
86′ Hideki Sahara (for Suzuki)
Substitutes 70′ 6 Yusuke Tasaka (for Murakami)
79′ 7 Masano Kurotsu (for Renatinho)
84′ 23 Kyohei Noborizato (for Yokoyama)
22′ Yonemoto
59′ Hirayama
Goals
58′ Yonemoto
62′ Hanyu
Cautions 24′ Yokoyama
Ejections

Report

In a season where fans have begun to express concern at the nearly regular showings of diving, complaining, and otherwise poor sportsmanship in the Japanese game, the soccer-kami sat up on their mountain, cracked open a tall can of Sapporo, and declared with a booming voice “on this day, at Kokuritsu, there shall be a good clean 90 minutes of championship-caliber soccer.”

And by Gods, they got it.

This year’s 3rd edition of the Tamagawa Classico played out on the national stage, in front of a sold-out crowd of over 44,000 at Tokyo’s National Stadium with many more watching nationwide on TV.  Supporters for both teams were as ready for combat as the players, with fans lining up throughout the frigid and sometimes rainy night.  We got to the campout at 5am and enjoyed some chatting with fellow supporters as well as delicious dolphin stew.  When the gates finally opened, Tokyo supporters streamed through the turnstiles to hunt for seats, quickly filling the home end of the stadium.  Kawasaki fans soon joined them, and both team’s supporters would complete gorgeous choreography displays suitable for such a grand arena.  But after all of the flag-waving, balloon blowing, and toilet paper throwing, the match finally began, and of course that’s what you’re here to read about, right?

Well, fuck that, let’s watch those tifos:

The game started with both teams attempting to gain control, and was pretty even in the first 15 minutes.  Kawasaki pressed with a couple close shots (including a close-range bullet from Juninho that flew over the crossbar for reasons that defied us at the time), but Tokyo despite their sloppy defensive play somehow fought back and showed that they would not be pushed around.  Then, 22 minutes in, Tokyo pressed with a counterattack that saw the ball fall in front of 18-year old Takuji Yonemoto, who had been awarded the J.League New Hero Award (given to an under-23 player for outstanding contribution to his team in the Nabisco Cup) the night before.  30 yards out and with players swarming around him, Yone did what comes natural to a young player with more balls than brains and shot a curving bullet that everyone expected to fly safely into the hands of Kawasaki’s keeper.

Until it went in and the home end erupted in cheers.

Yonemoto’s goal was a fitting sequel to that daisy cutter against Shimizu in the semi-finals, and it threw Kawasaki back on their heels while giving Tokyo the confidence needed to solidify its defense and push on offense.  This continued till the whistle to end the first half, which passed by in what seemed like a moment.

15 minutes later, both teams came out for the second half seemingly ready to outdo their first-half performance.  Kawasaki pushed hard, committing more men to the attack only to be denied each time as either Gonda or a swarm of Tokyo players practically threw themselves on top of the ball in an attempt to stop the Frontale attack.  The fans in the away end, sensing an opportunity to get back into the game, sang at an even greater volume than before.

Suddenly, a Kengo Nagamura free kick lead to a Tokyo counter with Suzuki and Hirayama screaming down the pitch.  As Kawasaki’s defenders caught up with them, Suzuki flipped the ball that Sota, whose last appearance on the national stage at Kokuritsu was as a high schooler, was waiting for.

The only thought that came to mind was “finally.”  Anyone who’s watched Hirayama play this season knows that he’s had a desire verging on obsessive to score on a header (going so far as to shave his head for aerodynamic purposes), and yet in each game and in each practice shot it appears that once the ball comes into contact with his glittering dome the rebound is almost magnetically attracted to the “anywhere but the goal” area.  Well, this day was different and Tokyo took a commanding 2-0 lead with but half an hour left in the match.

With a 2-goal cushion, Jofuku opted to reinforce defensively by bringing in Nagatomo (who started on the bench b/c of his shoulder) and Dashi Hiramatsu.  This defensive posturing allowed Kawasaki to press the attack in a series of crosses, volleys, and corner kicks, each of which ended in a spectacularly heart-stopping moment as Tokyo’s supporters struggled to see where the ball was.  According to the official statistics Kawasaki took 17 shots in the game, but from where we were standing it seemed like they took 20 in the second half alone.  Crossbars were hit, Gonda was flying everywhere, and I recalled the highlights I’ve seen of Tokyo’s stunning effort against Urawa 5 years ago with each player exerting everything they had to stop the ball.  Yonemoto was everywhere at once, stealing balls from Juninho and Tese and showing why he was the New Hero.  Hiramatsu gave Frontale a free kick minutes after coming on after a hard tackle to stop a Kawasaki drive.  And so it continued, punctuated only by a swift counterattack that should have been a 3rd goal as both Nagatomo and Suzuki failed to find an open net.  Jofuku completed the defensive alignment by subbing out Suzuki for Hideki Sahara, but by then the wind had left the Frontale sails.  Kawasaki pushed, Tokyo didn’t break, and after a surprising 4 minutes of extra time the referee sounded the final whistle, bringing an end to 90 minutes of dive-free, hard-fought soccer and giving Tokyo its first championship in 5 years.  And the soccer-kami smiled.

The MVP award was, unsurprisingly, awarded to Takuji Yonemoto, making him the youngest player to win the Cup MVP; he gets one million yen (US$11,000) and bragging rights for the rest of his life.

Many more photos and video to come in a separate post, including the post-game victory rally at Ajinomoto Stadium.  For now a hearty congratulations to my fellow supporters and a tip of the hat to Kawasaki’s supporters and players.  It seems that the post-game conduct of Frontale’s players has sparked a bit of controversy, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they played a fantastic match.  Tokyo just played more fantastically, and are deservedly your 2009 J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Champions.

News Digest: Fujiyama, Ishikawa, Sold Out Games, and Nabisco Cup!

Player News:

-In the hopes that he can possibly return before the end of the season, Naohiro Ishikawa has been recieving rehabilitation treatment at the team’s Kodaira training facility.  The star midfielder has received countless letters of support including many from non-Tokyo supporters.  Nao is scheduled to have a followup checkup on the 28th and the team will release details of his injury that day.

-Tokyo veteran Ryuji Fujiyama, who has been with the team for 16 years (extending back to the Tokyo Gas era), will be released following the 2009 season.  The team has apparently offered Fujiyama a coaching position, but, in his words, “I intend to keep playing until my body falls apart.”

-Yuto Nagatomo rejoined the team in practice this week and is expected to start against Shimizu on Sunday.

-In the last week Touchuu (the FC Tokyo edition of Chunichi Sports) has ran articles claiming that Tatsuya Suzuki, Naotake Hanyu, and Sota Hirayama are all ready/willing to fill the goal-scoring gap left by Ishikawa.  Where were they all season…?

Ticket News:

It appears that FC Tokyo may play up to 4 consecutive sold out J.League games in the next month:

-Tomorrow’s match against Shimizu sold out as of Thursday (10/23)

-the Nabisco Cup Final has long been sold out

-The team announced earlier this week that the lower bowl of Ajinomoto has been sold out for the 11/8 matchup versus Urawa

-Visitor end tickets for the late-November tie against Chiba sold out within minutes upon going on sale Friday.

And this morning the ‘remaining’ tickets went on sale for the Nabisco Cup (pretty much all credit card-only); I nearly got a ticket but Visa fucked things up and so no SB ticket for me (which if one looks at the prices at scalper shops, I could have sold for enough profit to pay for tomorrow’s trip to Shimizu).  Me? Bitter.  Somewhat.  In fact very.  But see below.

Note that this doesn’t include the 11/11 Emperor’s Cup Game, which takes place on a Wednesday night in Nagasaki and will attract maybe a couple dozen Tokyo supporters.  Seriously, JFA, knock this neutral venue bullshit off.

Nabisco Cup News:

-J’s Goal is getting choreography fans pumped up with a 6-year retrospective of pre-game tifos.  Y’all know I love this shit.

-Dunno what LA12’s tifo display will be but ours (as in me and previous special reporter Andre) will be awesome.  Pics this week, hopefully!

-Design tickets are in the mail!  Here’s my haul:

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Original Design Ticket 4x, FC Tokyo ticket lottery allotment 2x, SOCIO allotment 1x.  These are all going for at least 6-7,000 yen each on the open market, but I am being a good supporter and giving them to friends at face value.  Because lord knows I’m immoral in every other way so I might as well make up for it 😉