Category Archives: F.C. Tokyo News

城服東京、楽しい東京、俺とお前は夢の中!

Man, I really have to do better at this regular blogging thing, but that’s what happens in JLPT season.

In any case, the regular season is over.  In line with predictions I made early on in the season on the RSN forums, FC Tokyo did make the top 6 – in fact, the team ended in 6th place, when it could have reached as high as 4th were it not for a tragic fall-from-ahead loss at Chiba to end the season.  JEF Chiba’s shock win saved the team from relegation, meaning that we’ve been the dramatic foil for relegation-threatened teams for two years in a row now.  Which, I’ll be honest, is kinda amusing in a “if I didn’t laugh I’d be crying” way.  Hell, I’m from Philadelphia, who knows more about abject futility than us?

A week earlier, the final home game of the year was held at Ajinomoto Stadium; a match against Albirex Niigata that ended with an exhilerating goal as time was running out.  In stark contrast to 2007’s home finale, which resembled the atmosphere of a funeral, this year’s home finale had a palpable sense of celebration attached.  Manager Hiroshi Jofuku has gotten FCT to play almost at its full potential, and with the nucleus of the team largely expected to return next season, the eyes of the J.League world will undoubtedly be on Ajinomoto Stadium.  Though the team has some weaknesses it needs to overcome, nobody can dispute that FC Tokyo will be a contender for the championship in 2009.

What needs to change? That depends on what aspects of the squad you choose to look at.  By virtue of its solid youth program, FCT doesn’t need transfers as desperately as other teams in the league, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t needed.  The most perplexing issue is at forward – should Cabore have another foreign strongman – either South American or European – to give him some relief and help the team in the opposing goal area, where they seem to get caught up frequently?  Akamine, despite taking half as many shots as Cabore, was FCT’s leading goal-scorer of the year and one of the top 2 or 3 Japanese goal-scorers this season.  The odd man out seems to be Sota Hirayama, who showed flashes of brilliance this season but has yet to show enough consistency to earn a regular starting role.

One lineup change that will be affecting all squads is the addition of a forth foreign player slot – while teams were previously limited to having 3 foreign players on their roster, the fourth has to come from an ACL country.  Most teams will probably go to Korea, which has sent its fair share of players to Japan, or to Australia, which seems to have one of the best performances aside from Japanese teams in the ACL.

In any case, the season is not over yet – this Saturday (the 20th) FCT plays Shimizu S-Pulse for the billionth (actually 5th) time this year up in Sendai in an Emperors Cup quarterfinal match.  The team hasn’t had very good luck against Shimizu (0-1-3 this year), but with the fourth and final ACL bid still up for grabs, one would be foolish to take anything for granted.  Amazing J indeed.

In player news, Yuto Nagatomo has been nominated as both Outstanding Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year by J.League, honors well-deserved.  Here’s hoping he takes some silverware home!

In other site news, I’ve been asked by Gora over at JapaneseSoccer.net, an English-language J.League news blog that’s now in beta, to write a special piece about the deteriorating situation at Tokyo Verdy.  For those of you who haven’t been following, Verdy has not only been demoted to J2 but their supporters are now declaring open rebellion on the board of directors.  This includes urging a season ticket boycott, an act virtually unheard of in Japan.  Part 1 of my essay is up now, with parts 2 and 3 to follow.  I assume by the time anyone reads this Gora will have the formatting fixed, so stay tuned.

The Beatdown Rolls On

The wind is blowing a bit colder, daylight is getting shorter, and I’ve abandoned my previous strict naming conventions for these posts.  Must be fall again!

It was a good September for the boys, as they went undefeated in games against Omiya Ardija, Kawasaki Frontale, Jubilo Iwata, and Consadole Sapporo.  They have now won five in a row (stretching back to August’s match against Kashiwa), and Shingo Akamine has scored in each match.  Akamine now leads all Japanese players with 11 goals so far this season.

While the Kawasaki match was a 1-0 slugout played in the rain, the Jubilo affair gave the fans a reason to cheer – a 5-1 drubbing that not only helped FC Tokyo’s aggregate but seemed to give players confidence that they could, indeed, put the ball in the net.  Goals by Cabore, Akamine, Ishikawa (some argued he should be credited with two goals, but the first was credited as an own-goal), and new striker Suzuki made it a match to remember.

The next match, at lowly Sapporo, was slightly more challenging – though FCT fell behind early in the second half, Akamine would equalize on a fantastic header and Otake would score the winner a minute after coming onto the field – strangely reminiscent of his first score against Kawasaki Frontale back in April.  The match was marked by a note of concern when in his first appearance in a long time following injury, Hanyu sustained another injury 8 minutes after coming onto the field and was replaced by Bruno Quadros.

Tokyo has held steady at 6th place in the standings for all of September, but now that the makeup games from last week have been played FCT is tantalizingly close to first place – 4 points behind Kashima (ahead on aggregate) and Nagoya, 3 points behind Oita, 2 points behind Urawa, and tied with Kawasaki but behind on aggregate.  There are seven rounds left in the season, and whether FCT can make up the ground is yet to be seen, but a top-5 finish is almost certainly in the cards.

Our remaining matches are home against Shimizu, away at Oita, home against Kashima, away at Osaka, away at Kobe, home against Niigata, and away at Chiba, ensuring that a decently-sized contingent of supporters will be there at the end.

While Shimizu is a respectable mid-table opponent that will provide a good match one way or the other, the next two triplets are where the big story is – FCT cannot hope to take the title without winning or drawing against Trinita/Antlers/Gamba – the first two are obviously at the top of the ladder and must be pulled down, and Gamba has regained its form and is making a late advantage, though the team will certainly have more pressure on it when one considers their ACL tie against Urawa.

The latter set of three matches – Vissel, Albirex, and JEF – provide a different sort of drama.  All three teams are in danger of relegation, with JEF Chiba in the “oh shit not two more games” slot and Vissel and Albirex joining a half dozen other teams in the “no, we’re not sure we want to be in J1 either” sweepstakes, albiet from positions of relative safety.  Any of these teams might still be fighting for their spot in J1’s 2009 season by the time the boys take the field and will likely make the games must-watches.

Fun times ahead, my friends.  Fun times.  This weekend’s match at Shimizu will likely herald the return of Konno from his red card suspension, which will undoubtedly provide further support to a Tokyo squad that… well, has done pretty fine without him.  Not that we didn’t miss him, of course.

In J2 news, Sanfrecce Hiroshima has secured promotion to J1 (and will likely secure the J2 crown if it hasn’t already) a scant 9 months after losing a tough relegation series to Kyoto.  One can imagine that the Hiroshima/Kyoto matches will be entertaining as all hell to watch next year.  Fighting for the second and third spots are Shonan Belmare, Montideo Yamagata, Vegalta Sendai, and Sagan Tosu.

[Recaps] FC Tokyo breaks winless streak of 8 games vs. J.League opponents

It’s been two months since FC Tokyo won a game against a J.League opponent.  Two long months in which fans began to question how well their team, which had performed far above anyone’s expectations during the first half of the season, would turn out to do in the end.

Following the break for the National Team qualifiers, FC Tokyo drew vs Chiba, lost against Oita in a Nabisco Cup match, lost away at Urawa, lost away at Kashima, drew at home against Osaka, drew away at Kyoto, drew at home against Yokohama, then tied away at Oita (in the second Nabisco Cup match, eliminating themselves after the quarterfinals for a second year in a row).  8 matches total, 6 of them league fixtures, with a grand total of 7 goals scored (one in each except for a 2-0 shutout against Urawa).  4 points gained in 6 league matches.  Things were not looking pretty.

Fortunately, in a Division 1 where the top 10 teams in the league are separated by 6 points, anything can and will happen.  Today, problem child Hirayama proved to be decisive for Tokyo, scoring the lone goal of the match as they held on to beat Nagoya Grampus 1-0.  The top three teams in the league failed to get one win between them, resulting in an ever-tightening J1 ladder, in stark contrast to J2 where Sanfrecce Hiroshima is running away with the championship leaving everyone else to fight for the second automatic promotion spot followed by a place in the Promotion/Relegation Cup.

Unfortunately for FC Tokyo, its abundance of young talent is proving costly in August.  The 2008 Beijing Olympiad began yesterday, and two FC Tokyo players are on Japan’s U-23 squad: DF Nagatomo and MF Kajiama.  The two, known as pivotal parts of FC Tokyo’s offense, will be sorely missed, particularly against Urawa this coming weekend.  Tickets in both the home and away supporter’s sections have been sold out and odds are (as is usual with Urawa matches) that the stadium will be at capacity (50-something thousand give or take) with security likely prepared to deal with altercations between the passionate supporters of both clubs.

I, for what it’s worth, will be coming to the stadium straight from Comiket 74 where I’ll be doing my yearly coverage for PTD Magazine, and going straight from the stadium to a friend’s rock DJ event, which means I pretty much won’t sleep (unless it’s on the train) for about 24 hours.  Should be a blast either way.

[Match Preview] Aishiteru Tokyo Returns! FCT vs. Yokohama F. Marinos (J1R19 07.26.08 @ Ajisuta)

Ohayooooooo gozaimasu!

It’s been a long, long couple of months, readers, but now that an unfortunate travel schedule, the necessary needs of others (no, my girlfriend would not let me take her to the Osaka game for her birthday, despite my best attempts at begging) and a series of away games have kept me pretty much completely out of the FC Tokyo loop, I’m back.

…and look at the mess that’s been made in my absence.

Since the break, FC Tokyo has gone from third place to 9th, winless in the last five games with three draws and two losses.  The draws, all 1-1, came to newly-English-managed JEF Chiba, Gamba Osaka (where former FC Tokyo striker Lucas scored the goal for the opposition), and upstarts Kyoto Sanga, when a lost time score by Akamine salvaged a point.  The losses came to league leaders Kashima (4-1) and Urawa (2-0) in what have been described as spirited games but, for some reason or another, FC Tokyo has not been able to capitalize on the myriad of chances it tends to have during games.

What else is new.

In addition, FC Tokyo lost to Oita on the home leg of the Nabisco Cup Quarterfinal, meaning that to force a shootout FC Tokyo would have to at least win in Oita, and win by two goals or more to move to the next round on aggregate.  Times are tough for Tokyo, but given how crowded the top of the standings are (FC Tokyo is but 8 points away from current leaders Kashima) and how much things have shifted since the break (Kashiwa in 5th? Omiya in 14th and 4 points from the relegation playoff? JEF in last plac— oh, well, guess some things haven’t changed) and how there are still 16 matches left in the season, FC Tokyo can still rise to the top.

Now summer is upon us, and games are being held at 6 and 7PM in order to keep the fans from dying of heatstroke while waiting for kickoff (although how effective this actually is can be up for debate).  Tonight’s match, the first home game of the second half of the season, will give the blue&red prime opportunity to begin their comeback against a Yokohama F.Marinos squad that is obviously in a state of disarray, with a new manager having been hired after the team fell into the relegation zone.

On the FC Tokyo side, Ishikawa, Nagatomo, and Hanyu have recovered enough from injuries to become reliable starters again, and Jofuku has enough faith in Hirayama to put him out as a starter as well.  Emerson, Otake, and Akamine have become Tokyo’s chosen substitutes, but Akamine’s last-gasp goal against Kyoto may earn him a spot on the starting eleven today.

So, what needs to happen for a win?  Tokyo needs to get the ball into the goddamned net.  Simple as that.  They have been befuddled in the last few weeks by shots missed by a hair, shots denied by the crossbar, shots that weren’t shots, you name it, even more so than usual. That must stop and it must stop tonight.

This evening’s match will feature fireworks at halftime, here’s hoping that Tokyo can bring some to the field as well.

[Match Result] FC Tokyo 1:1 (1:0) JEF Chiba (J1R14)

Good morning minna-san!

I’m typing this out quickly from the Imperial Hotel in uptown Osaka, where I sadly was unable to watch the game but I’ve read the reports.  It was apparently pouring buckets at Ajinomoto stadium, which did not dampen the home crowd’s enthusiasm as the unreserved seats on the lower level apparently sold out.

According to Matsu over at The Rising Sun, the game was pretty much a tragedy.  Konno was ejected from the game after 7 minutes for what sounds like a shit call by the ref resulting in a PK, but Shiota saved the day and batted the ball away.  Sahara scored in the first half to give Tokyo the edge, but Renaldo equalized for Chiba in the second half while Sahara was on the sideline w/ an injury, essentially giving Chiba a 11-9 man advantage at the time.

In any case, despite the fact that it was a TOMAS-sponsored match and so I missed out on my free towel, probably best that I didn’t go given the weather.  I’ve been told by a Japanese colleague that we shouldn’t mind the draw given the circumstances (certainly one point is better than none), and in other interesting news the top of the J1 fixture has gotten tighter than… well, it’s tight, I’ll leave it at that.  4 points separates the top 7 teams, with Urawa and Nagoya clinging to the top after losses this weekend, Kashima and Osaka surging forward to a point behind them after catching up on matches this week, FC Tokyo holding strong at 5th, Kashiwa right behind them in 6th, and Omiya a point behind them in 7th.

One thing’s for sure, going to be a wild ride.  The next match is on Wednesday – the home leg of the Nabisco Cup Quarterfinal against Oita.  Following that is Saturday’s epic confrontation at Saitama Stadium against the dreaded Reds.  Stay tuned!

[Nabisco Cup/Site Stuff] The Long Vacation

The Rainy Season has fallen upon Tokyo, but spirits are high in Chofu.  With its win against Tokyo Verdy, FC Tokyo secured the first wildcard seed in the Nabisco Cup Quarterfinals.  Fortunately with the way that the Nabisco Cup is set up, counter to how most wildcard seeds get treated in the US, this is an advantage.  FC Tokyo will play the mediocre Oita Trinita in a home-and-home series, with the first match taking place on July 2nd at Ajinomoto and the second match taking place on August 6th at Kyushuu Oil Dome.

Should FC Tokyo win the series, they’ll take on the winners of the JEF Chiba vs. Nagoya Grampus series in the semifinals in early September (3rd and 9th).  On the other side of the bracket, Shimizu takes on Kashiwa and Gamba fights it out with Yokohama FM, with the winners of those respective series facing off against each other in the semifinals.  The winners of the semifinal matches will challenge for the hardware at Kokuritsu on November First. In my opinion, Tokyo can easily reach the finals, but if they listened to my opinion they wouldn’t bother playing the matches, would they.

In other news, things are quiet in Gastown.  FCT travels to South Korea this weekend for a friendly against FC Seoul before J.League Division 1 resumes.  Unfortunately, my game schedule will be interrupted by the only thing that can affect it – my family coming to visit me.  We’re all going to Osaka to spend 10 days in Kansai, so I will not be at the following matches:

6/29 vs. JEF United Chiba (J1 R14) – I highly suggest fans attend the day if you can, last year TOMAS gave away free muffler towels on their sponsor day.
7/2 vs. Oita Trinita (Nabisco Cup Quarterfinal)
7/5 at Urawa Reds (J1 R15) – Even if I *could* go to this game I’m not sure if I’d want to.
7/13 at Kashiwa Antlers (J1 R16) – I’ll actually be back in Tokyo on the 7th but photography commitments prevent me from making the trip out to Deer Island.

This is hella 申し訳ない especially since I have no reason *not* to attend any of these matches, but when family comes calling what can you do?

My next game will be the home match on 7/16 vs. Gamba Osaka – yes, that’s right, FC Tokyo takes on Urawa, Kashiwa, and Gamba within an 11 day span.  Maybe I can ditch my family on the 5th and at least find a sports bar in Osaka that would broadcast the Reds game, especially since Gamba doesn’t play on the 5th… if anyone reading this has any suggestions for places to go in Osaka, by all means lemme know,

In site news, my exams are more or less over so I’m going to start updating some stuff, including the supporter song section, as well as the page on attending FC Tokyo matches now that I know where all of my screenshots of the Loppi machine are.  I’m also going to try to figure out a system where I can order+ship FC Tokyo swag for any fans/collectors who might be interested in such a thing.  Good times, good times.

Oh, and I pulled a ticket to the National Team’s match against Bahrain on the 22nd, so that should be fun!  I’m not sure what the policies are viz. bringing cameras into the stadium but I’ll do my best to maybe post some pics and video if I can.

[Match Report] 05.25 FC Tokyo 3:0 (1:0) Tokyo Verdy [Nabisco Prelim]

Because I’m not going to get my photos up tonight as much as I’d like to, I’d like to illustrate how the game went:

curbstomp

Imagine, if you will, that Edward Norton is wearing a blue + red kit instead of a pair of boxers and a swastika. Then further imagine that the black kid about to be handed a startlingly expensive bill for dental restoration work represents Verdy. Got that in your head? Okay, then you have some idea of how today’s match went.

Though the weather in Tokyo was miserable throughout most of yesterday, the rain finally cleared around 11AM this morning – it was cloudy throughout the day but over 19,000 people were in the stands – precious few of them Verdy fans. Guys, I know you’re already eliminated from the quarterfinals, but seriously, it’s a Derby match, have some goddamned pride in your team.

In any case, security was more or less the same today as it was before Urawa and Gamba had their little catfight, so at least that’s not changed yet. Although I should note that a guy two rows in front of me holding a gateflag that showed a masked FCT fan strangling the Verdy mascot was asked to put his flag down so it wouldn’t get in the official J-League photo or something like that.

The banner above is basically telling Hirayama to man the fuck up – and to his credit he did so and had a couple solid chances.

With Nagatomo, Konno, and Kajiyama off the roster to serve their country and Akamine scratched for reasons I’m not sure of, it was up to Cabore and the rest of the Tokyo roster to get the ball into the net. The first 10 minutes more or less defined the game – Bruno Quadros scored in the second minute of play, sealing the victory and kicking off an attack that left Verdy GK Doi constantly on the defensive.

After about the first 15-20 minutes things reached a more equal attack/counter-attack balance, with most of Verdy’s shots sailing far wide of the goal. The first half was also a good indicator of how much of a whiny pussy Hulk is – every time he fell over he would look for a foul, then upon not finding it give his “I’m going to cry if you don’t give me a free kick” face, as seen in the last Tokyo Derby:

Great reaction shot after getting served by Nagatomo late in the game.

Unfortunately after a good half-dozen such occurances the ref probably figured Hulk would start crying, so for a good strech from midway through the first half to some time into the second half, FC Tokyo was the recipient of several questionable foul calls – one notes that Verdy took 21 free kicks as opposed to Tokyo’s 12. There were also several non-calls that should have been called for Tokyo, particularly a nasty takedown on Hirayama as he approached the Verdy goal early in the second half.

Also notable on the Tokyo squad was Emerson – though he got taken down several times throughout the game he always got back up and was on-hand to create some solid attacks for Tokyo.

But all was moot as two minutes after receiving a yellow card, Sahara slammed in a glorious header off of a free kick, for all intents and purposes sealing 3 points for the Gasmen. Yusuke, who came in for Hirayama at the 65 minute mark, kicked in a third goal for good measure as the FCT supporters sang out the closing minutes in style.

Ore… ao to aka…
Issho ao to aka…
Ore… ao to aka…
Midori no ga dai-kirai
TOKYO!

(sung to the tune of the Great Escape theme)

In other Group B results, Shimizu S-Pulse dispatched Jubilo in round two of their Shizuoka Derby by the score of 4-2, likely solidifying Shimizu’s trip to the second round. S-Pulse leads the group with 10 points, followed by FC Tokyo with 7, Jubilo with 4, and Verdy with 1. Verdy is all but eliminated from contention, while Jubilo needs a lot of luck and FC Tokyo needs at least one more win plus a bit of luck. Next weekend FC Tokyo hosts Shimizu out in Matsumoto Stadium, a game I hope to attend one way or another.

In other random news, FC Tokyo will play a “pre-season” friendly match at home against Olimpia Asuncion, Paraguay’s oldest and most storied club team. Don’t ask me why they’re playing a “pre-season” match in the middle of the season, but it should be fun either way.