Category Archives: F.C. Tokyo Player News

Aishiteru Tokyo and On the Gas present Gas Talk Episode 2!

Met up with Ben yesterday evening at our usual izakaya to record the second episode of Gas Talk! Despite Graham's absence and unusually loud music over the house PA system, we managed to bring you another (hopefully) enjoyable episode of commentary. Here's a rundown of what you'll hear:

Part 1: a review of the team's preseason activities including reactions from Sunday's PSM at Thespa Kusatsu. Also an injury report roundup.

Part 2: this one's mostly me because Ben was admittedly unfamiliar with it, but I talk about Yuto Nagatomo's full transfer for 160 million yen and what it means for FC Tokyo and Japanese soccer as a whole. We also talk a bit about Jade North, the Australian NT player who's been participating in team practice since last week.

Part 3: a preview of this Saturday's match against Sagan Tosu. Highly suggested that you check our respective blogs on Thursday/Friday for the latest updates and a more accurate picture of what the starting eleven will be.

Apparently there are a couple technical issues w/ the audio but hopefully they won't get in the way of your listening experience. I've also been told that you can now subscribe to Gas Talk through the iTunes store, even though the podcast details are a little wonky (apparently Ben wants all the credit 😉 And we aren't doing the podcast in Japanese, at least not yet!).

Stay tuned for our next episode after the Tosu game!

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Your 2011 FC Tokyo Squad

Detailed introduction in future posts, for now here's names and numbers:

Manager: Kiyoshi Okuma

1 GK Hitoshi Shiota
2 DF Ryuhei Tokunaga
3 DF Masato Morishige
4 DF Hideto Takahashi
6 MF Yasayuki Konno
7 MF Takuji Yonemoto
9 FW Roberto Cesar
10 MF Yohei Kajiyama
11 FW Tatsuya Suzuki
13 FW Sota Hirayama
14 MF Hokuto Nakamura
15 DF Daishi Hiramatsu
16 MF Roberto
17 FW Pedro Junior
18 MF Naohiro Ishikawa
19 MF Yohei Otake
20 GK Shuichi Gonda
21 GK Ryotaro Hironaga
22 MF Naotake Hanyu
26 DF Takumi Abe
27 MF Soutan Tanabe
29 DF Kazunori Yoshimoto
30 FW Taiki Takamatsu
31 GK Satoshi Tokizawa
32 MF Kazumasa Uesato
33 DF Kenta Mukuhara
34 DF Tomokazu Nagira
39 FW Tatsuya Yazawa

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The One Year Hangover

Man, what did I drink last night… oh, hello, blog!

Hey Dan. It's been a long time!

Yeah, it has, hasn't it? But it's good to be back! I had the strangest dreams… four horsemen, angels pouring out stuff from bowls, trumpets, and somewhere I've never heard of called Tottori.

Oh. Really. *cough*

Well, apparently I needed the downtime, because I guess I've been asleep for about 4 months now. And it's January! Almost time for another J1 season.

Um, about that…

I see the schedule's been released… another home opener to start the year! And it's against… Sagan Tosu?

Listen, I hate to be the one to tell you, but–

Did they get promoted? I knew Kofu and Kashiwa had it locked up… well, good for them at any rate!

No, it's not…

And week two is away at…

Will you pay attention for one seco–

…Fagiano Okayama.

…yeah.

Seriously?

…I tried to tell you…

Seriously.

…honestly, you're better off having slept through it.

That bad?

Yep.

So dumping Jofuku for Okuma didn't really do much, did it?

Well, Okuma did okay, but it wasn't him on the pitch, was it.

I suppose not. So we never recovered, did we.

Oh, we came close.

How close?

Last week of the season.

Son of a bitch. So we still could have… how bad was it?

Pretty bad.

Well, fuck.

Yep, pretty much how we felt at the time.

So that's it, huh? A year in J2?

Hopefully.

No TV broadcasts, less media coverage, minuscule away support, away games in the countryside where the trains don't run, no Nabisco Cup, and all the big teams are in J1 fighting for the title?

Well, yeah, but look at the plus side.

What plus side?

I mean, what other reason is there to go to Toyama? Or Kitakyushu? Or Tokushima? You've always wanted to see Japan, here's your chance! All those stadiums with great local food, great views, and teams you've always heard about but never saw play!

Well, that's certainly a plus.

And while J1 gets a month off, J2 just keeps on going! Plenty of soccer to get you through the year, and every game matters!

Good point.

And best of all… we get a Tokyo Derby again!

Okay, I'm convinced that maybe this won't suck as much. But isn't it going to suck not having any of our star players? Konno, Yonemoto, Ishikawa and the rest have all been sold off to J1 teams, right?

Actually, they've all stayed on.

You're shitting me.

Nope, most of Tokyo's starters are still on the books.

But we're in J2 now! How do we have the money?

Well, Murabayashi resigned, but before then he promised that we'd be back in J1 in a year, so the personnel budget was untouched. Oguro, Ricardinho, Maeda, and that Korean dude who never played are all going back to their former teams. And we did get rid of a few players…

Like who?

Shingo Akamine will be staying with Vegalta Sendai, and they're also borrowing Matsushita for a year. Kim Yong-gun got picked up by Omiya, but we did make a decent amount of money from that. Shigematsu is going on loan to Fukuoka for a year…Ryo Hiraide will spend a year in Toyama… Abe is gonna defend the posts for Shonan… Other than Kim and maybe Shigematsu, nobody we'd really miss.

So, did we manage to sign anyone?

Oh yeah, lots of players. Three Brazilians! Roberto, Roberto, and Pedro Jr.

How did we get three? We only had one last year, and we were dark horse favorites for an ACL slot!

Better late then never.

By the way you repeated yourself, you said Roberto twice.

Oh, no, there's two of them. One's 25 and a forward, the other's 31 and a volante.

Well, that's promising. Did we pick up anyone else?

Oh yeah. Midfielder Kazumasa Uesato from Sapporo on a loan… Taiki Takamatsu from Oita too. He's a good striker, will probably back up Hirayama. As far as full pickups, Tatsuya Yazawa at midfield, Tomokazu Nagira from Fukuoka on defense, and Satoshi Tokizawa from Kusatsu for a 3rd goalkeeper.

All in all, sounds like a pretty solid set of acquisitions. A year too late, perhaps…

…well, if wishes were horses Urawa would be in the Saitama Prefectural League.

…but at least we're on the way back.

That we are.

Gonna be a long year.

Yep.

Let's get started.

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Nagatomo to Italy, Aishiteru Tokyo awakens

Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for years.

Actually, we've been really busy with, well everything. But, much like J-League this coming weekend, Aishiteru Tokyo is back and much like FCT will do our best in the “Post-W” struggle.

To start with, let's get the big news out of the way.

Nagatomo @ Cesena

Yuto Nagatomo, FCT and Japan's star side back, has signed a one-year loan deal with newly-promoted Serie A side A.C. Cesena. He will be the 9th Japanese player to ply his trade in Italy, and the first defender.

He will apparently be back in Japan to greet fans following Saturday's Vissel Kobe game, which should make the resumption of J-League play in Tokyo all the more memorable.

Best of luck to you, Yuto. Kick some Italian ass and be ready to lead Japan in four years in Brazil.

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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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Yonemoto injures left knee in practice, could be lost for season

This is certainly not the news Tokyo fans were expecting to hear…

After a hard collision in front of a goal during an intra-team practice game, midfielder Takuji Yonemoto had to be carried off the field by trainers. He was examined today and based on the report on FC Tokyo's website, his injuries very much mirror those that Ishikawa sustained last season (namely, a partial ACL tear on his left knee and meniscus damage).

The difference, however, is that that the two character that form the word “partial” were not present in the team's announcement for Yonemoto's test result, leading us to believe that the dreaded “2nd Year Jinx” has hit last year's Nabisco Cup MVP in the worst of ways.

At worst, this could mean that Yonemoto will have to sit out the 2010 season, which would be a devastating blow to the team and to the young star. While Kajiyama has finally rejoined the team in his practice regimen, he still may not yet be battle-ready and thus Tokyo may be without the pillars of its formation for the beginning of the season.

Formation-wise it's now pretty likely that Matsushita will start, and depending on how ready Kim is, Jofuku could choose to start him at CB and move Konno back to his old position of volante. Hiramatsu could play a factor too… the next week will be a tough one for Jofuku, but despite the severity of the potential loss I still don't think it's as bad as last year's GK situation.

There will be many cranes folded tonight in the capital city. More to come when I have it.

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New Faces Part 2: Veterans & Foreign Corps.

Finally I've taken the time to write this post!

In addition to the various rookies, Tokyo has brought in 3 experienced players and one rookie with international experience to fill out its squad for 2010.

Masato Morishige

Age: 22
Position: Center Back
Previous Club: Oita Trinita
A physical center back with strong heading ability and fast feed passes, Morishige was one of the few true prizes available during Oita's post-demotion sell-off. Pursued by several teams, he was eventually acquired by Tokyo and is expected by fans and media to have a regular starting lineup spot (mostly occupied last season by Bruno Quadros). His physicality comes with risks as his rough play sometimes results in cards.

Toshihiro Matsushita

Age:  26
Position: Midfielder
Previous Club: Albirex Niigata

Possibly the surprise signing of the offseason, Matsushita is an all-purpose midfielder who brings not only 8 years of playing experience with him but a host of tools that Tokyo lacked in 2009: namely, superior crossing and placekick abilities. He debuted as a rookie with Gamba Osaka following his high school graduation, playing in his first pro match that summer.  He made 14 appearances in the team's 2005 championship season, but spent the first half of 2006 on the bench as the manager favored new signings. Following a 1.5-year rental to Albirex Niigata, he joined the Swans on a full transfer in 2008 and appeared in all 34 games in 2009. He's a threat both offensively and defensively and will likely start the season in the place of the injured Kajiyama.

Ricardinho

Age: 21
Position: Striker
Previous Club: ABC FC (Brazil)

Because no team is complete without a Brazilian forward to provide speed, agility, and an excuse to hold Brazil Day events, the only question following Cabore's midseason departure wasn't whether Tokyo would sign another Brazilian, but who and when. Rumors surfaced of Ricardinho's acquisition in December after word leaked on a Brazilian news site, and Japanese press eventually picked up the story as the team and player headed toward an agreement. Ricardinho is not just fast, but he's young and eager to adjust to Japanese soccer. He also speaks English and has used it to communicate with his new teammates (particularly NT veteran Nagatomo). Ricardinho played for Brazil's U-16 through 20 teams, and spent two years with FC Dallas of Major League Soccer before 2009's loan to ABC FC.

Kim Young-Kwon

Age: 19
Position: Center Back
Previous Club: Jeonju University

Long-awaited by supporters, Kim's signing was delayed as a result of the team wanting to make sure he recovered from injuries sustained in the fall. He's okay, however, and he promises to be a potential force in Tokyo's backfield. He's tall, he's got pinpoint long passing abilities, and came to Tokyo with a ridiculous bowl haircut the likes of which I haven't seen since Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. If Konno gets named to the World Cup squad, expect Kim to start in his place in the May-June Nabisco Cup fixtures.

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News Brief: FCT in running for Shunsuke Nakamura, Hirayama to start against Hong Kong?

The big news in Japanese football this morning is that Spanish side Espanola intends to loan Japanese NT star Shunsuke Nakamura (31) to a J.League club, but only until the summer in what could be essentially be a 3-month loan worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Transferred last summer to Espanola from Celtic in a major deal that saw Japan's most visible player in Europe step foot onto the continent, Nakamura has been unable to break through with the team after 6 months of league play in part due to a language barrier, inability to get fit, and various injuries. With the World Cup about five months away, Nakamura's main objective is to get back onto the field and prove his worth to Okada. This is especially true as strong “leader”-type players like Kashima's Ogasasawa have begun making appearances on the NT in Nakamura's absence.

According to Sponichi Annex, should this transfer go through Espanola would likely cancel a planned summer tour of Japan that would have netted nearly half a million Euros ($700,000) in revenue. As a result, the team would likely seek to recover some of that lost revenue in what would be a relatively high transfer fee.

Yokohama F. Marinos (the team Nakamura grew up playing with and what was thought to be his destination after Celtic) is in the lead to acquire the left-footed midfielder, but Kashima, Urawa, Gamba Osaka, and FC Tokyo are also named in the press as potential candidates.

Among fans, the general sentiment seems to be negative, with most criticism focusing on Nakamura's fitness and strength especially compared with Kajiyama (maybe I just have blinders on but I think we could do with less Kajiyama, yet I digress) and others in Tokyo's lineup. Another point on which I tend to agree on is that if Tokyo has the money to blow on a 3-month romp with an aging star arguably passing his prime, that money should instead be spent on a striker.

All involved parties apparently hope that the deal will go through in time for Nakamura to take the field on J.League's Opening Day. Yet given that our first match is against Yokohama, it does appear likely that one way or the other Nakamura will step foot on Ajinomoto Stadium's pitch.

In NT news, Sota Hirayama is likely to start for Japan in tonight's match versus Hong Kong. Japan has played 180 scoreless minutes, with Saturday's game against China ending in a shower of boos for the NT. Calls have been growing for Hirayama to start rather than appear as a mid-game substitution, and with Shimizu's Okazaki likely out of the match with a knee injury it appears that #20 may take the field at 7PM.  Meanwhile, former NT coach Philippe Troussier has criticized Hirayama for “trying too hard to control the game,” claiming that “[Hirayama] would be more effective with a simpler way of attacking.” Troussier, who let the NT from 1998 through the '02 World Cup, further stated that Hirayama “…has potential, but isn't at the top level yet.”

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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!