Category Archives: J.League Nabisco Cup 2008

[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 Result] 06.08 Tokyo Verdy 2:4 (2:2) FC Tokyo (Nabisco Cup)

I'll post a report after I've caught up on sleep, but to sum things up, FC Tokyo played an error-prone first half but managed to find a solid offensive groove once rookie GK starter Ogi calmed down after giving up a goal on a bad play and freezing on a free kick by Hulk.  Fortunately for the Gasmen, Verdy was playing just as poorly, but to their credit for the first time since April they managed to make it an interesting match.

On FCT's scorecard, Cabore scored first to equalize at 1-1 and from then on it was the Hirayama Show, with #13 equalizing at 2-2 at the end of the first half, then punching in two more goals for a hat trick that would propel FC Tokyo into the next round of the Nabisco Cup, where they will play Oita Trinita.

Good times.  I'll post a full report tomorrow along with YouTube vids.  Now to pass out.

Ore, ao to aka,
Isshou ao to aka,
Ore, ao to aka,
Midori no dai-kirai,
TOKYO!

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[Match Preview] (06.08) Kawasaki Verdy vs. FC Tokyo @ Kokuritsu [Nabisco Cup Group B]

While the Samurai Blue are fighting it out in Oman tonight, tomorrow marks the end of Nabisco Cup qualifying.  FC Tokyo is currently tied w/ Oita for the second wildcard spot – check the last post in this blog for Lantis’ analysis of the overall scenario.

But, what better way to mark the last round of qualifying than a good ole’ Tokyo Derby?  Verdy will “host” Tokyo at Kokuritsu, aka National Olympic Stadium.  The rainy season has started, so there’s a 60% chance of the wet stuff coming down at kickoff, which will be lovely.  In addition to that, I’m writing this post quickly so that I can hit the road to go shoot just after arriving home at 6 in the morning from shooting a friend’s DJ Event down in Koenji, after 3 straight days of shooting punk shows.  Which means I’ll be going to the game (3PM kickoff) on something like no hours of sleep.  Whee.

I predict a solid victory from Tokyo and that they’ll find themselves at the least comfortably in second place for the wildcard slots.  I also predict I will be very, very tired.

[Guest Post] Nabisco Cup Qualification Scenarios

So in deference to the weather, the $150 train ticket, and the fact that the weather wreaked hell on my ankle, I chose to not attend yesterday’s Nabisco Cup game up at Alwin Stadium in Nagano.  For what it’s worth, FC Tokyo blew a lead late in the game to settle for a 1-1 tie with Shimizu S-Pulse.  Shimizu has now secured a playoff berth, which should make my colleagues over at S-Pulse UK Ultras pretty happy.

Anyway, got this post from my stateside buddy, Vermont local soccer expert, and stat wonk Lantis, which pretty much sums up everything you want to know about who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble in the Nabisco Cup.


Any team with at least five points currently has at least a chance at moving on to the quarterfinals, with an absolute minimum threshold of eight points at the end of the group stage to advance.  There are probably a few outside chance scenarios I’ve missed in this, but they’re horribly unlikely to occur.


Group A:

Nagoya Grampus have clinched a quarterfinal berth and can clinch a group win with a win or draw, or a Vissel Kobe loss or draw.  If Grampus loses and Kobe wins, if the combined goal differential is less than five, Grampus still wins the group.

Vissel Kobe are in the lead for a wildcard slot and can clinch it with a win.  They also have a chance at winning the group with a win and a Grampus loss by a combined six or more goals.

Kyoto Sanga can win a wildcard slot with a win, an FC Tokyo loss and an Oita Trinita loss, both with a combined goal differential of five or more goals, a Jubilo Iwata loss, a Kawasaki Frontale loss, and a Kashiwa Reysol loss to Consadole Sapporo win by fewer than six.  A loss or draw eliminates Kyoto from quarterfinal contention.

The Urawa Reds have been eliminated from quarterfinal contention.
Group B:

Shimizu S-Pulse have clinched a quarterfinal berth and can clinch a group win with a win or draw, or an FC Tokyo loss or draw.  If Shimizu loses and FC Tokyo wins, if the combined goal differential is less than six, Shimizu still wins the group.

FC Tokyo are currently in a tie for the second wildcard slot.  A win and a Shimizu loss by a combined six or more goals clinches a group win.  A win and a Visel Kobe loss or a win and an Oita Trinita loss or draw clinches a wildcard slot.  A draw, an Oita Trinita loss (or draw with a lower score than FC Tokyo’s game), a Kawasaki Frontale loss or draw, and a Kashiwa Reysol loss or draw also clinches a wildcard slot.  A loss really muddies things, requiring losing by no more than one goal, a Jubilo Iwata loss or draw, an Oita loss by more goals than FC Tokyo’s, a Frontale loss or draw, and a Kashiwa loss or draw to advance.

Jubilo Iwata can win a wildcard slot with a win, an FC Tokyo loss, and an Oita Trinita loss.  A draw, an FC Tokyo loss by more than two goals, an Oita Trinita loss by more than two goals, a Kawasaki Frontale loss or draw, and a Kashiwa Reysol loss or draw can also win a wildcard slot.  A loss eliminates Jubilo from quarterfinal contention.

Tokyo Verdy have been eliminated from quarterfinal contention.

Group C:

This one’s a mess; everybody still has at least a chance.

JEF United Ichihara Chiba can clinch a group win with a win, a draw, or a loss to Kawasaki Frontale by less than two and a Kashiwa Reysol loss, draw, or win by less than three.  If Chiba still loses the group title, they can win a wildcard slot with an FC Tokyo loss, an Oita Trinita loss, and a Jubilo Iwata loss or draw.

Kawasaki Frontale can win the group with a win over JEF United Ichihara Chiba by two or more goals, and a Kashiwa Reysol loss, draw, or win by less than three.  Kawasaki can win a wildcard with a win, losses by FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita (or draws and a win by four or more), a loss by Jubilo Iwata (or a Jubilo draw and a win by two or more), and a Kashiwa Reysol loss, draw, or win by a smaller or equal margin to Kawasaki’s win. A loss or draw eliminates Kawasaki from quarterfinal contention.

Kashiwa Reysol can win the group with a win by three or more, and a Kawasaki Frontale win by at least two less than Kashiwa’s win.  Kashiwa can win a wildcard with a win, losses by FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita (or draws and a win by five or more), a loss by Jubilo Iwata (or a Jubilo draw and a win by three or more), and a Kawasaki loss, draw, or win by a smaller margin than Kashiwa’s win.  A loss or draw eliminates Kashiwa from quarterfinal contention.

Consadole Sapporo can win a wildcard with a win by six or more, losses by FC Tokyo, Oita Trinita, and Jubilo Iwata, a Kawasaki Frontale loss or draw, and a Kyoto Sanga FC loss, draw, or win by fewer than five.  A loss or draw eliminates Sapporo from quarterfinal contention.
Group D:

Yokohama F-Marinos can clinch a group win with a win, an Oita Trinita loss, a draw and an Oita Trinita draw or loss, or a loss by less than two and an Oita Trinita draw or loss.  Yokohama can clinch a wildcard slot with a draw, losses or draws by FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita, and a Jubilo Iwata loss, draw, or win by fewer than four.  Yokohama can also win a wildcard slot with a loss, losses by FC Tokyo and Oita Trinita, a loss or draw by Jubilo Iwata, a loss, draw, or win by a combined GD of less than five by Kawasaki Frontale, and a loss, draw, or win by a combined GD of less than six by Kashiwa Reysol.

Oita Trinita can win the group with a win and a Yokohama F-Marinos loss or draw, or a draw and a Yokohama loss by two or more.  Oita can win a wildcard slot with a win and an FC Tokyo loss or draw, or a draw, an FC Tokyo loss (or draw with a lower score than Oita’s game), a Kawasaki Frontale loss or draw, and a Kashiwa Reysol loss or draw also clinches a wildcard slot.  Oita can still win a wildcard slot by losing by no more than one goal, a Jubilo Iwata loss or draw, an FC Tokyo loss by more goals than Oita’s, a Frontale loss or draw, and a Kashiwa loss or draw.

Albirex Niigata and Omiya Ardija have been eliminated from quarterfinal contention.

Personal predictions:
Group A Winner: Nagoya Grampus
Group B Winner: Shimizu S-Pulse
Group C Winner: JEF United Ichihara Chiba
Group D Winner: Oita Trinita
Wildcard winners: Vissel Kobe & FC Tokyo

[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.

[Match Preview] 05.24 FC Tokyo vs Tokyo Verdy @ Ajinomoto Stadium

It’s pouring buckets outside and is supposed to continue doing so well into tomorrow, with Yahoo! Japan predicting a 50% chance of rain at kickoff.  It will be wet, it will be humid, the game technically doesn’t matter, and the fallout from the clusterfuck at last week’s Urawa/Gamba match may mean that stadium security will be a bit too overzealous in making sure that peace is kept between the two supporter groups, but it will be a Tokyo Derby nonetheless.

What to write… honestly, I don’t even know, I was in Yoyogi last night and the night before to shoot at Zher the Zoo and my ears still haven’t regained their full capabilities.  Let’s see…

-This is a Nabisco Cup qualifier, so, as I said, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to J1.  Currently Shizuka is in the lead with 7 points, followed by FCT and Jubilo with 4 each (FCT leads on goals scored?) and Verdy trailing with two points.  An FC Tokyo win would undoubtedly eliminate Verdy from the Cup.

-If you want to talk momentum, FC Tokyo is coming off of a much-needed win in Jubilo after losing two straight 1-0 decisions to the home crowd and squandering a Golden Week Spring that could have easily found them in first place.  However, in a “fortuitous” series of results, none of the other teams at the top of the standings were really able to capitalize on anything, leaving FC Tokyo in 3rd place, three points behind Nagoya and Urawa.  Verdy has recovered from its poor form early on in the season, going 4-1-1 in the last 6 games and rising to 11th place at 17 points.  Given that the difference between 4th place (Kashiwa and Kawasaki, 20 points) and 16th place (Jubilo) is only 6 points, we could (and most likely will) see a totally different order by the time the season ends.

-Verdy will be at full strength for the game because their team is nothing but foreigners and old men (FC Nippon indeed!).  However, FC Tokyo has 3 players who are wearing the Samurai Blue for the national team and won’t be in the lineup (Kajiyama is w/ the U-23 team in Europe, while Nagatomo and Konno are with the A-team in Japan)  The pitch condition will blow, expect to see the Green Gaijin Gang get substituted or warm the bench for Verdy while FCT will give some of its younger players a chance to start – possibly Yusuke, Otake… who knows.

-Who knows how security will be as a result of the incident between Gamba and Urawa last weekend… personally I don’t think either set of fans feels like starting shit in the rain.  I hope not.

Soilent Green has some random facts about the derby, including player participation and such as well as duly noting that Blue/Red has owned Green for the majority of the rivalry.  In an unrelated matter from one of his previous posts he admits that I Am Right.  Not that we didn’t already know this, of course.

And that’s all for now because I’m damned tired.  See you tomorrow at Ajisuta!

[MatchRecap] 05.17 Jubilo Iwata 1:2 (1:0) FC Tokyo (J1 W13)

So, um, been a while.  Sorry about that.  School got hectic as well as some personal matters and I still have a metric ton of game photos to go through in addition to everything else.  Apologies for no Kashiwa report (I assure you that with a disappointing 1:0 loss in the rain, you didn’t miss much) and no preview for the Jubilo match.

Fortunately, after dropping two consecutive 1-0 games at home, FC Tokyo went on the road and pulled off a much-needed win against Jubilo Iwata this afternoon.  Trailing 1-0 after the first half, Shingo Akamine came back strong in the second half, scoring a brace (that’s apparently two for any Americans who are reading this) and pulling the Gasmen to victory.  Notable in the lineup was the return of midfielder Emerson to the squad as a substitute in his first match since his injury sustained during the team’s away campaign in Niigata.  Emerson came on for Hanyu in the second half, proving in his fitness that manager Jofuku has one more weapon in a Tokyo offence that lately has struggled to get the job done.

More importantly, around the league a miraculous series of results has brought FC Tokyo to within reach of the top spot in the league yet again.  Urawa fell to Gamba Osaka at home in a match that included altercations among the fans, apparently.  Kawasaki dropped a 2-0 lead to fall to Omiya Ardija 3-2.  Kashima extended its winless streak to 7 games with a 1-1 draw against Kashiwa, and Nagoya beat up on the helpless Consadole Sapporo.  Even JEF Chiba has won two games in a row since sacking its manager.

So, what’s all that mean?  Urawa and Nagoya are at the top of the ladder with 26 points (with Urawa leading in goal differential).  FC Tokyo is alone in 3rd place with 23 points.  Kashiwa Reysol has surged to the top of the ladder with 20 points along with Kawasaki Frontale.  Kashima continues to struggle, now tied with fellow ACL contenders Gamba Osaka as well as Omiya Ardija at 19 points apiece.  Yokohama F. Marinos sit alone in 9th place with 18 points.  With a mere 8 points separating the top half of the ladder, it is quite clearly anyone’s season.  Well, except for Consadole and JEF Chiba, but there’s always gotta be a whipping boy.

Last season at this point, FC Tokyo was in 13th place and pretty much had no hope of rising any further (indeed, they would finish 12th in the standings).  This year, although there have certainly been some bumps in the road, FC Tokyo goes into the 1/3rd-season-break with a strong squad that can easily stay a contender for the remainder of the season and perhaps even vie for the title.  Good times ahead for the gasmen!

The next month brings good times as well – this coming Sunday is the Tokyo Derby against the ever-hated Kawasaki Verdy, followed by a “home” match on the 31st against Shimizu at Alwin Stadium in Nagano (hell knows why we’re playing a home game in Nagano, but hey).  On June 8th is another Tokyo Derby match (this time as the “away” team) at National Stadium, followed by a friendly versus FC Seoul in Korea on the 15th.
All matches (with the obvious exception of the FC Seoul campaign) are for the Nabisco Cup and won’t count in the standings, but naturally wins against Verdy will do much to rebuild the fan’s morale following the recent spate of home losses.  If Tokyo wants to go on to the next round of the Nabisco Cup, the game against Shimizu will be a must-win given the current standings.

In anticipation of the next Tokyo Derby match I’ll try to do a post regarding supporter chants later in the week.  Stay tuned!

04.16.08 Nabisco Cup Group B Result – FC Tokyo 1:1 (0:0) Jubilo Iwata

A much more spirited match than anyone likely expected ended in a draw for the Gasmen as a 10-man Jubilo struck in stoppage time for the equalizer.  The boys in blue and red controlled the pitch for most of the game and got off twice as many shots, but in the end it wasn't enough to get the three points.

Tokyo, running what looked almost like a 4-2-2-2 formation, performed very sloppily in the first 15-20 minutes, turning the ball over several times.  Jubilo was not able to capitalize and Tokyo settled down, peppering the opposing keeper with shots that didn't quite find their way into the net.

Cabore was stretchered to the sideline following a hard tackle in the first half, and while he walked back onto the field he was replaced a few minutes later by Akamine, a troubling sign.  Moniwa fell hard in the second half and took a minute to get back up, but he would go on to stay in the rest of the game.

Akamine's goal in the second half was a beauty and although they weren't able to score a second goal (another troubling sign), the fact that Tokyo outshot Jubilo 15-7 is a promising sign, as are some of the shots from farther out in the box that the team took, particularly an early effort by Nagatomo.  Tokyo's attackers love to get in nice and close for their goals but the sooner more players start emulating strikes like the one Hanyu delivered against Verdy, the better they'll be – otherwise their opponents will be able to thwart them by crowding the box.

Another surprise of the night was Hirayama – Jofuku obviously had enough faith in him following his performance against Verdy to put him back in the starting lineup, and Hirayama showed enough hustle to elicit cheers from the fans several times over the course of the night, several times pushing dangerously close to the Jubilo goal and twice getting a shot off.  If Cabore's early exit turns out to be an injury look for No. 13 to start across from Akamine on Saturday.

Jubilo's goal happened during a 4-minute stoppage time, in a surprise push following NIshi's ejection that didn't quite catch Tokyo off guard but at the same time shouldn't have been allowed to take place to begin with.  If I saw it correctly, Shiota got his hands on the first shot and batted it away, but Jubilo midfielder Komano got the rebound and slammed in the goal.

FC Tokyo

Starting Lineup: Shiota (GK), Tokunaga (DF), Bruno (DF), Moniwa (DF), Nagatomo (DF), Kajiyama (MF), Konno (MF), Kanezawa (MF), Kurisawa (MF), Cabore (FW), Hirayama (FW)

Substitutions: Akamine (Cabore, 35'), Otake (Kurisawa, 62'), Ikegami (Kanezawa, 70')

Goals: Akamine (51')

Yellow Cards: Kurisawa (62')

Jubilo Iwata

Starting Lineup: Kawaguchi (GK), Suzuki (DF), Tanaka (DF), Kayoshi (DF), Komano (MF), Kawamura (MF), Ueda (MF), Naruoka (MF), Nishi (MF), Jiushinyo (FW), Nakayama (FW)

Substitutions: Bandai (Juishinyo, 62'), Inuzuka (Naruoka, 66'), Nanami (Nakayama, 77')

Goals: Komano (89')

Yellow Cards: Suzuki (43'), Tanaka (78'), Nishi (87'), Nishi (89')

Red Cards: Nishi ('89)

Also, while I was taking some photos around the stadium to put on here, I was interviewed by FC Tokyo staffers who put together the matchday programs for their Blue & Red Caravan feature, which is basically little mini-interviews with the fans (in my case, favorite player, how I got into FC Tokyo, etc).  I managed to pull it off in Japanese without sounding like a total retard (or at least they'll edit any retardedness out) and if they're to be believed I'll be featured in the program for Saturday's match against Kawasaki.  I'm… afraid.  But I did mention this blog so here's hoping they include the URL!

In other Group B action, Shimizu S-Pulse apparently curb-stomped a Hulk-less Verdy to the tune of 5:0.  Ouch.  I feel like I should send the guys over at Soilent Green 1969 a funeral wreath or something.

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Preview: 04.16 FC Tokyo vs. Jubilo Iwata (Nabisco Cup Group B Prelims)

First, a shout-out to those who have commented so far! I’m adding links to the blogroll as I get them so feel free to get in touch or suggest blogs I haven’t listed yet.

Tomorrow night finds FC Tokyo returning to Ajinomoto Stadium (yeah, I said Kokuritsu in my last post, whoops) as the home team to face Jubilo Iwata in the Group B Preliminary Round of the Nabisco Cup.

The momentum seems to be on FC Tokyo’s side as they’re coming in on a streak of two consecutive division wins, including Saturday’s climactic victory against Verdy and a win against newcomers Consadole Sapporo. Jubilo, on the other hand, has lost two in a row, falling 2-1 to both Consadole and the Urawa Reds, and is plagued by reports of discord among the players. Additionally, FC Tokyo has already defeated the Flycatchers (yes, I looked this up, that is their mascot, although I sincerely hope that’s not how the fans refer to themselves) once this season on the Nabisco away leg. Jubilo is currently at 13th place in J1, while FC Tokyo sits at 7th.

Although it’s only a preliminary qualifier on a weeknight, I expect a stronger than average turnout of Gasheads, buoyed by the result of the Tokyo Derby match, and a token showing by the dedicated Iwata fans, but the decibel level in Ajinomoto should be significantly lower than it was on Saturday night. Good thing for me, as I’ll have class on Thursday morning and I can’t afford to kill my throat.

FC Tokyo will likely play a slightly more conservative game, as the Verdy match was a bruising affair and the team has to save its strength for Saturday’s home match against Kawasaki Frontale, which remains a dangerous side despite their weaker than expected start. On offense, I expect Otake to start on the field after coming off the bench in Saturday’s match, but he’ll get replaced sometime in the second half if Tokyo gets a comfortable lead as his speed and agility will be a necessity against Kawasaki. After getting pulled out of the F. Marinos game and benched against Sapporo, Hirayama was a replacement in the Verdy match and may have proven to coach Hiroshi Jofuku that he’s stopped being, to put it delicately, a whiny bitch. Only time will tell. Hanyu was pulled from the Verdy game with a leg injury and will probably come on from the bench if he makes an appearance, but he’ll more than likely be ready for Saturday. Cabore and Akamine will likely both get playing time, although it’s a fair question as to whether they’ll both start on the field.

On the defensive end, Moniwa may make a return to the lineup following a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Verdy game, and I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Bruno get some playing time after his spirited performance against Consadole two weeks ago. Rookie Nagatomo, who “scored” the winner against Verdy, has consistently performed well on the defensive end and will probably get a start.

So far this season FC Tokyo has run a 4-3-2-1 position with Cabore as striker, but against Verdy ran a 4-3-1-2 that turned into a 4-3-3 when Otake was substituted. These formations seemed to suit them so I think they’ll continue to tinker with a stronger attack.

Oh, and a Random Game Fact: Jubilo’s slogan for this year is, I shit thou not, “Hungrrrrry!”. If that’s not a reason to cheer against them, I don’t know what is.

In other Group B action, Shimizu S-Pulse hosts “Tokyo” Verdy in Nihondaira. Verdy is 0-1-1 so far in the prelims and needs a win to have any sort of shot at advancing to the elimination stage, while Shimizu holds a one-point lead over FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata. So, best of luck to the S-Pulse in at least drawing. See you tomorrow night with the match report!