Four FC Tokyo players called up to National Team

Reports coming in that FC Tokyo defenders Yuto Nagatomo and Yuhei Tokunaga as well as midfielders Yasuyuki Konno and Naotake Hanyu have been summoned to the national team's training camp in Chiba prefecture from April 21st to April 23rd. This will be Nagatomo's first time training as a member of the national team. His statement:

To have been selected for the National Team's training camp is an honor. It's because of everyone's support that I am where I am now, and I'm full of gratitude. I look forward to demonstrating my skills at the training camp!

Congratulations to Nagatomo for his first shot at donning the blue kit!

Also as a bonus video, here's one of the ads the SkyPerfectTV has been running to promote Saturday's Tamagawa Classico match against Kawasaki Frontale. I won't lie, it's… pretty inane, but here you go anyway:

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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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BREAKING: Tokyo Derby Aftermath – Hulk suspended for three matches

From Yahoo Sports! Japan:

Following a meeting held on April 15th by the J.LEAGUE Rules Committee, Tokyo Verdy player Hulk has been punished with a three-game suspension. The affected matches are April 16th vs. Shimizu S-Pulse (Nabisco Cup Preliminary Round), April 19th vs. Kashiwa Reysol (J.LEAGUE Round 7), and April 26th vs. Nagoya Grampus Eight (J.LEAGUE Round 8).

Hulk, upon receiving two yellow cards and being ejected from Verdy’s match against FC Tokyo on April 12th, was alleged to have directed insulting language towards the match officials. According to league officials, “Insulting language towards one a match official or sub-official, or committing other pubicly slanderous acts, is deserving of a 2-game penalty.” This penalty has been added to the standard one-game suspension for receiving a red card for a total of three games.

What will this mean for Verdy? In the short term, their chances of defeating Shimizu in roughly 18 hours have dropped significantly. The match against Kashiwa is muddled even further, and Verdy will now be at a severe disadvantage against Nagoya, the current league leader. I wonder how long it’s going to take the team to change the image on their front page.

In the long term, given his behavior during his short stint in Kawasaki, getting ejected and then additionally suspended only a short two weeks after signing a ¥500 million ($5 million) contract doesn’t look good under any circumstance.  Verdy snapped up Hulk as quickly as they could to shore up their lackluster offense, and if he doesn’t have the presence of mind to not do stupid things that result in him getting ejected, Hulk may find himself a free agent sooner rather than later.

In honor of this decision, here’s Hulk about to tear up after he got served by Nagatomo late in the game:

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

Hulk smash! Hulk cry! Hulk sit in the corner and listen to Linkin Park!

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!

YouTube Roundup: 04.12.08 “at” Tokyo Verdy

So, I can’t start this blog without saying something about the Tokyo Derby that took place yesterday evening, resulting in the most energy I’ve ever seen come from our supporters. However much we hate Verdy, it’s obvious that the Tokyo Derby is good for both sides and so I wish Verdy the best of luck in staying at the bottom of the division, but not so far down as to get relegated 😉

In any case here’s a few videos that should sum up the day quite handily:

スパサカ Pickup Feature

Coverage from TBS’s well-known football program. Includes audio of Verdy’s manager getting pissed after Fukunishi’s yellow card.

Homemade Compilation

This appears to be shot from the sidelines or from damned close to the field in any case. Good angles on the two FC Tokyo goals.

Postgame bow & シャーシャーシャ Cheer

This cheer was originally started by Amaral back in the day. The thing is that in the last couple weeks, duties to deliver this cheer have fallen to new players such as Otake (last week against Sapporo) and Hanyu (this week against Verdy). Unfortunately, Hanyu had no idea what to do, and so after some confusion he had to run over and ask other teammates for instructions. Fortunately Nagatomo joined him at the last minute to help out when he still seemed lost and then performs some acrobatics of his own.

Next match, this coming Wednesday at Kokuritsu against Jubilo Iwata! It’s a weeknight Nabisco Cup qualifier so I don’t expect that the supporters will be anywhere near capacity, but as it’s been 8 or 9 months since I’ve been to these grounds I’m looking forward to it.

Hajimeruzo!

Roughly a year ago (actually it would be about 11.5 months, to be precise), I went to my first J.LEAGUE match to watch FC Tokyo, the home team, get beaten 2-1 by the eventual league champions, Kashima Antlers. I was instantly hooked and began attending games regularly, even away matches within my sphere of influence. In August 2007 I joined SOCIO and became a season ticket holder, giving me that much more of a valid claim to bitch about the team's performance.

Sometime during that period I registered this domain name (aishiteru-tokyo.com) with the intent of turning t into a full-fledged English fansite for the team, complete with a Joomla install, all sorts of subpages, full multimedia capabilities, the whole deal. Then I realized that I would never have time to keep and maintain such a page, and thus it languished as a 'Coming Soon' image.

Then, while sitting at home today, nursing my bad ankles following last night's triumph “at” Tokyo Verdy, I decided to raise some hell and mock the Verdy fans over at the Rising Sun New's forums. I was subsequently outed as the first Gasmen to show up on those forums and challenged by one whom I suppose I should call my esteemed colleague (in the same way that, in politics, 'my esteemed colleague' is used as a gentler way of saying 'that bastard on the other side of the aisle') to come up with a blog to report on FC Tokyo's comings and goings in English, as such a site is lacking. I'm now convinced that this is his revenge for my attempt to troll the Verdy fans by forcing me to grind up what little free time I have into smaller fines to divide them ever further.

But I digress.

I have decided to take up this challenge, and to the best of my abilities I will report on the Blue and Red and its triumphs and tribulations throughout this season and as many more as I can follow.  A little about me:

-I'm an American (sorry about that, by the way) living in Nakano-ku, Tokyo, currently studying Japanese at a language school.

-Like most Americans, I played soccer in my youth.  Unlike most Americans I also enjoy watching it, but because the MLS never made it to Philadelphia while I lived in the states my loyalties remained unattached until I relocated to Tokyo.  That said I obviously wasn't raised on Premiere League so my technical knowledge of the game may be below par.  If you don't like it, write a better FC Tokyo blog 😉  Additionally I will call it football or soccer depending on the context.

-I sit behind the goal, 95% of the time in the section run by supporter group LA12.  I am usually the only foreigner there unless I've brought friends.

-I have a fixation on supporter culture bordering on unhealthy, primarily because American pro sports (American football, baseball, basketball, hockey) don't have supporters in the way that football does.  The chants, iconography, signs, and history are all incredibly fascinating to me and if I'm not familiar with a team I can more often than not gauge them based on their supporters.

Ideally I'd like to get other writers to help come up with reports, particularly when I can't get to games or to help translate articles that I might otherwise not get to.  In the meantime, let's see how this goes.

(04.12.08) Tokyo Verdy vs. FC Tokyo

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