Season Opener tomorrow! Umbrellas, lineups, and captains

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

  • Shunsuke Nakamura will not be playing, but apparently TBS will have a fixed camera getting his reaction or so say people on Twitter
  • It's going to rain, so bring an umbrella – particularly red or blue umbrellas if you have one!
  • Expected lineup tomorrow: Gonda; Mukuhara, Morishige, Konno, Nagatomo; Nakamura, Tokunaga, Matsushita, Hanyu; Hirayama, Suzuki
  • Kajiyama and Ishikawa will probably be on the bench but could show up in the second half
  • More Twitter rumors but Tokunaga may be the captain for this season?
  • Omiya tickets on sale tomorrow at 10AM! These are expected to go as fast if not faster than tickets to the Urawa game so buy early!
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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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From Tokyo To The World: TOKYO DAMACY 1999 Begins!

(日本語の大要:この度、国際交流向きなペーニャ「東京魂1999」を誕生します!詳細は日本語の良くある質問ページに参照してください。初集合は、3月6日対横浜FMの開幕戦後に調布駅であるKenny's Pubです。興味がある方は以下で書いてあるメールまで連絡してください。宜しくお願いします!)

With J.League less than 2 weeks away, I figure it's about time to make public (or at least official) what I hope to be this site's big initiative for the 2010 season.

On Sunday evening, I attended a meeting at EL LOCO in Tokyo. This meeting didn't produce any answers (nor was that its intention), but was instead meant to ask an important question:

Where do Tokyo's supporters go from here?

With the 3rd-highest attendance in J1 (nearly 26,000 per game in 2009, trailing Niigata and Urawa), top-tier finishes in the last two years, and a recent championship that was one of the fastest sellouts in recent memory. Yet, when 26,000 attend each Tokyo home game, over 20,000 seats are still empty in the cavernous Ajinomoto Stadium.

The unfortunate reality is that a capital team in a capital city has to compete with… a lot of other things in the capital. In Tokyo's case there are are two professional baseball teams, hundreds of livehouses, clubs, and bars (any one of them running an event on a particular night), movie theaters, and some minor-league pissant soccer club that wears green uniforms. There are any number of reasons as to why those 20,000 seats are empty, the question is what can be done to fill them.

I've been supporting Tokyo for nearly 3 years now and recently received my fourth SOCIO pin in the mail; the team is responsible for a lot of friendships I have made and incredible experiences I have had since I came to Japan. I made this site on a dare from users over at The Rising Sun, it's now taken on a mission to spread news of FC Tokyo to English-speaking fans both in the city and around the world. Supporting the team has been a life-altering experience and I've always encouraged my friends and colleagues to join me behind the goal. I believe that while we have yet to take part in international competition, Tokyo has the potential to be a world-class club team and more supporters outside of Japan should be paying attention to what we're up to.

To that end, beginning near the end of last season I started considering how I could start to do this on a greater scale. The obvious answer was, much like the S-Pulse UK Ultras or the now-defunct (?) MOIST, to start a supporter's group aimed towards non-Japanese supporters, especially those who might not consider supporting a Japanese team when they have a team back home cheer for.

But of course, that would be way too exclusive; and would defeat the purpose of a supporter's group: to have fun, to make friends, and to share in victory and defeat together. So, in the spirit of Tokyo's international community, obviously an international supporter's group was called for.

Therefore, after consulting with several friends and supporters on both sides of the pacific, my previously-stated goal of having an internationally-oriented supporter's group will move forward under the name TOKYO DAMACY 1999. I've applied for and received penya status from the club; we're #74.

For now, the goal is to start gathering regularly at the stadium or after matches and then hopefully move towards more proactive support (away trips, making flags/banners, you name it).

I've written up FAQs in both English and Japanese, those can be found here (or on the TOKYO DAMACY 1999 tab now included in the top navigation):

TOKYO DAMACY 1999 FAQ – English

TOKYO DAMACY 1999 FAQ – 日本語

My idea for what I hope this penya to become is included in these FAQs, so hopefully once you read it you'll understand the possibility of what we can accomplish (and will want to join in on the fun!)

To start with, our first official gathering will take place on March 6th, after the Yokohama match. The location will probably be Kenny's Irish Pub in Chofu, just because it's so close to the stadium and will probably have enough room for all of us (whether we're 5 or 15). If you're interested in attending, leave a comment or drop me an email at tokyodamacy1999@aishiteru-tokyo.com. Exact details (including times and directions) will be posted here in the near future.

I'm not quite sure how big this will become, but I know how big it can become and how big supporters I've talked to believe it will become. I hope to meet their expectations.

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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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Daily Digest for February 10th (February 10th)

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Latest from Aishiteru-Tokyo.com: Daily Digest for February 9th (February 9th) http://is.gd/7Zx96 [aishiterutokyo]
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After wrestling with CSS beasts for a good hour and change, Aishiteru Tokyo has REAL NAVIGATION! Just gotta tweak the colors… [aishiterutokyo]
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Latest from Aishiteru-Tokyo.com: Site Upgrades Complete! & New Material http://is.gd/80pjB [aishiterutokyo]
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@pucchi_c It's already out there in Japanese, my goal is make it English. FYI I'll be starting a recuiting drive soon for more writers [aishiterutokyo]
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By the way, the penya application was approved. Formal announcement tonight? ところでペーニャの登録が完了!今晩中は正式発表。 [aishiterutokyo]

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Site Upgrades Complete! & New Material

After quite a bit of wrestling with the bitch-demons known as CSS, I not only fixed the header issue again but the site finally has a proper navigation menu!

The new navigation bar is divided into 4 sections:

-HOME brings you back to the front page. I never took the time to set it up until now! Sorry bout that.

-FC Tokyo Culture will focus on everything that takes place in the stands and off the field

-Team Info will house information on players and staff as well as basic team information and other need-to-know things

-Supporter Guides are all about how to watch the game in whatever fashion you feel is appropriate: whether at the stadium, in the pub, or on your TV/computer at home.

-TOKYO DAMACY 1999 is… well, that will be announced within a few days 😉

I also finally wrote out the page on Pro-FCT bars and pubs in Tokyo, which can now be accessed from the Supporter Guides tab. I’ve written out info on three locations so far, feel free to post a comment if you have suggestions for more bars I should include!

Daily Digest for February 9th (February 9th)

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Latest from Aishiteru-Tokyo.com: Daily Digest for February 8th (February 8th) http://is.gd/7Vcsq [aishiterutokyo]
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@benjmaxwell it appears us gaijin supporters are gonna be stepping it up this season. You free to meet anytime this week to discuss ideas? [aishiterutokyo]
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Aishiteru Tokyo is down! I'm upgrading the theme, no need to panic. Should be back up in a few minutes. [aishiterutokyo]
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Latest from Aishiteru-Tokyo.com: Aishiteru-Tokyo.Com is… broken! http://is.gd/7Wh6r [aishiterutokyo]
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@biju_ska yeah, I figured out what was wrong. Just gotta fix that top bit… [aishiterutokyo]
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China didn't see Saturday's game on TV. Lucky them. RT: @pitchinvasion: The Sweeper: Chinese Football No Longer Exists http://bit.ly/c6RrJi [aishiterutokyo]
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So it appears i'll be going to a FCT Twitterer gathering later this month. Should be fun! #aoaka_sawakai [aishiterutokyo]

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Aishiteru-Tokyo.Com *was*… broken!

Okay, if you're visiting the site normally instead of through RSS feeds, you may notice that our layout has changed and not for the better.

Long story short: I've been upgrading themes and adding some new/nifty features for this season and I broke something.  It will be fixed momentarily (and by “momentarily” I mean “when I get back from work tomorrow”), so don't panic! That's my job.

Edit (11:30PM) I fixed the column issue, the header ugliness can wait till tomorrow evening.

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Daily Digest for February 8th (February 8th)

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Latest from Aishiteru-Tokyo.com: The Season Begins! New Faces Part 1 http://is.gd/7RzH1 [aishiterutokyo]
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@PINA10460 オープニングじゃなくてハーフタイムショーだ [aishiterutokyo]
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@pitchinvasion great scarf! Incidentally I’d like to pick your brain re: supporter groups, would email be best or do you use any IM soft? [aishiterutokyo]
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@pitchinvasion oh, and congrats on the chairmanship as well! [aishiterutokyo]
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@pitchinvasion alright, thanks! it’s nearly 2:30am over here so I’ll write you in the morning. [aishiterutokyo]
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@fctokyo1989 別に面白い試合では無かったのでドンマイだよw [aishiterutokyo]