Tomorrow's match against Yokohama FM will be crucial for FC Tokyo as it begins the next phase of the Summer Counterattack. Currently 4 points out of an ACL spot and 15 from the top, Tokyo needs to buckle down and put together another long chain of victories after its recent stumbles.
Unfortunately, tomorrow's game will see a drastically altered lineup due to a variety of circumstances:
–Yuto Nagatomo underwent an appendectomy on August 3rd; although he's recovering and participating in team practices he does not yet feel ready to start and the team is probably looking to have him return in time for Kashima next Sunday.
–Yohei Kajiyama recived his 4th yellow card of the season in the Kawasaki match and will sit Sunday out.
–Naohiro Ishikawa, in what is certainly the most upsetting news for the team injured his calf during practice earlier in the week and will sit the game out.
–Bruno Quadros flew back from Brazil on Friday, having returned there last week to be with his wife while she underwent surgery. As a result of jet lag and not having practiced this week he will likely not be a part of the lineup. %%anc%%
How will Jofuku manage with this temporarily dire situation? His lineup will surely be a test of Tokyo's roster depth, and fortunately it appears that there are plenty of players to fill the various gaps.
On defense, Nagatomo's role could be filled by Kenta Mukuhara, while Bruno's position could be taken by Teriyuki Moniwa or Hideki Sahara, neither of whom have not played in several months.
The second line is somewhat more strained; El Golazo predicts that Ishikawa's position will be covered by Soutan Tanabe, while Kajiyama will be relieved by veteran Jo Kanazawa. Yet Jofuku has two more trump cards in the form of Yohei Otake and Hokuto Nakamura, both of whom have returned from injury and are regular participants in team practices.
With a troublingly decisive Week 3 match swiftly approaching, here’s the latest courtesy of Chunichi Sports:
-Following an intra-squad match on the 18th, Hideki Sahara called an abrupt “blue sky meeting” (apparently this just means a meeting held outside) with his fellow defenders to discuss the state of a defense that has given up 7 goals in two matches. Said team regular Teriyuki Moniwa, “…certainly everyone knows what’s going on but nobody was quite willing to step up and say something about it. But Hideki’s been watching from the sidelines and so he was able to make a good case as to what we need to do.” Manager Hiroshi Jofuku joined the meeting partway through and contributed to the discussion.
-Naohiro Ishikawa started in today’s practice match versus Kokuchikan University. Early in the match he took a cross from Hanyu and headed it in for a goal, making a case for starting time in Saturday’s match.
-In the same practice match, 5th forward Sota Hirayama also continued to make a convincing case for seeing time on the J1 field. Continuing the impressive form he displayed in Sunday’s satellite match, Hirayama intercepted a midfielder’s pass, avoided getting tripped up by a defender, and curved a shot from 20 meters out to get the score. Saturday is the predicted start of the Tokyo cherry blossom season, and Chunichi’s writers predict that Hirayama could bring FCT’s offense to full bloom. While one can usually expect such… flowery prose from Japanese sports writers, Hirayama is one of a growing list of players (including Sahara and Ishikawa) who have sat through the team’s two losses mostly on the sidelines and believe they can make an impact. We’ll see if they get their chances on Saturday.
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:
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:
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
(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.