Tag Archives: naohiro ishikawa

[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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[Match Report] J1R1 FC Tokyo 1:0 (0:0) Yokohama F. Marinos

J.League Division 1 Week 1
First Half

0 – 0

Second Half

1 – 0

Final

1 – 0

March 6th 2009, 2PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 29,011
GK Gonda

DF Mukuhara

DF Konno

DF Morishige

DF Nagatomo

MF Nakamura

MF Tokunaga

MF Hanyu

MF Matsushita

FW Suzuki

FW Hirayama

Starting Members

GK Ikura

DF Fujiya

DF Nakazawa

DF Ogura

DF Tanaka

MF Hyodo

MF Kanai

MF Kano

MF Yamase

FW Hasegawa

FW Watanabe

64' Kajiyama (Hanyu)

69' Ishikawa (Nakamura)

76' Akamine (Suzuki)

Substitutes 61' Sakada (Kano)

79' Shimizu (Hasegawa)

90+2' Bastianini (Kanai)

90+1' Hirayama Goals
Cautions
Ejections

Report

It was rainy, it was wet, it was a little cold, it was windy, it was miserable: why not start the season? A day removed from temperatures in the low 70s and cloudless sunny skies, FC Tokyo and Yokohama F. Marinos played in front of just over 29,000 fans who braved the elements to come to Ajinomoto Stadium and kick off J.League's 2010 season. Tokyo had to manage with the loss of midfielder Takuji Yonemoto to a torn ACL and midfielders Kajiyama and Ishikawa still not ready to play a full 90. Yokohama was not only still waiting for Shunsuke Nakamura's return but lost defender Naoki Matsuda to injury. Regardless of who was in the lineup, though, it was time for that old ditty to be sung at Ajinomoto for the first time in over 3 months.

Now, as far as the actual match is concerned, well, there's a whole lot less to be impressed with. After Hirayama teasingly hit the post in the opening minutes, neither team could really establish a rhythm. Passes missed, balls falling short of their intended receiver, and generally sloppy play to suit the sloppy weather. Both teams had a couple decent scoring chances but neither threatened; If you had TiVo'd the match, I would suggest skipping ahead one hour to get to the second half.

The second half is where it got interesting. Yokohama definitely looked more threatening and created some hairy situations, but Tokyo managed to stave them off. With a poised Gonda between the posts and a back line consisting of two current NT players (Konno and Nagatomo), a star defender with NT experience (Morishige), and a more-than-able third year player (Mukuhara), this was not the same back line that gave up 4 goals to Albirex Niigata on Opening Day last year.

While Tokyo was holding defensively, the offense didn't kick back into gear until roughly the 70th minute, when Naohiro Ishikawa tagged in for Nakamura, taking the field for the first time since his season-ending injury against Kashiwa Reysol last October to a stadium-wide ovation. Immediately, Tokyo showed signs of life, pressing the attack and getting closer to Yokohama's goal than they had for most of the game. Akamine went in for Suzuki seven minutes later, an indication that Jofuku intended for his team to play for 3 points.

One highlight of the game was seeing Matsushita, picked up from Albirex Niigata in the offseason, and his free-kicking abilities. As anyone following Tokyo last season is well aware of, the only thing Tokyo was worse at than defending against the set play was taking advantage of their own set play. Matsushita's skills as a player were a bit shaky, but his two free kicks were impeccable and both had the potential to result in goals. When Matsushita and Ishikawa both positioned themselves to take a free kick closer to the end of the game, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only Tokyo supporter who got goosebumps.

However, with the clock hitting 90 minutes and 3 minutes of additional time, it seemed like both teams were just about resigned to taking home one point.

Then Akamine dished the ball off to Ishikawa and the race was on.

Go on, watch it again. In fact here's a different angle

After the goal… no, wait, fuck it, I'm going to enjoy this. Here's Ishikawa's little hurdle again in slow motion so you can see him absolutely own Yokohama's Shohei Ogura. This is the soccer equivalent of when a player dunks over a defender, teabagging him in the process. You just can't get over it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGGlt2khjo4

Finally, here's a slightly different angle. Put this next to the first angle and wear some funny glasses and you can watch Yokohama's back line get served in 3D.

Okay, I'm finished now. After that it was simply holding off a halfhearted attack by Yokohama and waiting for the ref to blow the final whistle.

After the game, 7 of us including two regular commenters to this blog walked down to Chofu where we found… that Kenny's Irish Pub wasn't open because of a private party (on game day! The nerve!) But we did find an izakaya and held what was basically the first official meeting of TOKYO DAMACY 1999! Everyone had a blast and I hope we have many more similar meetings in the future.

On to Urawa!

Quotes

“We may not have played so well, but the defense focused when it needed to and helped win the game.” – Ryuhei Tokunaga

“We didn't possess the ball for long enough to play how we want to play and that's something we'll consider going into next week.” – Toshihiro Matsushita

“After last year's opener [1-4 defeat to Albirex Niigata] I just wanted to get out of the locker room and go home as quickly as possible, but this year I want to sit down with other players and talk about the game. I feel like I've matured in a lot of ways since last year.” – Shuichi Gonda

“While [Ishikawa and Hirayama's goal-scoring play] was important, I'm more satisfied with how the team didn't fall apart even when we couldn't get a solid attack started. As far as the goal is concerned, Kajiyama and Ishikawa were only on for a short period of time but they did their job well. After that, it was just a matter of Hirayama getting into position to take the shot. I want to see Hirayama's accuracy increase, but more importantly I want him to put his body where it's needed to create plays, and he was able to accomplish that today.” – Hiroshi Jofuku

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News Digest: Fujiyama, Ishikawa, Sold Out Games, and Nabisco Cup!

Player News:

-In the hopes that he can possibly return before the end of the season, Naohiro Ishikawa has been recieving rehabilitation treatment at the team’s Kodaira training facility.  The star midfielder has received countless letters of support including many from non-Tokyo supporters.  Nao is scheduled to have a followup checkup on the 28th and the team will release details of his injury that day.

-Tokyo veteran Ryuji Fujiyama, who has been with the team for 16 years (extending back to the Tokyo Gas era), will be released following the 2009 season.  The team has apparently offered Fujiyama a coaching position, but, in his words, “I intend to keep playing until my body falls apart.”

-Yuto Nagatomo rejoined the team in practice this week and is expected to start against Shimizu on Sunday.

-In the last week Touchuu (the FC Tokyo edition of Chunichi Sports) has ran articles claiming that Tatsuya Suzuki, Naotake Hanyu, and Sota Hirayama are all ready/willing to fill the goal-scoring gap left by Ishikawa.  Where were they all season…?

Ticket News:

It appears that FC Tokyo may play up to 4 consecutive sold out J.League games in the next month:

-Tomorrow’s match against Shimizu sold out as of Thursday (10/23)

-the Nabisco Cup Final has long been sold out

-The team announced earlier this week that the lower bowl of Ajinomoto has been sold out for the 11/8 matchup versus Urawa

-Visitor end tickets for the late-November tie against Chiba sold out within minutes upon going on sale Friday.

And this morning the ‘remaining’ tickets went on sale for the Nabisco Cup (pretty much all credit card-only); I nearly got a ticket but Visa fucked things up and so no SB ticket for me (which if one looks at the prices at scalper shops, I could have sold for enough profit to pay for tomorrow’s trip to Shimizu).  Me? Bitter.  Somewhat.  In fact very.  But see below.

Note that this doesn’t include the 11/11 Emperor’s Cup Game, which takes place on a Wednesday night in Nagasaki and will attract maybe a couple dozen Tokyo supporters.  Seriously, JFA, knock this neutral venue bullshit off.

Nabisco Cup News:

-J’s Goal is getting choreography fans pumped up with a 6-year retrospective of pre-game tifos.  Y’all know I love this shit.

-Dunno what LA12’s tifo display will be but ours (as in me and previous special reporter Andre) will be awesome.  Pics this week, hopefully!

-Design tickets are in the mail!  Here’s my haul:

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Original Design Ticket 4x, FC Tokyo ticket lottery allotment 2x, SOCIO allotment 1x.  These are all going for at least 6-7,000 yen each on the open market, but I am being a good supporter and giving them to friends at face value.  Because lord knows I’m immoral in every other way so I might as well make up for it 😉

[Match Report] J1 Week 29 FC Tokyo 4-0 Kashiwa Reysol

J.League Division 1 Week 29
First Half
1- 0Second Half
3- 0

Final
4-0

June 7th 2009, 1:04PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 28,235
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 6 Yasuyuki Konno
DF 33 Kenta Mukuhara
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 18 Naohiro Ishikawa
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 24 Shingo Akamine
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
GK 33 Takanori Sugeno
DF 25 Yusuke Murakami
DF 3 Naoya Kondo
DF 13 Yuzo Kobayashi
DF 7 Hidekazu Otani
MF 28 Ryoichi Kurisawa
MF 34 Kota Sugiyama
MF 37 Masato Yamazaki
MF 41 Junya Tanaka
FW 15 Minoru Suganuma
FW 9 Hideaki Kitajima
71' 27 Soutan Tanabe (for Ishikawa)76' 14 Hokuto Nakamura (for Hanyu)

87' 19 Yohei Otake (for Hirayama)

Substitutes HT 36 Masato Kudo (for Yamazaki)

59' 11 Popo (for Tanaka)

71' 2 Kamata (for Sugiyama)

44' Akamine
55' Hanyu
62' Hirayama
69' Ishikawa
Goals
Cautions 40' Katajima
77' Kamata
Ejections

Report

So, let's take care of the elephant in the room.

Naohiro Ishikawa, currently tied for the league scoring title (15 goals), went down hard in the process of scoring Tokyo's fourth goal of the game and was immediately removed by stretcher.  There's a bit of debate as to whether or not he was fouled by the Kashiwa player… I don't really think it was anything extreme and it's the kind of play that could have happened to anyone, which is saying a lot given how rough Kashiwa played over the course of the match.

So, here's what we know:

-Ishikawa was taken from the pitch to the locker room, where they iced his knee and wrapped it.

-According to postgame comments by Kajiyama, Ishikawa was walking (albeit panfully), under his own power, without crutches.  He was taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation and sent home, and is to receive a full exam today (Monday).

-Ishikawa posted to his blog on Saturday night.  “I have no regrets about the play… I hope that the injury is light, but I've had a knee injury before so I have a feeling… I hope that feeling is wrong, though.”

-Reports posted to Twitter on Sunday indicate that Ishikawa stopped by Kodaira Ground in order to receive treatment and was walking without crutches or a wheelchair.

-According to Nikkan Sports, Nao said to reporters “I could swear I heard something in my knee when I fell… I immediately got the sense that it won't be easy to heal quickly, but we'll see what the doctors say tomorrow.”  Such a sound could be indicative of ligament damage; a torn ACL would require surgery and 6-9 months of recovery, putting Nao's hopes of playing in the 2010 World Cup at risk.

-Matsu of The Rising Sun predicts, after looking at the injury video, that Nao sustained a hyperextended knee as opposed to ligament damage.  Such an injury would take at least 2-4 weeks of recovery.

The absolute sunshine-and-rainbows optimistic view is that it's a hyperextension and Nao could possibly come on as a substitute in the Nabisco Cup game.  Worst-case is that he's out for at least the rest of this season and the first 2-3 months of next season, and he'd need an absolute miracle to play in South Africa.  In any case it's an absolute tragedy and the team (and supporters) will have to rally together.

Let's not let this injury take away from the good parts of the match: Tokyo played a physical game and controlled an equally-physical Kashiwa squad.  Akamine, Hanyu, and Hirayama all had great goals (particularly the defying physics that lead to Hanyu's score).  Hanyu's total effort was one goal and 3 assists… but yeah, the air was certainly much, much different after Ishikawa was taken off the field.

Here's the rest of the highlights from the game.

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Catching Up: Osaka, Iwata, Nagoya, NT, Emperor's, yadda yadda

Why no, I haven't disappeared into a black hole, but September was an unusually busy month for me and October isn't shaping up to be much freer.  Here's what I've missed posting about:

-The Gamba Osaka match was pretty much exactly as you'd expect from an 0-0 draw; the team fought valiantly without Hirayama but it was pretty much a deadlock.  Not even going to bother posting highlights, nothing to see here.

-The first half of the Jubilo Iwata match was pretty much as lifeless as the Gamba match… then it got interesting in the second half, turning into a back-and-forth shootout that culminated in a come-from-behind 3-2 Tokyo victory.  Ishikawa, Nagatomo, and Akamine all contributed goals in the win.

-The Nagoya match was a much more fiercely contested match than expected.  Tokyo went up 2-1 in the first half on goals by Ishikawa and Suzuki but faced a resurgent Nagoya in the second half.  The team hit a roadblock when Teriyuki Moniwa sustained a severe cut under his eye after taking an inadvertent elbow from Aussie striker Kennedy.  Still, Tokyo prevailed and is currently in 7th place.
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-Four FCT players were named to the National Team for October's matches: Konno, Nagatomo, Ishikawa, and Tokunaga.  For some reason or another Ishikawa was left off the squad for the Hong Kong game, a 6-0 romping by Japan in which Nagatomo scored a goal and Tokunaga contributed an assist as a substitute.  Ishikawa finally found a starting role in last night's exhibition game against Scotland, a largely meaningless affair that Japan finally won 2-0

And now I'm off to Ajinomoto Stadium to watch anyone Jofuku deems healthy enough to play take on Kamatamare Sanuki in the Emperor's Cup Round 2.  I expect that both Sanuki fans making the trip will be very nice people.

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Crisis in Tokyo: 4 starters missing on Sunday

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.
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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.

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Match Report: Nabisco Cup Quarterfinals First Leg: FC Tokyo vs. Nagoya Grampus

J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Quarterfinal Round Game 1
First Half
4 – 0 Second Half
1 – 1

Final
5 – 1

July 15th 2009, 7:30PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 12,226
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 6 Yasuyuki Konno
DF 5 Yuto Nagatomo
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 18 Naohiro Ishikawa
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 9 Cabore
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
GK 21 Koji Nishimura
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka
DF 2 Akira Takeuchi
DF 5 Takahiro Masukawa
DF 26 Masaya Sato
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa
MF 7 Naoshi Nakamura
MF 14 Keiji Yoshimura
MF 8 Magnum
FW 19 Keita Sugimoto
FW 9 Davi
Half 24 Shingo Akamine (for Cabore)
68′ 40 Tatsuya Suzuki (for Takuji Yonemoto)
71′ 27 Sotan Tanabe (for Naohiro Ishikawa)
Substitutes Half 11 Keiji Tamada (for Davi)
61′ 13 Kei Yamaguchi (for Keiji Yoshimura)
70′ 18 Tomohiro Tsuda (for Keita Sugimoto)
3′ Sota Hirayama
10′ Takuji Yonemoto
11′ Naohiro Ishikawa
26′ Yuto Nagatomo
75′ Own Goal
Goals 53′ Yoshizumi Ogawa
  Cautions 26′ Akira Takeuchi
88′ Hayuma Tanaka
  Ejections  

Report

Those of you who are familiar with the legendary Blizzard game Starcraft probably remember the one time you played against a Korean player.  You shoulders immediately tensed, the hairs on your arm stuck straight up, a fine line of sweat formed across your brow; all of this before the game even started.  While you attempted to build up your noble Terran army and began to construct factories and even a few bunkers, your opponent already had an army under his command.  Then, out of nowhere, a wave of zerglings overruns you as if you were the last Tickle-Me-Elmo on Black Friday, and they leave behind them a twisted mass of wreckage akin to New Orleans, post-Katrina.  You sat at your computer, desolate, perhaps a small wet spot spreading on the front of your pants, wondering why you’d even bothered showing up in the first place.

That’s more or less what it must have felt like to be a Nagoya fan in Ajinomoto Stadium last night.

Nagoya, stung by a 3-0 defeat on Sunday, attempted to barrel their way to the Tokyo goal and get a couple goals that would, at the very least, help them in the event of a tiebreaker.  Tokyo had other intentions, however, and the first goal was so quick that some fans were probably still pouring into the stadium.  10 minutes later the score was 3-0 courtesy of an incredibly well-placed shot by Yonemoto and yet another score by Ishikawa, bringing his streak to 6 games in a row which sets a new team record.  Nagatomo contributed a score of his own at 26′, and the team basically spent the rest of the first half in incredibly intricate passing sequences, much like bullies passing a stuffed animal back and forth to keep it away from a little kid.  Nagoya’s players were visibly frustrated, as were the fans who hoisted a banner exclaiming “Fight back if you’re man enough! behind their goal.  Pixi looked like he wanted to impale himself on the corner kick flag and end it all right then and there.

The second half featured a lot more miscues, errors, and generally sloppy play by Tokyo; not enough to turn the game to Nagoya’s favor but just enough to wipe out the afterglow of an amazing first half.  One could argue that playing 2 games in 4 days against the same opponent is quite tiring, especially when Nagoya played some dirty football in an attempt to derail Tokyo’s concentration, but some of these mistakes were facepalm-worthy.  Poor clearing choices, missed passes, hesitations on the attack… you name it, they screwed it up.  Fortunately this lapse only lasted long enough to give away one goal, and Tokyo went back to kicking ass and taking names for the rest of the match until newly-signed striker Owen Gouru, appearing on a one-day contract, knocked in the 5th goal.

With the win, Tokyo takes a 4-goal difference into Nagoya in two weeks.  A 3-goal loss or a better result would be enough to send Tokyo into the semifinals, where it will face either Shimizu or Urawa (who won their first match 2-1 at home).

Player News: Akamine Stays, Cabore gets offer, Ishikawa goes for 6

Some player notes as we get ready for tomorrow night's match against Nagoya:

-Shingo Akamine has decided to reject Jubilo's offer for a transfer and stay with Tokyo, prompting an enthusiastic response from fans and teammates alike at Monday's practice. Akamine, the team's leading scorer last season as well as one of the top Japanese scorers, has joined in most of the games this season as a late-game substitute due to Hirayama's emergence as a starter.

-In this morning's editions of Sponichi it was reported that the team has recieved offers from clubs in Saudi Arabia and UAE for striker Cabore. The team is said to be fending these offers off by establishing steep penalities for breaking a contract mid-season, but some fear that Middle East club teams can reach deep into their pockets and pull out all the oil money they need to complete any deal. This season has already seen Middle Eastern clubs pillage J.League, with former Kobe manager Caio Junior and Nagoya striker Davi already heading to the region.

-While most of the press on Monday night had their cameras trained on Naohiro Ishikawa, a few cameras stayed pointed at the press box where NT coach Takeshi Okada was watching the game. Okada gave no indication of his reaction to the score, however, and following the game he merely commented that Ishikawa “look good” and that he wasn't going to make any rash decisions in terms of selecting members.
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With Sunday's goal, Ishikawa has scored in 5 games in a row and has tied club legend Amaral (who, incidentally, has come out of retirement to play with JFL side FC Kariya) for the team record. He can claim his own place in the record books if he scores tomorrow night.

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Match Report – J1R17 FCT 3-0 Nagoya Grampus

J.League Division 1 Week 17
First Half
2 – 0 Second Half
1 – 0 Final
3 – 0
July 12th 2009, 6:34PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 24,736
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 6 Yasuyuki Konno
DF 5 Yuto Nagatomo
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 18 Naohiro Ishikawa
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 9 Cabore
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
GK 1 Seigo Narazaki
DF 32 Hayuma Tanaka
DF 2 Akira Takeuchi
DF 5 Takahiro Masukawa
DF 6 Shohei Abe
MF 13 Kei Yamaguchi
MF 14 Keiji Yoshimura
MF 10 Yoshizumi Ogawa
MF 8 Magnum
FW 11 Keiji Tamada
FW 9 Davi
 64' 27 Soutan Tanabe (for Hanyu)
77' 40 Tatsuya Suzuki (for Ishikawa)
80' 24 Shingo Akamine (for Cabore)
Substitutes 45' 17 Yuki Maki (for Yoshimura)
63' 27 Sho Hanai (for Yamaguchi) 
69' 19 Keita Sugimoto (for Davi
 3' Ishikawa
34' Cabore
89' Suzuki
Goals
  Cautions  
13' Davi  Ejections  

Report

Last night's match at Ajinomoto Stadium was in many aspects a homecoming.  First in the most obvious sense of the word; the match was the first in nearly two months played at Ajinomoto  Stadium following a complete re-sodding of the pitch and repairs to the sprinkler system.  Second in the sense that the team playing in front of just under 25,000 fans last night has finally returned to where they were in 2008: playing nearly flawless soccer and ascending once again to dark horse status.  Though the sidelines were full of cameramen and video crews angling to get a once-in-a-lifetime shot of Naohiro Ishikawa delivering another goal, few in the media have highlighted the fact that Tokyo has now won 4 league matches in a row and has recovered from a dismal first third of the season to once again contend for an ACL bid.

The press didn't have to wait long; in the 3rd minute of play Nao recieved a header from Hirayama and proceeded to shred the Nagoya defensive line like a packet of pachinko hall tissues, stopping just inside the box for long enough to send a sharp grounder into the left side of the net.

With the supporters in a frenzy and Tokyo showing all the poise and confidence of a champion, Nagoya resorted to pettiness of the sort that we tend to expect from Urawa players.  Davi risked an ejection by arguing with the official after recieving a yellow for roughing Gonda in the box, and expressed his displeasure minutes later when FCT kicked the ball out of bounds following an injury.  Rather than kick the ball towards the opposing goalkeeper as is considered proper sportsmanship, Davi tapped the ball to the sideline, forcing an FC Tokyo throw-in.  This was about as civilized as Nagoya would play for the rest of the night, but Tokyo wouldn't rise to the bait and ended the match with a clean sheet.  As for Davi, he was neutralized by Bruno and Yonemoto to the point where he was substituted out midway through the second half.  His yellow card was the 4th of the season, ensuring that he will recieve a one-game suspension and will thus be absent for Wednesday's Nabisco Cup draw.

Tokyo put an exclamation point on the first half with a beautiful display of teamwork; Nao crossed the ball over to Hirayama, who laid in a solid shot that the goalkeeper stopped but could not get a hold of.  Cabore was waiting nearby for an all-too-easy kick-in.

Special notice should be given to Hirayama; although he's still not quite able to find the net his work ethic since he shaved his head has been stunning.  He may not get the headlines but Sota is helping to carry this team as much as any other player and even a bit more.

Nagoya attempted to fight back in the second half but shot its load too quickly by bringing in three substitutes in quick succession.  Shortly after Davi was substituted a collision happened in front of the Nagoya goal that soiled many pairs of underear in the stadium; mainly because  Ishikawa had attempted to drill the ball into the net with his leg fully extended.  Though he got up and walked away seemingly unharmed, Jofuku decided that the team's leading scorer had had enough adventure and danger for the night and Suzuki went in for Nao instead of for Cabore as had been planned. 

Nagoya player Sho Hanai did not get up, however, and was taken off the field due to injury leaving Nagoya shorthanded.  Unfortunately Tokyo tried to get too cutesy with its passing and without firestarters Nao or Cabore on the field the team seemed hesitant to attack at times.  Nagoya made its most threatening attacks of the night when they were shorthanded, but Gonda seemed to catch every ball that came his way.

Finally, Tatsuya Suzuki capped off the night in injury time with a goal similar to Ishikawa's at the start.

By The Numbers

5th place – Tokyo's standing after 17 games this season

10th place – Tokyo's standing after 17 games last season

+2 – Tokyo's goal difference after tonight's game, the first time it has been in positive territory all season

10 – Goals scored by Naohiro Ishikawa so far this season
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5 – Ishikawa's previous season high

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