It’s been two months since FC Tokyo won a game against a J.League opponent. Two long months in which fans began to question how well their team, which had performed far above anyone’s expectations during the first half of the season, would turn out to do in the end.
Following the break for the National Team qualifiers, FC Tokyo drew vs Chiba, lost against Oita in a Nabisco Cup match, lost away at Urawa, lost away at Kashima, drew at home against Osaka, drew away at Kyoto, drew at home against Yokohama, then tied away at Oita (in the second Nabisco Cup match, eliminating themselves after the quarterfinals for a second year in a row). 8 matches total, 6 of them league fixtures, with a grand total of 7 goals scored (one in each except for a 2-0 shutout against Urawa). 4 points gained in 6 league matches. Things were not looking pretty.
Fortunately, in a Division 1 where the top 10 teams in the league are separated by 6 points, anything can and will happen. Today, problem child Hirayama proved to be decisive for Tokyo, scoring the lone goal of the match as they held on to beat Nagoya Grampus 1-0. The top three teams in the league failed to get one win between them, resulting in an ever-tightening J1 ladder, in stark contrast to J2 where Sanfrecce Hiroshima is running away with the championship leaving everyone else to fight for the second automatic promotion spot followed by a place in the Promotion/Relegation Cup.
Unfortunately for FC Tokyo, its abundance of young talent is proving costly in August. The 2008 Beijing Olympiad began yesterday, and two FC Tokyo players are on Japan’s U-23 squad: DF Nagatomo and MF Kajiama. The two, known as pivotal parts of FC Tokyo’s offense, will be sorely missed, particularly against Urawa this coming weekend. Tickets in both the home and away supporter’s sections have been sold out and odds are (as is usual with Urawa matches) that the stadium will be at capacity (50-something thousand give or take) with security likely prepared to deal with altercations between the passionate supporters of both clubs.
I, for what it’s worth, will be coming to the stadium straight from Comiket 74 where I’ll be doing my yearly coverage for PTD Magazine, and going straight from the stadium to a friend’s rock DJ event, which means I pretty much won’t sleep (unless it’s on the train) for about 24 hours. Should be a blast either way.