Tag Archives: shingo akamine

[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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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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Jubilo Iwata pursuing Akamine

Several newspapers are reporting that Jubilo Iwata has made an offer to FC Tokyo forward Shingo Akamine.

Jubilo recently lost its star forward, South Korean national Lee Keun-Ho, when he was acquired by French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.  While Akamine scored a team-leading 18 goals for FC Tokyo last season, he has played a reduced role so far this year as Hirayama's form has improved.

In an earlier game this season, Akamine scored the lone goal of a rain-soaked match to lead Tokyo to a 1-0 victory against Iwata.

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Tokyo Gas is coming to town!

On a cold day in Sendai (wait, that’s every day in Sendai, isn’t it), FC Tokyo met one of their most frequent opponents this season, Shimizu S-Pulse, for a record 5th time.

Like many of their other matches this season, the Gasmen fell behind in the first half, this time on a set play.  But as the second half began, the team was resolute; they’d come this far, and they would keep going all the way to New Year’s Day.

And opportunity came 5 minutes into the second half, when midseason aquisition Katsuya Suzuki was fould in the penalty area and FCT was awarded a kick.  Suzuki deferred to Shingo Akamine, who sent a low shot to the left just past the outstretched hands of Shimizu’s goalkeeper to tie the game at 1.

A minute later, Shimizu’s defense collapsed again as a series of brilliant passes between Cabore and Nagatomo on the left side split the Shimizu defense.  Nagatomo lobbed the ball to Suzuki, who again set up Akamine for a cross and the winning goal.

Though Shimizu did challenge for the rest of the half, FCT held strong and secured a berth in its first semifinal since 1997, when as Tokyo Gas FC beat Kansai University, Ehime FC Youth, Nagoya Grampus, Yokohama FM, and Belmare Hiratsuka before losing to eventual champions Kashima Antlers.

After the game, the fans passed out Santa hats in celebration of the holidays and pulled out what I can only imagine is a classic chant from the old days:

Tokyo’s next opponent will be the ever-tenacious Kashiwa Reysol, who beat out Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a thriller of a match that went into overtime.  The game will take place at Shizuoka “Ecopa” Stadium, out in the ass-end of nowhere, on December 29th.

On the other side of the bracket, tournament surprise Sagan Tosu pulled ahead early but eventually fell 3-1 to Yokohama F. Marinos, who will play the winner of Gamba Osaka vs. Nagoya Grampus.  The remaining quarterfinal match will be played on Christmas Day due to Gamba’s Club World Cup commitments.

It will certainly be an interesting set of matches – Brazillian Alex is playing his last matches for Kashiwa, as is their manager Nobuhiro Ishizaki.  The team finished in the middle of the table in a season that included a stunning upset against Urawa.  They beat FC Tokyo on a rain-soaked field at Ajinomoto during the Golden Week Sprint, but lost to the Gasmen at home, both by 1-0 scores.

Nagoya is arguably the strongest team of the five remaining, having finished third in J1 and secured a spot in the 2009 ACL.  FC Tokyo split their series this year, losing 1-0 at home on a game marred by questionable officiating and won 1-0 at Nagoya.  Several Nagoya players, including Norweigan striker Johnsen, are playing their last matches for the team as their releases or transfers have already been announced.  Because of their already-secured ACL slot, should Nagoya win the cup Japan’s fourth and final ACL slot would go to Oita Trinita, who finished fourth in J1.

Gamba Osaka is a bit of a paradox; they won the ACL this year as their odds of winning J.League shrank and they finished .  Because the ACL champion no longer has a guaranteed invitation to the tournament, Gamba needs to win the Emperor’s Cup in order to return to the competition in 2009.  They’ve just played two matches in two days – against Manchester United and Mexican club team Pachuka in the FIFA Club World Cup, which is why their match against Nagoya is to be played on Christmas.

Yokohama F. Marinos, disappointing underachievers in this year’s J.League, have ascended the tournament ladder with a combination of luck and skill.  They beat J1 basement-dwellers Consadole Sapporo to reach the 5th round, where they dispatched Urawa 6-5 on penalty kicks.  This week they Sagan Tosu on Tosu’s home turf, eventually pulling away with a 3-1 win that was nothing if not contested thoroughly by the home team.  Continuing in the luck vein, Yokohama will have twice the rest of either of its possible opponents.  This is Yokohama’s first semifinal appearance since the 1993 Emperor’s Cup; they were champions the year before.

Though the final two teams are far from decided, some fans across the country are already tempting fate and snatching up tickets for the last match at Kokuritsu.  The front stands are for all intents and purposes sold out, while there are still plenty of tickets remaining in the back stand, where the majority of supporters will likely make a beeline for.  Will Tokyo and Osaka battle for national supremacy once again?  Could Kashiwa and Yokohama slug it out in the Battle of Kantou?  Will Nagoya win it all and give Oita a late Christmas gift?  We’ll all know in a little over a week.

The Beatdown Rolls On

The wind is blowing a bit colder, daylight is getting shorter, and I’ve abandoned my previous strict naming conventions for these posts.  Must be fall again!

It was a good September for the boys, as they went undefeated in games against Omiya Ardija, Kawasaki Frontale, Jubilo Iwata, and Consadole Sapporo.  They have now won five in a row (stretching back to August’s match against Kashiwa), and Shingo Akamine has scored in each match.  Akamine now leads all Japanese players with 11 goals so far this season.

While the Kawasaki match was a 1-0 slugout played in the rain, the Jubilo affair gave the fans a reason to cheer – a 5-1 drubbing that not only helped FC Tokyo’s aggregate but seemed to give players confidence that they could, indeed, put the ball in the net.  Goals by Cabore, Akamine, Ishikawa (some argued he should be credited with two goals, but the first was credited as an own-goal), and new striker Suzuki made it a match to remember.

The next match, at lowly Sapporo, was slightly more challenging – though FCT fell behind early in the second half, Akamine would equalize on a fantastic header and Otake would score the winner a minute after coming onto the field – strangely reminiscent of his first score against Kawasaki Frontale back in April.  The match was marked by a note of concern when in his first appearance in a long time following injury, Hanyu sustained another injury 8 minutes after coming onto the field and was replaced by Bruno Quadros.

Tokyo has held steady at 6th place in the standings for all of September, but now that the makeup games from last week have been played FCT is tantalizingly close to first place – 4 points behind Kashima (ahead on aggregate) and Nagoya, 3 points behind Oita, 2 points behind Urawa, and tied with Kawasaki but behind on aggregate.  There are seven rounds left in the season, and whether FCT can make up the ground is yet to be seen, but a top-5 finish is almost certainly in the cards.

Our remaining matches are home against Shimizu, away at Oita, home against Kashima, away at Osaka, away at Kobe, home against Niigata, and away at Chiba, ensuring that a decently-sized contingent of supporters will be there at the end.

While Shimizu is a respectable mid-table opponent that will provide a good match one way or the other, the next two triplets are where the big story is – FCT cannot hope to take the title without winning or drawing against Trinita/Antlers/Gamba – the first two are obviously at the top of the ladder and must be pulled down, and Gamba has regained its form and is making a late advantage, though the team will certainly have more pressure on it when one considers their ACL tie against Urawa.

The latter set of three matches – Vissel, Albirex, and JEF – provide a different sort of drama.  All three teams are in danger of relegation, with JEF Chiba in the “oh shit not two more games” slot and Vissel and Albirex joining a half dozen other teams in the “no, we’re not sure we want to be in J1 either” sweepstakes, albiet from positions of relative safety.  Any of these teams might still be fighting for their spot in J1’s 2009 season by the time the boys take the field and will likely make the games must-watches.

Fun times ahead, my friends.  Fun times.  This weekend’s match at Shimizu will likely herald the return of Konno from his red card suspension, which will undoubtedly provide further support to a Tokyo squad that… well, has done pretty fine without him.  Not that we didn’t miss him, of course.

In J2 news, Sanfrecce Hiroshima has secured promotion to J1 (and will likely secure the J2 crown if it hasn’t already) a scant 9 months after losing a tough relegation series to Kyoto.  One can imagine that the Hiroshima/Kyoto matches will be entertaining as all hell to watch next year.  Fighting for the second and third spots are Shonan Belmare, Montideo Yamagata, Vegalta Sendai, and Sagan Tosu.

[MatchRecap] 05.17 Jubilo Iwata 1:2 (1:0) FC Tokyo (J1 W13)

So, um, been a while.  Sorry about that.  School got hectic as well as some personal matters and I still have a metric ton of game photos to go through in addition to everything else.  Apologies for no Kashiwa report (I assure you that with a disappointing 1:0 loss in the rain, you didn’t miss much) and no preview for the Jubilo match.

Fortunately, after dropping two consecutive 1-0 games at home, FC Tokyo went on the road and pulled off a much-needed win against Jubilo Iwata this afternoon.  Trailing 1-0 after the first half, Shingo Akamine came back strong in the second half, scoring a brace (that’s apparently two for any Americans who are reading this) and pulling the Gasmen to victory.  Notable in the lineup was the return of midfielder Emerson to the squad as a substitute in his first match since his injury sustained during the team’s away campaign in Niigata.  Emerson came on for Hanyu in the second half, proving in his fitness that manager Jofuku has one more weapon in a Tokyo offence that lately has struggled to get the job done.

More importantly, around the league a miraculous series of results has brought FC Tokyo to within reach of the top spot in the league yet again.  Urawa fell to Gamba Osaka at home in a match that included altercations among the fans, apparently.  Kawasaki dropped a 2-0 lead to fall to Omiya Ardija 3-2.  Kashima extended its winless streak to 7 games with a 1-1 draw against Kashiwa, and Nagoya beat up on the helpless Consadole Sapporo.  Even JEF Chiba has won two games in a row since sacking its manager.

So, what’s all that mean?  Urawa and Nagoya are at the top of the ladder with 26 points (with Urawa leading in goal differential).  FC Tokyo is alone in 3rd place with 23 points.  Kashiwa Reysol has surged to the top of the ladder with 20 points along with Kawasaki Frontale.  Kashima continues to struggle, now tied with fellow ACL contenders Gamba Osaka as well as Omiya Ardija at 19 points apiece.  Yokohama F. Marinos sit alone in 9th place with 18 points.  With a mere 8 points separating the top half of the ladder, it is quite clearly anyone’s season.  Well, except for Consadole and JEF Chiba, but there’s always gotta be a whipping boy.

Last season at this point, FC Tokyo was in 13th place and pretty much had no hope of rising any further (indeed, they would finish 12th in the standings).  This year, although there have certainly been some bumps in the road, FC Tokyo goes into the 1/3rd-season-break with a strong squad that can easily stay a contender for the remainder of the season and perhaps even vie for the title.  Good times ahead for the gasmen!

The next month brings good times as well – this coming Sunday is the Tokyo Derby against the ever-hated Kawasaki Verdy, followed by a “home” match on the 31st against Shimizu at Alwin Stadium in Nagano (hell knows why we’re playing a home game in Nagano, but hey).  On June 8th is another Tokyo Derby match (this time as the “away” team) at National Stadium, followed by a friendly versus FC Seoul in Korea on the 15th.
All matches (with the obvious exception of the FC Seoul campaign) are for the Nabisco Cup and won’t count in the standings, but naturally wins against Verdy will do much to rebuild the fan’s morale following the recent spate of home losses.  If Tokyo wants to go on to the next round of the Nabisco Cup, the game against Shimizu will be a must-win given the current standings.

In anticipation of the next Tokyo Derby match I’ll try to do a post regarding supporter chants later in the week.  Stay tuned!

[Match Report] 04.29 FC Tokyo 1:0 (1:0) Oita Trinita (J1 R9)

The boys in red and blue quickly rebounded from their loss against Shimizu on Saturday with a dominating performance against Oita Trinita to remain undefeated at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Today was the first official Golden Week holiday, and as a result there were plenty of promotions to get families to bring their kids to the stadium.  Nets for shooting games were set up around the pitch, and it was officially Gegege no Kitaro Day, which meant that characters from the show were out and about.

In the stands, the FC Tokyo supporters are definitely in a transitional period – when everyone started to stand on their chairs after the player introductions but before You’ll Never Walk alone, there was a weird silence in the air, and someone commented on how it felt like it was the Verdy match.  Instead of the usual third chorus of YNWA the supporters jumped into one of the main anthems, which surprised me slightly.

On the pitch, while Oita started the game with a moderate attack, FC Tokyo struck the first and only blood of the match when roughly 15 minutes in Shingo Akamine converted a corner kick into a well-placed shot into the upper left corner of the goal.  The defenders did what they had to do and although Oita made several transgressions into Tokyo territory, all of their shots either went far wide or were a simple task for Shiota to recover.

While FCT found itself on the defensive occasionally during the match, the turning point seemed to be when they decided to break down Oita by grinding off 2-3 minutes of the clock with long passes back and forth near the end of the first half, slowing donw the pace of the game and disruting Oita’s offensive flow.

The second half was one of steady domination by Tokyo including several shots that found posts or crossbars but unfortunately didn’t make it into the net.  Cabore smashed through the Trinita defense on several occasions and DF Nagatomo appeared to be everywhere – making passes, drawing penalties, and swarming Oita attackers by himself.  Otake brought his youthful enthusiasm and deadly corners to the match but has yet to find his second goal.

As the seconds ticked down, Trinita appeared to become more and more desperate to stop the Tokyo attack, making risky tackles that almost every time resulted in fouls or yellows.  Near the end of the match, Oita sealed its fate when two of its players were handed red cards in the span of about five minutes – both for heinous tackles that while fortunately didn’t result in injury, were worthy of ejection (both players had already been shown yellow cards).  Oddly enough, over the course of the match the referees sided with FC Tokyo more often than not.  Players on the home team were shown no yellow cards through the entire match, a stunning first for the season if I recall correctly.

Overall, this was a match that Tokyo had to win (especially after the Shimizu campaign) and they performed well (though, naturally, another goal or two on the scoreboard wouldn’t have hurt).  Players are starting to become more daring on offense, particularly Cabore and Akamine; rather than going around the defenders they are attempting time and time again to go through them, more often than not creating scoring opportunities.  The defense, particularly Moniwa in strong form, managed to keep Shiota with little to do throughout the match except for the occasional goal kick, but as we all know a bored goalkeeper is a happy goalkeeper.

Nagatomo got the Hero Interview and actually momentary lost his composure when he was asked about his recent call-up to the National Team, recovering after a few seconds and repeatedly thanking the fans for their support.  He then gave the obligatory sha-sha-sha cheer to the supporters and was showered with “Nagatomo Tokyo!” and “Nagatomo Nihon!” cheers as he left for the locker room.

Overheard on the way to the station after the game: Yeah, the official attendance was 20,283… 20,000 of that was FC Tokyo fans, the rest was Oita. I do not believe that’s very far off from reality, quite frankly.

Match notes:

Starting Lineups

FC Tokyo – (GK) Shiota, (DF) Tokunaga, Moniwa, Sahara, Nagatomo, (MF) Kajiyama, Konno, Kanezawa, Kurisawa, (FW) Akamine, Cabore

Oita Trinita – (GW) Nishikawa, (DF) Fukaya, Morishige, Uemoto, (MF) Roberto, Edmilson, Suzuki, Nemoto, Fujita, (FW) Kanazaki, Matsuhashi

Substitutions

FC Tokyo – Otake (Kurisawa, 59′), Asari (Kanezawa, 72′), Kawaguchi (Cabore, ’89)

Oita Trinita – Maeda (Nemoto, 57′), Kobayashi (Edmilson, 70′), Ichihara (Uemoto, 83′)

Goals

FC Tokyo – Akamine (14′)

Yellow Cards

Oita Trinita – Morishige (31′), Uemoto (56′), Roberto (70′), Maeda (77′)

Red Cards

Oita Trinita – Morishige (86′), Maeda (89′)

I’ve got a big exam on Friday but if I have time before then I’ll try to get the pictures up, otherwise I might just do an epic photo post after the away match at Omiya.  Stay tuned!

REPORT: 04.19 FC Tokyo 4:2 (2:2) Kawasaki Frontale (J1 Week 7)

Let’s get the TL;DR version out of the way…

FC Tokyo, if by some microscopic chance you’re paying attention to this little blog? that is how you win matches, and how you will continue to win matches.

On a day that started sunny, clouds threatened throughout the match but it didn’t start to rain until most of us began to leave the stadium. But a storm was brewing on the field as the 13th round of the Tamagawa Clasico was one to remember.

The boys in blue and red dominated the pitch almost from start – none of the mistakes we’ve seen in the past, or at least if they were made they were all done in the last few minutes when the match was all but decided. Tokyo dominated the midfield and kept constant pressure on Kawasaki to the point where it was only a matter of time before they would score – the question was when.

Kawasaki drew first blood with a set piece – these seem to be Tokyo’s weak point as of late (recall that Verdy’s one goal against Tokyo was from a free kick). Tokyo was unable to clear and Kashima foward Chong Tese kicked to the lower right post past Shiota. However, FCT quickly countered, and 6 minutes later Cabore slammed in the equalizer. Just a minute later, Frontale capitalized on a miscue near the Tokyo goal – an FC Tokyo player fell over Shiota as he was diving to make the save and as a result Shiota got caught outside of the box, leaving midfielder Taniguchi a practical open net. This would end up being the last major defensive mistake Tokyo would make for the rest of the game.

Right before halftime, Akamine came through with a fantastic goal to tie things up at 2 apiece, and the supporters behind the goal were rabid.

After halftime, Tokyo continued to pressure, but was unable to get a score. Then, in the 63rd minute, Otake came in for Tokunaga and in the same minute sliced through the Kawasaki defense and slammed in what would turn out to be the game winner. As you watched Otake slip past one defender after another, you knew 10 seconds before it happened it was going to be a goal, and what a glorious way to pop his cherry. 7 minutes later Konno pushed a fourth goal in with what appeared to be his knee and was almost an own-goal, essentially sealing Kawasaki’s fate with 20 minutes left in the match. Even the Kawasaki players seemed resigned to going back across the Tamagawa with no points by the 80th or so minutes, despite a few strong offensive pushes that tested Tokyo’s defense and kept Shiota busy. But, in the end, the melody of nemuranai machi rose into the night as FC Tokyo took home the win.

Game notes:

-This match was pretty rough – four yellow cards were given, and a couple were omitted, including a rough collision by Kawasaki GK Kawashima on defender Nagatomo in the second half. Much like in last year’s match, Kawasaki essentially attempted to bully FC Tokyo – except this time, FCT fought back and did so convincingly

-Juninho had a couple breakout moments where he wove past the first line of defense, but in the end he was contained in the same way Hulk was contained.

-Stupid mistakes were way down – like, insignificant compared to the B-Team effort that they put up against Jubilo and even smaller compared to Verdy. Better passing in coverage, fewer turnovers. A few give-and-go plays didn’t go as planned, but more did than didn’t. Additionally, according to the official website FC Tokyo took 8 shots and made 4 of them. I’m not sure whether I should be happy that they’re picking their opportunities or upset that they’re not taking more shots, but 4 is the most they’ve scored since last August against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

-Attendance was 22,283 – roughly the same as for the Verdy match, which surprised me. I’m inclined to think that a number of Tokyo fans feared the rain and stayed home, and they missed out. Kawasaki’s supporters were loud and impressive – fat lot of good it did them in the end, but they’re probably the largest supporter group we’ve opposed so far this year, including Verdy.

-Defender Hideki Sahara faced his former squadmates on Kawasaki for the first time since joining FC Tokyo. He received a yellow card and plenty of cheers from the home crowd as well as a couple gate flags making note of his change of residence: Photo 1 Photo 2

-Akamine got the hero interview but Otake got summoned for the sha-sha-sha chant. He went right up to the front of the supporter’s section so I didn’t see anything but I expect it’ll show up on YouTube soon enough.

-Speaking of photos I did appear in the Match Day Program – they did not include my plug for the blog but they did fix my bungled Japanese, so one for two. I’ll scan it tonight or tomorrow when I upload my photos from the game.

Finally the match notes:

STARTING LINEUPS

FC Tokyo – (GK) Shiota, (DF) Tokunaga, Sahara, Fujiyama, Nagatomo, (MF) Asari, Kajiyama, Konno, Kurisawa, Akamine, (FW) Cabore

Kawasaki Frontale – (GK) Kawajima, (DF) Igawa, Terada, Ito, (MF) Mori, Nakamura, Taniguchi, Yamagishi, Ohashi, (FW) Chong, Juninho

SUBSTITUTIONS

FC Tokyo – Otake (Kurisawa 63′), Kawaguchi (Cabore 84′)

Kawasaki Frontale – Yabu (Ohashi, 63′), Kurotsu (Yamagishi, 74′), Kukino (Mori, 84′)

GOALS

FC Tokyo – Cabore (25′), Akamine (43′), Otake (63′), Konno (70′)

Kawasaki Frontale – Chong (19′), Taniguchi (26′)

YELLOW CARDS

FC Tokyo – Sahara (’19)

Kawasaki Frontale – Taniguchi (’31), Terada (’46), Mori (’48)

With today’s matches over, FC Tokyo finds itself in 3rd place in the standings – naturally this may (and likely will) change after tomorrow’s games, but things are looking up.  The next match is an away game against Jubilo – I won’t be there but I’m sure I’ll figure out some way to watch the game and get some sort of report up.