Tag Archives: sota hirayama

[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 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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Official Schedule! Plus, FCT NT news

The official schedule has been released… and the 2chantards got it right, as far as I can tell.

Bolded games are home, italicized games are Nabisco Cup fixtures.

Date Day Opponent Location Time
3/6 Saturday Yokohama F. Marinos Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
3/14 Sunday Urawa Reds Saitama Stadium 2002 2PM
3/20 Saturday Cerezo Osaka Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
3/28 Sunday Omiya Ardija NACK5 2PM
3/31 Wednesday Nagoya Grampus Kokuritsu 7PM
4/4 Sunday Kawasaki Frontale Todoroki 4PM
4/10 Saturday Kashima Antlers Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
4/14 Wednesday Omiya Ardija NACK5 7PM
4/17 Saturday Kyoto Sanga Ajinomoto Stadium 5PM
4/24 Saturday Gamba Osaka Banpaku 5PM
5/1 Saturday Sanfrecce Hiroshima Big Arch 7PM
5/5 Wednesday Vegalta Sendai Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
5/9 Sunday Montedio Yamagata 4PM
5/15 Saturday Shimizu S-Pulse Ajinomoto Stadium 2PM
5/22 Saturday Albirex Niigata Komazawa Stadium 2PM
5/26 Wednesday Vegalta Sendai 7PM
6/6 Sunday Kyoto Sanga Ajinomoto Stadium 3PM
6/9 Wednesday Cerezo Osaka 7PM
7/17 Saturday Vissel Kobe Ajinomoto Stadium 6:30PM
7/25 Sunday Shonan Bellmare Hiratsuka Field 6PM
7/28 Wednesday Jubilo Iwata Kokuritsu 7PM
7/31 Saturday Albirex Niigata Big Swan 7PM
8/8 Sunday Nagoya Grampus Ajinomoto Stadium 7PM
8/14 Saturday Kashima Antlers Kashima Stadium 7PM
8/18 Wednesday Cerezo Osaka 7PM
8/21 Saturday Sanfrecce Hiroshima Ajinomoto Stadium 6:30PM
8/28 Saturday Vissel Kobe 7PM
9/12 Sunday Urawa Reds Ajinomoto Stadium
9/18 Saturday Jubilo Iwata Yamaha Stadium
9/25 Saturday Omiya Ardija Ajinomoto Stadium
10/3 Sunday Shonan Bellmare Kokuritsu
10/16 Saturday Vegalta Sendai
10/23 Saturday Albirex Niigata Ajinomoto Stadium
10/30 Saturday Shimizu S-Pulse Nihondaira
11/6 Saturday Gamba Osaka Ajinomoto Stadium
11/14 Sunday Yokohama F. Marinos Nissan Stadium
11/20 Saturday Kawasaki Frontale Ajinomoto Stadium
11/23 Tuesday Nagoya Grampus
11/27 Saturday Montedio Yamagata Ajinomoto Stadium
12/4 Saturday Kyoto Sanga

In NT news, Nagatomo and Tokunaga were in the starting lineup against Venezuela last night.  While the match was a somewhat boring and disappointing 0-0 draw, Hirayama did come on as a substitute and showed enough kiai to, in my opinion, earn a spot in the starting lineup during the East Asian Cup, which starts this coming weekend.

Speaking of the East Asian Cup, Ishikawa’s apparently done something to his calf and has been left off the starting roster.  Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious!

[Match Report] Nabisco Cup Final FC Tokyo 2:0 (1:0) Kawasaki Frontale

2009 J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Final
First Half
1- 0
Second Half

1- 0

Final
2 – 0

August 1st 2009, 2:09PM kickoff at “Kokuritsu” National Stadium (attendance 44,308)
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 6 Yasuyuki Konno
DF 33 Kenta Mukuhara
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 40 Tatsuya Suzuki
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 24 Shingo Akamine
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
GK 1 Eiji Kawashima
DF 19 Yusuke Mori
DF 17 Kosuke Kikuchi
DF 2 Hiroki Ito
DF 26 Kazuhiro Murakami
MF 29 Hiroyuki Taniguchi
MF 18 Tomonobu Yokoyama
MF 14 Kengo Nakamura
FW 9  Chong Tese
FW 10 Juninho
FW 34 Renatinho
60′ 5 Yuto Nagatomo (for Akamine)
74′ 15 Daishi Hiramatsu (for Hanyu)
86′ Hideki Sahara (for Suzuki)
Substitutes 70′ 6 Yusuke Tasaka (for Murakami)
79′ 7 Masano Kurotsu (for Renatinho)
84′ 23 Kyohei Noborizato (for Yokoyama)
22′ Yonemoto
59′ Hirayama
Goals
58′ Yonemoto
62′ Hanyu
Cautions 24′ Yokoyama
Ejections

Report

In a season where fans have begun to express concern at the nearly regular showings of diving, complaining, and otherwise poor sportsmanship in the Japanese game, the soccer-kami sat up on their mountain, cracked open a tall can of Sapporo, and declared with a booming voice “on this day, at Kokuritsu, there shall be a good clean 90 minutes of championship-caliber soccer.”

And by Gods, they got it.

This year’s 3rd edition of the Tamagawa Classico played out on the national stage, in front of a sold-out crowd of over 44,000 at Tokyo’s National Stadium with many more watching nationwide on TV.  Supporters for both teams were as ready for combat as the players, with fans lining up throughout the frigid and sometimes rainy night.  We got to the campout at 5am and enjoyed some chatting with fellow supporters as well as delicious dolphin stew.  When the gates finally opened, Tokyo supporters streamed through the turnstiles to hunt for seats, quickly filling the home end of the stadium.  Kawasaki fans soon joined them, and both team’s supporters would complete gorgeous choreography displays suitable for such a grand arena.  But after all of the flag-waving, balloon blowing, and toilet paper throwing, the match finally began, and of course that’s what you’re here to read about, right?

Well, fuck that, let’s watch those tifos:

The game started with both teams attempting to gain control, and was pretty even in the first 15 minutes.  Kawasaki pressed with a couple close shots (including a close-range bullet from Juninho that flew over the crossbar for reasons that defied us at the time), but Tokyo despite their sloppy defensive play somehow fought back and showed that they would not be pushed around.  Then, 22 minutes in, Tokyo pressed with a counterattack that saw the ball fall in front of 18-year old Takuji Yonemoto, who had been awarded the J.League New Hero Award (given to an under-23 player for outstanding contribution to his team in the Nabisco Cup) the night before.  30 yards out and with players swarming around him, Yone did what comes natural to a young player with more balls than brains and shot a curving bullet that everyone expected to fly safely into the hands of Kawasaki’s keeper.

Until it went in and the home end erupted in cheers.

Yonemoto’s goal was a fitting sequel to that daisy cutter against Shimizu in the semi-finals, and it threw Kawasaki back on their heels while giving Tokyo the confidence needed to solidify its defense and push on offense.  This continued till the whistle to end the first half, which passed by in what seemed like a moment.

15 minutes later, both teams came out for the second half seemingly ready to outdo their first-half performance.  Kawasaki pushed hard, committing more men to the attack only to be denied each time as either Gonda or a swarm of Tokyo players practically threw themselves on top of the ball in an attempt to stop the Frontale attack.  The fans in the away end, sensing an opportunity to get back into the game, sang at an even greater volume than before.

Suddenly, a Kengo Nagamura free kick lead to a Tokyo counter with Suzuki and Hirayama screaming down the pitch.  As Kawasaki’s defenders caught up with them, Suzuki flipped the ball that Sota, whose last appearance on the national stage at Kokuritsu was as a high schooler, was waiting for.

The only thought that came to mind was “finally.”  Anyone who’s watched Hirayama play this season knows that he’s had a desire verging on obsessive to score on a header (going so far as to shave his head for aerodynamic purposes), and yet in each game and in each practice shot it appears that once the ball comes into contact with his glittering dome the rebound is almost magnetically attracted to the “anywhere but the goal” area.  Well, this day was different and Tokyo took a commanding 2-0 lead with but half an hour left in the match.

With a 2-goal cushion, Jofuku opted to reinforce defensively by bringing in Nagatomo (who started on the bench b/c of his shoulder) and Dashi Hiramatsu.  This defensive posturing allowed Kawasaki to press the attack in a series of crosses, volleys, and corner kicks, each of which ended in a spectacularly heart-stopping moment as Tokyo’s supporters struggled to see where the ball was.  According to the official statistics Kawasaki took 17 shots in the game, but from where we were standing it seemed like they took 20 in the second half alone.  Crossbars were hit, Gonda was flying everywhere, and I recalled the highlights I’ve seen of Tokyo’s stunning effort against Urawa 5 years ago with each player exerting everything they had to stop the ball.  Yonemoto was everywhere at once, stealing balls from Juninho and Tese and showing why he was the New Hero.  Hiramatsu gave Frontale a free kick minutes after coming on after a hard tackle to stop a Kawasaki drive.  And so it continued, punctuated only by a swift counterattack that should have been a 3rd goal as both Nagatomo and Suzuki failed to find an open net.  Jofuku completed the defensive alignment by subbing out Suzuki for Hideki Sahara, but by then the wind had left the Frontale sails.  Kawasaki pushed, Tokyo didn’t break, and after a surprising 4 minutes of extra time the referee sounded the final whistle, bringing an end to 90 minutes of dive-free, hard-fought soccer and giving Tokyo its first championship in 5 years.  And the soccer-kami smiled.

The MVP award was, unsurprisingly, awarded to Takuji Yonemoto, making him the youngest player to win the Cup MVP; he gets one million yen (US$11,000) and bragging rights for the rest of his life.

Many more photos and video to come in a separate post, including the post-game victory rally at Ajinomoto Stadium.  For now a hearty congratulations to my fellow supporters and a tip of the hat to Kawasaki’s supporters and players.  It seems that the post-game conduct of Frontale’s players has sparked a bit of controversy, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that they played a fantastic match.  Tokyo just played more fantastically, and are deservedly your 2009 J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Champions.

News Roundup: Cabore's Departure, Nabisco Tickets, Kyot

I'm a little busy so I've fallen behind on postings, here's the latest from Tokyo:
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-Cabore has officially signed with Qatar club Al Arabi, with a reported transfer fee of 500 million yen (roughly $5.5 million at the current exchange rate).  The club has offered a formal apology to fans for not being able to set up a proper farewell from the star forward, and he expressed his heartfelt thanks to the fans and support for the club in a message published on the team website.

-Nabisco Cup tickets went on sale on Saturday morning at 10AM and were completely sold out less than an hour later.  The stage is set for a packed house at Kokuritsu on November 3rd

-Tokyo lost 1-2 to Kyoto.  In addition Hirayama recieved his 4th yellow, meaning he will be out for the Gamba match.  Let's move on until I have time to compose all of my thoughts.

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[Match Report] Nabisco Cup Semifinal Part 2 – FC Tokyo 1:0 Shimizu S-Pulse

J.League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup Semifinal Part 2
First Half
1- 0
Second Half
0 – 0

Final
1 – 0

September 6th 2009, 6PM Kickoff at Ajinomoto Stadium (Chofu, Tokyo) Attendance 22,181
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda
DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga
DF 4 Bruno Quadros
DF 2 Teriyuki Moniwa
DF 33 Kenta Mukuhara
MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama
MF 28 Takuji Yonemoto
MF 18 Naohiro Ishikawa
MF 22 Naotake Hanyu
FW 9 Cabore
FW 13 Sota Hirayama
Starting Members
to be added
72' 40 Tatsuya Suzuki (for Hanyu)
80' 3 Hideki Sahara (for Hirayama)
82' 15 Daishi Hiramatsu (for Ishikawa)
Substitutes
17' Sota Hirayama Goals
Cautions
Ejections

Report

On a triumphant night at Ajinomoto Stadium, I… was in Shibuya, shooting PUNKAFOOLIC SHIBUYA CRASH.  I was fortunate enough, however, to catch the result right before I went to shoot dustbox, and as they say in the local parlance テンション上がった!  While being a Tokyo supporter comes with its ups and downs, such is the life of all soccer supporters, as similarly expressed by the chorus of dustbox's Hurdle Race:

Just like a hurdle race!
Gotta get over again and again.
Just like a hurdle race!
What's waiting for me!?

…okay, yeah, that's a bit of a stretch, but give me some credit for trying to tie it all together.

With this victory, FC Tokyo advances to its first Nabisco Cup final in 5 years, when it defeated Urawa in a much-storied penalty shootout to claim its only silverware in club history.  Tokyo's opponent will be Kawasaki Frontale, a team that has so far stymied Tokyo twice this season but faces one of the roughest schedules out of all J.League teams in the next month:
Sept. 12 — Antlers
19 — Urawa Reds
23 — Grampus (ACL)
26 — Gamba
30 — Grampus (ACL)

Yeah, wow, that's brutal.

In October, Kawasaki has to play against Yokohama FM, Omiya Ardija, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima, plus the Round 2 Emperor's Cup Match (I assume that their hypothetical Round 3 match, like Tokyo's, will be moved to November 11th due to their Cup Final appearance).  Additionally, should Kawasaki beat Nagoya in the ACL quarterfinal series, they would advance to the semifinals and play matches on the 21st and 28th of October.  While both of Kawasaki's prospective opponents are located in the Middle East, it appears that the 28th would be played at Kawasaki so there's less hope that the team will be horribly jet-lagged before the 3rd.

Anyway, while I can't personally report on the match, I've made friends this summer with Andre, a Canadian supporter of FC Tokyo who's spending nearly half a year travelling around Japan and seeing lots of FCT matches.  He was there on Sunday and so I've asked him to share his thoughts with our readership:

For those of us overseas cats who can only follow our favorite Asian squads via the internet, to actually be able to watch that favorite Asian squad reach a cup final, live, during your travels is a unique experience. I had the opportunity to sing, chant and scream as the Red and Blue won a convincing 1-0 victory over Shimizu S-Pulse last night at Ajinomoto. Having the advantage from the 2-2 draw on Wednesday night in Shimizu, Tokyo could have defended, sat back and hoped for the best. A draw, the better nil nil draw, would have seen the team back into the finals it won in 2004. And if you, like myself, watched how poorly the team played at the start of this campaign; not to mention the last several weeks before Oita, you can understand the collective sigh of relief many of us had after the final 4 minutes of stoppage time was whistled down. What needed to happen, and happen quickly was the return of Hirayama to form, as he has been having some extremely frustrating games as of late. The slump is officially over. A cross was met by Hirayama and found its way into the back of the net comfortably.  Hirayama was all smiles and cheers.  In replay it kinda looked like an S Pulse defender deflected it in the 50/50 between himself and Hirayama in the box, but who cares about such details. Tokyo was up 1-0, albeit fairly early in the game.

The rest of the match reflected how this series began at Shimizu and is ultimatly, I believe won us the the semi-final: defense. The defending was strong, more so than in last weeks' first leg. Bruno, my dear Bruno, was a menace on the back line preventing many a Shimizu attack. The most dangerous  player on Shimizu, and someone who Tokyo had a hard time dealing with on Wednesday was the big Norwegian Johnsen.  Frode was finally kept quiet by the Tokyo defenders last night. The chances went Tokyos' way for most of the match, with Cabore and Ishikawa having some difficulty in linking up, as opportunities were flying everywhere in the middle and late parts of the second half. Cabore was giving it his all and if what is rumoured turns out to be true, and this was Cabore`s final game for Tokyo, he went out flying. Ishikawa is still looking like he's trying way too hard to get back to where he left off before his injury, making silly errors, but he still looked fast and strong the only way Ishikawa can. What I liked, and it seemed that Jofoku gave the team the same advice at halftime, was to not let Shimizu dictate or pressure the game. There was a lot to lose during the match and Tokyo never allowed Shimizu to  bully or rally. Shimizu can be a difficult team to play,  playing particularly well before these semi-final legs in regular league play.

November 3rd is closer than you think, and with Kawasaki defeating Yokohama, this final is going to be something to write home about. I can hardly wait.

Andre

Thanks for the report, Andre!

If you haven't seen the sticky on the top of our website, you can go here for our special Nabisco Cup Ticket Info page.  For the next two months, look to Aishiteru Tokyo for the net's most comprehensive English coverage of FC Tokyo and their journey to Kokuritsu for the final battle against Tamagawa Clasico rivals Kawasaki Frontale.

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Halfway Home

Full report and photos from the wonderful Outsourcing Stadium are a bit delayed; I'm on my backup computer while my MacBook Pro gets some needed repairs before the 3-year warranty runs out next week and all of the photos are on my Mac-formatted RAID server
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For now what you need to know is this: Tokyo tied Shimizu 2-2 in the away leg of the semifinal on Wednesday night and is coming home to a must-win (or at least must-scoreless-draw) situation.

The result was unfortunate as Tokyo pretty much blew a 2-1 lead up a man; this is as much an indictment of Tokyo's sloppy play in the second half as it is recognition of Shimizu's tenacity.  Oddly enough they scored when down a man against Tokyo in their Nabisco Cup Group Stage match as well, so this is a very unfortunate trend.  Bruno matched up well against Shimizu's big man Frode Johnsen in the first half, Kenta Mukuhara was not as effective in the second.

Yonemoto's goal was a shocker; he seems to have picked up a tendency to score goals he has no right to get.  But hell, I could think of worse habits.

Anyway I'm glad I made the trip out to Shimizu; their stadium is FANTASTIC and I recommend it to anyone who wants to check out a game in Japan.  Wonderful sight lines, beautiful backdrop, great concessions, superb atmosphere.  I even got to meet up with Barry over at S-Pulse UK Ultras; bringing my total of fellow J-Bloggers I've met up to 3 thus far.  We've got a tight little community going and I hope that the planned upgrades to the Rising Sun will help us spread the word even further.

But now we look ahead to Sunday; disappointingly I won't be able to attend the match (I've been given the chance to shoot a major punk festival in Shibuya and I can't turn that down no matter how deep my soccer loyalties lie) but I have high hopes that the fans at Ajinomoto can help the team carry through to the finals.  Here's the result breakdown:

Result – Consequence

Tokyo win (any score) – Tokiyo advances to Nabisco Cup Final
0-0 draw – Tokyo advances to Nabisco Cup Final (away goal rule)
1-1 draw – Tokyo advances to Nabisco Cup Final (away goal rule)
2-2 draw – Following the second half, teams play 30 minutes of extra time followed by penalty kicks if necessary
3-3 draw or higher – Shimizu advances to Nabisco Cup Final (away goal rule)
Shimizu win (any score) – Shimizu advances to Nabisco Cup Final

So as it is with most of these affairs, the safest way in is to win.  I think Tokyo is more than capable of doing so (especially if they play as they did in the first 45 minutes on Wednesday), but that's why they play the full 90 minutes.

As it is, Hirayama apparently caught a fever and has been bedrested for a day or so, whether or not he recovers by Sunday will be crucial.

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Match Report: J1R18 Omiya Ardija 0-3 FC Tokyo

J.League Division 1 Round 18
First Half
0- 1

Second Half
0 – 2

Final
0 – 3

July 18th 2009, 6:30PM kickoff at NACK5 Stadium (Omiya, Saitama) Attendance 13,527
GK 21 Nobuhisa Kobayashi
DF 2 Taishi Tsukamoto
DF 5 Daisuke Tomita
DF 3 Mato Neretljak
DF 4 Yasuhiro Hato
MF 23 Shin Kanazawa
MF 17 Hayato Hashimoto
MF 11 Chikara Fujimoto
MF 7 Tomoya Uchida
FW 9 Naoki Ishihara
FW 18 Dudu
Starting Members
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
44′ 34 Seo Yong-Duk (for Dudu)
65′ 25 Kohei Tokita (for Tomoya Uchida)
81′ 15 Masato Saito (for Shin Kanazawa)
Substitutes 60′ 27 Sotan Tanabe (for Naotake Hanyu)
79′ 32 Yusuke Kondo (for Cabore)
85′ 40 Tatsuya Suzuki (for Naohiro Ishikawa)
Goals 44′ Sota Hirayama
70′ Yasayuki Konno
89′ Sota Hirayama
4′ Mato Neretljak
88′ Chikara Fujimoto
Cautions
Ejections

Report

Omiya’s game plan was very similar to that of mine whenever I play Winning Eleven against my Japanese friends, and worked about as well.  Tokyo was tired and made the usual assortment of passing mistakes (Kajiyama is back to his 5 fuckups:1 good pass ratio), and Yusuke was… embarrassing in his 15 minutes as a substitute.  Jofuku’s out of his right mind if he considers putting him back in the squad for anything but the reserve team until he gets out there and shows some hustle like Akamine did on Wednesday.  Omiya did manage to keep Nao off the scoreboard, stopping his streak at 6 games.  Yet in doing so, the Mighty Squirrels unleashed the beast that is Sota Hirayama, as seen in this photo courtesy of J’s Goal:

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…yes, this report was pretty much an excuse to post that image, and I’m comfortable with that.

Reports that #13 is considering a change in uniform number to something over 9000 remain unverified, but the two goals he scored on Saturday night were basically the exclamation point on the incredible two months he’s had ever since shaving his head.  His aggressive play and on-the-field mannerisms have inspired even some Tokyo supporters to refer to him as a heel (the traditional term for ‘the bad guy’ in pro wrestling).  I know Agent Orange over at Go!Go! Omiya Ardija thinks he’s a bastard.  That said he’s our bastard and we love him for it.  Plus there are any number of other players who are bigger douches, when it comes down to it.

In other news, as word of Tokyo’s continued rampage throughout J.League spread, the top 4 teams in the standings managed to soil their pants at the same time.  Kashima, Kawasaki, and Albirex all drew their matches, while Urawa lost on the WWI-era trench zone that is the Kyushu Oil Dome to cellar-dwellers Oita Trinita.  This leaves the top 5 as follows:

1.  Kashima Antlers (43 points)
2. Urawa Reds (34 points)
3. Albirex Niigata (33 points)
4. Kawasaki Frontale (33 points)
5. FC Tokyo (31 points)
6. Sanfrecce Hiroshima (26 points)

The coming month will be crucial for Tokyo as we play three of these teams – Hiroshima this coming weekend, Kawasaki next weekend, and Kashima on the 23rd.  Given how within striking distance we are to 2nd place Urawa (and just behind them on goal difference too; +5 to their +6), should Tokyo’s good run continue summer could end with the team in position for an ACL bid; or even the league championship.

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).