Tag Archives: takuji yonemoto

Yonemoto injures left knee in practice, could be lost for season

This is certainly not the news Tokyo fans were expecting to hear…

After a hard collision in front of a goal during an intra-team practice game, midfielder Takuji Yonemoto had to be carried off the field by trainers. He was examined today and based on the report on FC Tokyo's website, his injuries very much mirror those that Ishikawa sustained last season (namely, a partial ACL tear on his left knee and meniscus damage).

The difference, however, is that that the two character that form the word “partial” were not present in the team's announcement for Yonemoto's test result, leading us to believe that the dreaded “2nd Year Jinx” has hit last year's Nabisco Cup MVP in the worst of ways.

At worst, this could mean that Yonemoto will have to sit out the 2010 season, which would be a devastating blow to the team and to the young star. While Kajiyama has finally rejoined the team in his practice regimen, he still may not yet be battle-ready and thus Tokyo may be without the pillars of its formation for the beginning of the season.

Formation-wise it's now pretty likely that Matsushita will start, and depending on how ready Kim is, Jofuku could choose to start him at CB and move Konno back to his old position of volante. Hiramatsu could play a factor too… the next week will be a tough one for Jofuku, but despite the severity of the potential loss I still don't think it's as bad as last year's GK situation.

There will be many cranes folded tonight in the capital city. More to come when I have it.

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[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.

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: 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).