Tag Archives: urawa reds

[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: J-League Round 2: FC Tokyo @ Urawa Reds

J.League Division 1 Week 2
First Half
1 – 1

Second Half
2 – 0

Final
3 – 1

March 14th 2009, 2PM Kickoff at Saitama Stadium 2002 (Saitama, Saitama) Attendance 50,802
GK 23 Ryota Tsuzuki

DF 6 Nobuhisa Yamada

DF 2 Keisuke Tsuboi

DF 4 Marcus Tulio Tanaka

DF 3 Hajime Hosogai

MF 13 Keita Suzuki

MF 22 Yuki Abe

MF 24 Genki Haraguchi

MF 10 Robson Ponte

FW 11 Tatsuya Tanaka

FW 17 Edmilson

Starting Members
GK 20 Shuichi Gonda

DF 5 Yuto Nagatomo

DF 15 Daishi Hiramatsu

DF 2 Teruyuki Moniwa

DF 25 Yuhei Tokunaga

MF 6 Yasuyuki Konno

MF 10 Yohei Kajiyama

MF 22 Naotake Hanyu

MF 40 Tatsuya Suzuki

FW 9 Cabore

FW 32 Yusuke Kondo

57′ 19 Naohiro Takahara (for Genki Haraguchi)

78′ 34 Naoki Yamada (for Tatsuya Tanaka)
86′ 20 Satoshi Horinouchi (for Edmilson)

Substitutes 58′ 19 Yohei Otake (for Tatsuya Suzuk)

60′ 24 Shingo Akamine (for Yusuke Kondo)

66′ 18 Naohiro Ishikawa (for Naotake Hanyu)

4′ Yuki Abe

50′ Edmilson

83′ Robson Ponte

Goals 13′ Own Goal (initially credited to Cabore)
63′ Nobuhisa Yamada Cautions
Ejections

Report

On an overcast, rainy day, roughly 2,000+ visiting supporters travelled to see FC Tokyo take on Urawa Reds and their home army of almost 60,000 at a sold-out Saitama Stadium 2002.  Shuichi Gonda would once again settle b etween the posts for Tokyo, and Jofuku elected to make a couple changes in order to tweak the lineup from last week’s Niigata debacle: Tatsuya Suzuki got a start at midfielder, and Cabore teamed up with Yusuke Kondo on the front line.

The first goal of the match, ominously, was a quick strike from Urawa midfielder Yuki Abe on – you guessed it – a corner kick.  FC Tokyo would fight back, however, and 7 minutes later Tokunaga set up a perfect pass to Cabore who drove the ball in, though it would deflect off a Reds defender and be declared an Own Goal.  Much like Nagatomo’s game-winner last year against Verdy, there was no doubt as to whose effort was responsible for the point.

The teams battled back and forth for the rest of the half, with Tokyo at times threatening and many times scrambling to deflect Urawa’s attack.  Near the end of the first half, a chilling moment silenced the stadium as FCT defender Teruyuki Moniwa and Urawa defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka collided as they both challenged for a header, each player receiving a nasty cut for their troubles.  4 minutes of stoppage time were added as a result of this incident, and while Urawa briefly challenged Tokyo held strong to end the half at 1-1.

In the second half, Urawa managed to strike quickly when Yusuke Kondo went down in contact and FCT players hesitated, expecting Urawa to kick the ball to the sideline.  Instead the referee waved the play on, and the defenders got caught off-guard as Ponte whipped an unstoppable cross to Edmilson to give Urawa the advantage.

Having learned from the defensive-minded substitutions he made last week, Jofuku attempted to stemp the tide by reinforcing on offense, sending in Otake, Akamine, and Ishikawa onto the field to replace Suzuki, Kondo, and Hanyu.  Nao would have one of the best chances for Tokyo, a long bullet from the edge of the box that clanged against the top post.

As the game reached its end and with the FCT defense in disarray, Ponte used a defender as a screen to slip an insurance goal past Gonda for the 3-1 final.

Analysis

After two goals to begin the game, the first half was a constant struggle between stemming back the Red Tide and trying to establish an offensive rhythm.  Somehow or another Tokyo always managed to get the ball away from the attackers at the last second, but rarely seemed to think ahead in terms of establishing its own beachhead and advancing forward.  Again and again, Tokyo’s attack revered to a series of short passes that would have been clever if they hadn’t picked off half the time.  Halfhearted clears resulted in Urawa regaining position and pressing the attack again, halfhearted attacks never seemed to fully form, and the team only had a depressing 7 shots on goal the entire game according to the official statistics (even when compared to Urawa’s 9, I assure you that I’d take 9 Urawa chances against 20 of the sort that Tokyo had all day).

With Kajiyama and Konno playing at defensive midfielder, the back line of Tokunaga, Nagatomo, Moniwa, and Hiramatsu theoretically had enough strength to keep a solid line of defense, but they constantly allowed Urawa players to get into close range.  I saw Sahara once or twice on the sideline, seemingly chomping at the bit to get into the game.  One can only wonder what kind of effect he could have made.

On offense the team is plainly neutered for reasons I can’t even begin to consider; I spent much of the game having flashbacks to 2007 and our dreadful strategy of passing down the sideline, crossing it into the goal area, and seeing what happens.  Ishikawa was by far the biggest substitute contributor with his attacks down the right side, and the game might have taken a totally different form had his shot not bounced off the crossbar.  Akamine was useless as many of the team’s crosses were picked off by Urawa defenders, and Otake physically struggled against a physically larger Urawa team.

The most disconcerting part of the game was that as the minutes ticked down in the second half, the players visibly seemed to lose their fighting spirit, which is part of what allowed the 3rd goal.  They were outclassed and outplayed by an Urawa side that, while strong, certainly had weaknesses of its own.  And yet on this cold March afternoon, the Gasmen seemed unable – or worse, unwilling – to fight on.

Tokyo’s next game is on March 21st against Montedio Yamagata, a team that has been the surprise of J.League between its dismantling of Jubilo Iwata in Week 1 and a surprising draw against league frontrunners Nagoya Grampus that was played on a snowy field.  Teams that had taken newcomers Montedio for granted are beginning to wonder if they had judged too soon, while those who predicted Tokyo’s success are left wondering just what the hell is going on.  A win next week will be crucial toward establishing some sort of rhythm for the team; any kinks can be worked out in the interval as FCT has Nabisco Cup matches on the 25th and 29th of the month before returning to J1 play against Jubilo Iwata on the 4th.  No matter what happens, this is a team in dire need of a quick recovery before dreams of an ACL bid are quickly lost.

Errata

As my ticket was for the visitor’s section, I had the opportunity to see Tokyo supporters crammed into one small area of the concourse, walled off with fencing and blocked by guards.  While Urawa’s fanbase is certainly large and that should be respected, conditions for the visiting fans were lackluster to say the least; a couple tables selling food (with long lines to boot) and one bathroom per gender.  That the rain forced many to wait in the concourse before the game started didn’t help matters either.  At a world-class facility like Saitama Stadium, the Reds organization should be ashamed that this is the best level of service they deem fit to provide to their guests.

[Recaps] FC Tokyo breaks winless streak of 8 games vs. J.League opponents

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.