Sunday, 17 May 2009

Agent Orange Reports: A Pleasant Sunday In The Park

Omiya opened up its 2009 Satellite League campaign on Sunday with a scrum against fellow Kanto area squad Tokyo (not Kawasaki) Verdy (not Yomiuri) 1969 (wait for it... not 1969) in what should be called the Soilent Green derby. The competition winner gets nothing (like me when I wrote that awful thing for three years), the loser gets nothing (like me when I ask moderately attractive ladies out on dates) and fun is had by all (except for guys who get hurt, or guys who think that they are better than the Satellite League).

Omiya had a fairly strong squad on the field, featuring no fewer than five players who started against Verdy in either of last year's two J1 matches (namely Denis Marques, Klemen Lavric, Masato Saito, Daisuke Tomita and Taishi Tsukamoto), plus the former starting keeper for Consadole Sapporo (Takahiro Takagi), the team captain (Yoshiyuki Kobayashi) and Yusuke Murayama. Verdy countered with Yuzo Funakoshi and ten other dudes who I am not completely familiar with.

Things started out less than great for Omiya, when young defender Tsukamoto went down with a foot injury. He managed to hobble around for a good couple of minutes before Verdy's speedy Taira Inoue attacked and forced Ryohei Arai to foul him in the box for a penalty. Big Donkey Yuzo stepped up and scored with a thundering kick that fooled Takagi.

Not two minutes later, however, Klemen Lavric was taken down in the box by giant Verdy defender Masaaki Iida and earned a PK for orange. Denis stepped up and did his best Yasuhito Endo impression, pausing and putting in the goal. Squirrels sub Haruki Nishimura then stole the ball and fed the ball down the line to a blitzing Denis, who got past his man and laid it to the streaking Daisuke Watabe, who easily put it in the net.

The second half saw the addition of Takaya Kawanabe, who had a fine 45 minutes. It also saw Verdy start off the second half like the first by earning a PK. Shunsuke Fukuda wrestled Funakoshi to the ground after the big man slipped past him, but Squirrels keeper Takagi would not be fooled again and absolutely stoned the giant striker. Klemen Lavric got his name on the scoresheet with a good bit of hustle and a nice touch for a 3-1 score and Denis closed it out by dribbling around the keeper and putting in the final goal.

Game Notes

1. Sometimes I enjoy games like this btter than the real thing, because I can relax and see players that I rarely get to see. I have not got a chance to see Nishimura really have a go, so it was good to watch him play.

2. Today's game told me that we have a lot of players who would do well in J2. Verdy had a very weak squad and it showed as the game wore on. Kawanabe, Watabe and Nishimura all had good contributions, Tomita and Fukuda were very solid in the back and Denis was able to take it easy and still score two.

3. Our two young central mids, Takuya Aoki and Arai struggled a bit. Arai wasn't at fault for the yellow card and the PK; he did what he had to do, but overall his distribution was a bit off. Aoki came in and had a direct impact in the game when he swept a sure goal off the line and started a break the other way. Unfortunately, the man shooting was Daisuke Watabe and the line was Verdy's... excellent save nonetheless. He did pick it up later and made a contribution to the fourth goal.

4. Takagi was great. I've been thinking about it and I'd like to see him get the start in the J1 game against Nagoya. I'm not blaming Koji Ezumi for the recent troubles, he's played fine. I just think that giving Takagi a start so that a shell-shocked keeper can refocus would not be the worst thing. I also think it would be the right time to do it considering Ezumi has posted a 5-0 loss, a 2-1 loss, a 4-0 loss and a 2-1 loss in his last four appearances against Grampus (the 5-0 and 4-0 were in Nagoya).

Three Stars

1. Daisuke Watabe - Speed and skill were a treat to watch. If you watch games like this you can see why he still gets chances.

2. Right-side subs - Nishimura and Kawanabe are the two least-noticed players on the squad not playing keeper and both showed that they can at least compete. Both were dangerous on the press and did good things.

3. Masa Saito - I didn't realize how much I missed the hard work and professionalism of an unsung Omiya hero. Even in a practice game, the veteran midfielder gave 100 percent on every play, going after loose balls and getting back into position. When I watch Shin Kanazawa, I see Saito.

And Finally...

Today's stat of the week happened between Tochigi SC and ex-Ardija boss Yasuhiro Higuchi's Yokohama FC, when Tochigi was able to prevail 2-1 on a Yusuke Sato shot and an own goal. The final box score was, goals: Yokohama 1 Tochigi 2 and, shots: Yokohama 11 Tochigi 1. That's right, Tochigi scored two goals from one shot and our friend Higuchi has found yet another way to lose.

Orange! Much Happier Than Higuchi!!! Football!!!



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