Sunday, 21 February 2010

Agent Orange Reports: The Greatest Game Ever Played... Ever!

Last week saw... dare I say... greatness. In the seventh installment of the Saitama City Cup, Omiya Ardija broke all Saitama City Cup records imaginable.

Who has more wins than Inter Milan, Manchester United, and Feyenoord combined? Omiya! Who scored the most goals in a game, beating German powerhouse Bayern Munich's paltry four with a resounding five? Omiya! Who has the biggest margin of victory in a game, usurping the record from none other than the canonized Spanish giant Barthelona (phonetically spelled for effect)? Omiya! Who did this against the two-time Asian champion (who begrudgingly had three members of their squad away with the Korean National Team and had a defense resembling Swiss cheese) - as opposed to their European predecessors, who could only muster less impressive results against a measly one-time Asian champion? Omiya!

First Saitama, then the WORLD!

About The Game

The first thing that jumped out at me about 2010 Ardija was the defense. That makes sense, considering that three of the new defenders and a new goalkeeper took the field for Omiya. Yuki Fukaya is everything that he was advertised to be, a lockdown defender who can cover when Mato Neretljak pushes forward. Maybe it was Suwon not being at full strength, but at no time did I feel that the K-Leaguers were going to get into the game after Hayato Hashimoto scored the first goal. I think the best part about the new defense is that the sidebacks cover a lot of ground.

Both Kazuhiro Murakami and Arata Sugiyama were not afraid to push up and attack. Passes were fast and decisive, something that we have lacked and I have hated watching the last couple of years. Say what you want about Squirrels coach Jang Wae Ryong (and I will during the course of the season), he does know what kind of player he wants in the back and for one brief Saturday, we saw that in full effect. The midfield was less than scintillating. They look more like they will follow the lead of the defense and offense, rather than create. For about the first ten or fifteen minutes, they seemed lost.

The only real chances we were getting were when the defense bypassed the midfield line completely and hooked up with the forwards. The defining play of those first fifteen minutes by our mids was an errant backpass by Chikara Fujimoto along our endline to a charging Suwon forward, who missed a one-on-one against keeper Takashi Kitano. But after Hashimoto scored, the midfield seemed to relax a bit and started playing decent football. Probably the best moments were when North Korean National Teamer and former Suwon player Ahn Young Hak came in and added a physical presence.

First Impressions

Takashi Kitano - I'm betting he is the starter on opening day. He was a bit shaky on the corners but did a nice job of saving a couple of dangerous shots. His distribution is much better than Koji Ezumi's.

Yuki Fukaya - Tough, strong, fast. If he still has any effects from a knee injury last year, they're not showing.

Kazuhiro Murakami - This was the signing that I was most dubious about but he is a real live J1 player. And a real live left sideback to boot. He was the most impressive part of the game.

Arata Sugiyama - He's very small. Tiny. Little teeny guy. But he is fast and stronger than the options last year at the position. I think he might be a problem on corners at our end but he covers well and he's not afraid to shoot.

Ahn Young Hak - Strong, possibly the strongest player ever to appear in an Omiya midfield. He is under control on offense and covers well... getting the theme yet? I can see him picking up a lot of yellows but I also see him helping us win a couple of games. The battle between him and Shin Kanazawa is still up for question. If he had been in camp from the start I'd say it was his job.

Shusaku Tsubouchi - It's clear why a lot of teams have called on his services over the years. He's fast and not a bad defender. It's also clear to see why those teams all saw time in J2. He makes a lot of mistakes and can't cross to save his life. I'm sure there that at some point during the year there will be a game, probably a cup game, where he and Kohei Tokita are both appearing as book-end sidebacks. There will be a big BOOM sound heard all across the Northern Hemisphere. If you wonder what that sound is, it will be my head exploding.

The Less Thans

Three teams who Ardija seemed to cozy up to a lot last year were Montedio Yamagata, Kyoto Sanga and Vissel Kobe. Montedio avoided relegation with a stripped-down line-up because they beat teams that were in the bottom part of the standings. Their record against the three sides who went down was a commendable 4-2-0 (we went 2-4-0). They swept Jubilo Iwata (we only managed one tie). The only team of note they were able to beat was FC Tokyo. The Mountain Gods have added a more prestigious group of players, especially to the midfield, where former JEF United captain Tomi Shimomura and Kashima Antlers' Chikashi Masuda hope to reinforce the middle.

Masuda's teammate at Kashima, striker Yuzo Tashiro, has also gone to Yamagata in the hope of stopping his decline and reclaiming some of his scoring magic from a couple years ago. The real area of concern for the club is right in front of goal, as long-time DF Leonardo was shown the door and Korean Kim Kuan Hoan brought in from Yokohama F Marinos. The true test for Montedio will be the form of 2009's star, goalkeeper Kenta Shimizu. If he has any drop in standards, the squad could face a long year.

Kyoto have had an odd off-season to say the least. They lost Lee Jung Soo to Kashima, Yuto Sato left for a J2 team because he didn't like the direction they were going in and Sidiclei was finally told that he was too old for J1. In their places are Chiego, who might start on the bench, Kwak Tae Hwi, who only appeared in 31 league games the past three years for Chunnam Dragons, and Yosuke Kataoka, who I guess will play midfield. We all saw up close how that worked out at Omiya. Their big signing, Junior Dutra, is injured and not expected back for a while. The guy who the team revolves their offense around, Diego, is starting to look like Oprah Winfrey in the Color Purple. Just an average year in Kyoto.

Finally, Toshiya Miura has reverted back to the old Omiya formula of bringing in as many old guys as possible. New signings for the Crimson include 31-year-old Popo from Kashiwa, a player who showed flashes but failed to perform like in his K-League days, 32-year-old Daisuke Tomita from Ardija (sigh) and 33-year-old Edmilson... wait a minute... happy birthday, Edmilson... 34-year-old Edmilson from Oita Trinita, who has started showing signs of wear and tear with injuries.

Throw in 33-year-old captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, 33-year-old midfielder Takayuki Yoshida and a collection of players all inching around thirty and you see a team slowly getting old. Fine if you are Kashima and winning titles, not so great when you come in fourteenth. The team does boast good assets in Yoshito Okubo, defender Kunie Kitamoto, wing Yosuke Ishibitsu and promising newcomer Ken Tokura, who put up a whopping 23 goals for Thespa Kusatsu in J2, but overall you have to think that Vissel would have been great five years ago.

Prediction: Twelfth, fourteenth and fifteenth, like last year - but I don't know which spot will be which.

For Your Listening Pleasure

The song choice might not make sense, but the album does.

Orange! Happy-ish!! Football!!!



  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP