Sunday, 14 March 2010

Agent Orange: What We Are Capable Of

Before I start with my usual whining, I have to say how good it is to see people rally around Taishi Tsukamoto. It was expected, but it was great to see Omiya fans and players support the defender with such love and emotion. It was really touching to see the players run to Tsukamoto's shirt after Rafael's goal against Cerezo Osaka last week.

What I didn't expect so much was to see other fans pay tribute and offer words of encouragement. I don't know how many countries would do that. As a matter of fact I could actually see the opposite effect occurring, so it was great to see Cerezo and Vegalta Sendai put something together to honor a good kid with really awful luck, for lack of a better word. FC Tokyo and Jubilo Iwata also started funds for Tsukamoto and should really be commended as well. It's easy to bash people for things (Lord knows I wouldn't have 90% of my material without negativity... which you will see if you read below), so good things need to be highlighted.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

I think our team is bi-polar. Am I disappointed that we lost our composure after we fell behind 2-1? Yes. Am I surprised? No. We came into the Vegalta game looking a little tense, the passes weren't crisp and we were making mistakes around our own box. The one guy who singularly looked like he was about to lose it was Yuki Fukaya, who to be fair was a target of referee Junpei Iida all day long. The yellow card was a bit harsh considering what Vegalta was doing on the other end and the PK call was inexcusable. However, those things didn't matter.

What mattered was that we didn't adjust to a cynical team and a ref who was more interested in looking fair than calling the game correctly. I think a problem we are going to have all year is a lack of leadership. Somebody needed to step in and tell Fukaya to stop arguing with Iida and nobody really did. Between him and Arata Sugiyama, the whole right side was taken out of their game - and that cost us. It was night and day what happened between the dismantling of Cerezo and the meltdown in Sendai. Both were stark examples of what we are capable of.

Are we a team that can exert our will and dominate for ninety minutes, or are we a team that can't handle the pressure when things go bad? The answer is Yes and it's not a Yes or No question.

Ten Things To Hate About... Vegalta Sendai

I had the pleasure of taking a road trip up to Miyagi to see yesterday's game. I believe it was the fourteenth J-League venue I've been to and Yuratec is a nice little stadium. It looks like an older version of Fukuari. The fans are very nice and they are very passionate and creative in supporting their team. I have no problem with their supporters, the stadium or the eight-piece orchestra that played as the opener. I do, however, have a few complaints.

1. The Pre-game Musak - My word, that was the most godawful pre-game ear garbage that I have heard in a while. The worst part about it was that they played only three songs... over and over. One was some modern pop-country thing, one was not even memorable and the third was some Crystal Gayle 70s weepy ballad that should never have seen the light of day. We got there two hours early.

2. The PA Announcer - It took this guy ten minutes to do the player introductions. Ten minutes. It was worse than the Kashiwa Reysol guy, who announces each player three times. The worst part about him was his gravelly, American strip club DJ style of announcing. "Noooooow to the main stage is the loooooovely Destiny Nakashima!!!... give it up please for the sexxxxxxy Ryang Yon Gi!!!... if you don't like Fernandinho, you must be gaaaaaay!!!" Wait, what?

3. The Sendai Myth - Ever since Vegalta went down to J2, there has been this rumbling that somehow they were more deserving than others to go up to J1. For about four years, they would bring in two or three really good Brazilian players, hire a coach who built a pretty solid core of Japanese players, hover around promotion terrritory for two thirds of the season and then collapse. And then people would say, "Oh, what a shame, they really deserved to be in J1." Hell with that. They choked.

4. The Emperor's Cup Myth - They did beat three J1 teams to get to the semi-final last year, but people really made it into something bigger than it was. They got by an Omiya team on the basis of generous calls and bad Ardija play. It still took two very generous spot kick awards for them to put away a team starting Dudu. FC Tokyo played their fourth game in a fourteen-day span while Vegalta was rested and waiting. Kawasaki Frontale had just lost the Championship again and were reeling. They won the games, but tap the brakes on the Feel Good angle a bit.

5. The Style of Play - I remember us playing a counter-attacking style and everybody criticizing us for being boring and unimaginative. How come Vegalta is getting rave reviews for it? Is it because they have a cheer to We're Not Gonna Take It?

6. The Fouling - When I saw them play us during the Emperor's Cup, I noticed Vegalta liked to foul the snot out of people every time they touched the ball. The ref then didn't do anything about it and Vegalta were rewarded with a win. Yesterday was far, far worse. Vegalta went in with a game plan that revolved around hacking people down every time they touched the ball and hoping the ref would let most of it go. Which he did. I don't know what happened in the Jubilo game last week, but I imagine it was probably similar: foul, foul, foul, counter. That's the textbook definition of persistent infringement. Except for the counter part.

7. The Diving - I counted at least thirty times where a Sendai player was writhing around on the ground in pain. Most of these were performed by the centerback duo of Elizeu and Kodai Watanabe. You may remember Watanabe as the player whose forearm and elbow was viciously attacked by the heinous back of Yuki Fukaya, causing him to fall down and push Fukaya into Takashi Kitano for a clear penalty. My favorite dive, though, was Kunimitsu Sekiguchi getting the ball taken from him and falling to the ground in a heap, writhing around in pain until Omiya gave up possesion and then magically popping up and running into the play for the attack.

8. The Timewasting - It goes along with the diving. After they got the lead at 2-1, they tried to kill the clock... with 46-plus minutes to go.

9. Iris Ohyama - It's really gotta piss you off that a team that hacks that much has a big heart on their chest. Ten things are hard to come up with... get off my back! Alright then:

9. Country Roads - What the hell is with their John Denver sing along? There, happy?

10. Takuto Hayashi - Mato Neretljak should have had two goals but that guy made a beautiful save. Bastard!

Final Ponderings

I disagree with Furtho on the tactics to a point [You do what? - F]. I don't know what happened with Shin Kanazawa, but I think Tomoya Uchida was causing some problems for Sendai on the wings. I didn't like what Hayato Hashimoto had to offer yesterday... that looked more like 2009. I'm also worried about Fukaya and Sugiyama picking up yellows again. Somehow the tandem seems to rub refs the wrong way and I'm afraid those yellows are going to turn to red soon if they both don't get it under control.

Next up is Kashima and my favorite conceited Brazilian diva / mastermind Osvaldo Oliveira should be just giddy about the chances to get revenge from last year. Can't wait to see the write-up from Daily Yomiuri writer / Oliveira hemmoroid Shintaro Kano and count how many ways he calls us weak.

This song just sums up the weekend for me.

Orange! Let's cause Oliveira to throw another tantrum!! Football!!!!



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