Sunday, 18 April 2010

Agent Orange: 7030

No, that's not the breakdown of possession between Jubilo Iwata and Omiya Ardija. That was the crowd for a game that was played on a cold but beautiful Saturday night in Shizuoka. 7030 people showed up for a squad that has won three J-League championships, one Emperor's Cup and an Asian Club Championship. A team that boasts a history of having some of the biggest icons in Japanese history. Gon Nakayama, Toshihiro Hattori, Hiroshi Nanami, Takashi Fukunishi... all of them played their prime years in Iwata. They had Dunga.

The team as it stands now is a shell of its former self, but still has a lot of appeal. Last year's golden boot winner Ryoichi Maeda still roams the pitch for Jubilo, National Teamer Yuichi Komano and former National Team icon Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi both ply their trade for the squad. Exciting Korean striker Lee Keun Ho barely still plays for them. The stadium is nice, one of the most unique structures in Japanese football. It's easy to watch a game there. The staff is very friendly and the crowd boasts its fair share of lovely ladies.

I'm not sure why the support is lagging so bad. It's sad, really. You hate to see one of the old guard struggle so badly and you gotta wonder what happens to the team if they drop to J2. By the same token, one of the positives of the current Ardija regime has been their attention to promoting and selling games. We have seen a steady crowd of 10,000 plus in our games this year, only dipping to 7900 for a Nabisco Cup match (a highly predictable shutout loss) against FC Tokyo on a Wednesday night.

What's going to happen to our numbers if we ever get a winning team on the field? It's fun to think about, even though with the clowns running the show right now it's not going to be something that happens anytime soon. Oh, and by the way... the breakdown of possession was 62-38 in Jubilo's favor.

The Results Change But The Game's The Same

There is a very disturbing pattern forming in this year's squad. We tend to start the first half very strong and then capitulate in the second. Saturday's game was no different. The opening period was an uneven but spirited performance, with six shots and three clean looks. The goal itself resembled the youth team games that go on before the main event. All the players were around the ball, kicking frantically at it and pushing it a few inches one way or another until Naoki Ishihara kicked the slowest of rollers past a prone keeper. Goal of the Year material? No, no, no. It was however a good effort and one of my favorite type of goals. Rarely do we see that from the offense. It's usually an isolation play followed by a long shot with little chance of going in.

Coach Jang Wae Ryong shifted the formation from a 4-3-3 back to a 4-4-2 at the break and not surprisingly the offense died. He had a minor crisis early with Yuki Fukaya pulling up lame and answered with Shin Kanazawa shifting out of position to right back, as happened at Albirex Niigata. And not surprisingly he again struggled. At one point Kanazawa handled the ball deep in his own end with no one around him, giving up a potentially dangerous free kick.

After playing a full ninety minutes on Wednesday night, the striker tandem of Yoshihito Fujita and Naoki Ishihara looked absolutely gassed in the second half. Not surprising when you consider they have to sprint up for long balls and back to cover defense. Masahiko Ichikawa was a nonentity again on offense and is starting to resemble Kota Yoshihara in some unfortunate ways. Overall the tie alleviates some pressure, but the problems are still apparent.

I Think We Need An Exorcist

The stench known as FC Tokyo toddled into town on Wednesday and toddled back out with a win. The lone bright moment of an otherwise useless exercise in mediocrity for both teams was a nice one-two combination from Tatsuya Suzuki to Ricardinho, who spun Fukaya and put the ball into the back of the net. The Brazilian's dropping to his knees and raising his hands in the air and praying to the sky like he just put in the goal to win the World Cup was far less impressive. And really, why look up to heaven when you and the rest of your turd compatriots sold your soul to Satan long, long ago?

When I first saw the Ardija PK and red card call, I thought it was a bit harsh. When I saw the replay, it was the right call. Where the ref went wrong was to let FC Tokyo whine about it for a good two or three minutes. Somebody should have got a yellow. And Shingo Akamine is quickly becoming one of my Top Five Hated Players. He dry humped Fukaya up and down the field all game and then cried when a call didn't go his way. The last part of the game was FC Tokyo screeching at everything like howler monkeys and timewasting. There's absolutely nothing likeable about that team.

All that being said, for the last forty minutes you couldn't tell who had the man advantage. It was just us laterally passing and then losing the ball. The subs were uninspired, again. Why not put on Daisuke Watabe for an extended run? Even Kohei Tokita would have been a good call - he has speed and can exploit the lack of an extra man.

Finally, I have to get to the PK. Our specialist Mato Neretljak wouldn't have missed that against any other team. Guaranteed. But because the Mighty Turds of Chofu never walk alone (and if you're wondering who they do walk with, it's Satan), Mato missed. Put this in the vault of new and embarrassing ways to lose to FC Tokyo.

Muzak

They played this song a couple of times at Yamaha. It's one of my favorites and it seemed appropriate. Going On would have been a good Omiya slogan for 2010 considering we are going on from our past, hopefully to better things. Unfortunately we chose something different (in many awfully painful ways). If we had opted for that slogan Going On would have had the perfect opener for the game, instead of a very odd, very disjointed mix of industrial music and spoken word that is probably more symbolic of this year's campaign.



Fifty points to our goal! Please God, don't let Jang kill another game!! Fire Jang!!!

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