Sunday, 4 April 2010

Agent Orange: For A Change

I was going to write another hate-filled piece of biting invective, ripe with sarcasm and possibly bordering on libel. But because it is Easter I figured, Hey, why not write something more analytical. Here goes!

Deconstructing Seo Yong Duk

In the past, I have been harsh on a kid who barely entered adulthood. I've been blaming him for not being a J1 caliber player. And I'm not sure if that's fair.

We have had players in the past who you could tell weren't cut out for Division One. Takaya Kawanabe was a perfect example of that. We had some who didn't seem to be in the plans of any of the regimes; Yusuke Shimada seems to fit that role. We had some who showed promise, but were cut for no good apparent reason... striker Leandro would be the best example. Finally, we have had players who were not good and still managed to find their way into prime time minutes: hello, Yosuke Kataoka, Yusuke Murayama, Hiroshi Morita, Takuro Nishimura, Enilton, Marcelo Salles, Naoya Saeki and Kota Yoshihara.

My first inclination is to think that Seo falls into the first or last category. I think the only reason he is on the team right now is because Jang Wae Ryong is the manager. The times I've watched him include a 3-0 loss to FC Tokyo, where he showed flashes of promise but no field awareness whatsoever, and on other occasions the young Korean international has played unfocused and undisciplined football. As recently as last month, it appeared Seo couldn't make a successful pass to a teammate to save his life. The eight minutes he was on the field on Saturday saw a listless Albirex Niigata suddenly find enough space to get not one but two isolations on keeper Takashi Kitano.

All that being said does not paint a pretty picture of Duk. So let's be fair:

1. He's young. Daisuke Watabe is five months older. Granted, there are players in J1 who are younger who are getting the job done, but he's still only twenty.

2. He's inexperienced. A lot of his time playing has been in Korean high school games and U19 tournaments. His actual playing experience at Ardija has been 89 minutes. Compare that with Jun Kanakubo (who played JFL for his college team), Ryohei Arai (who was playing in Satellite League matches at sixteen) or Watabe (who's been playing pro now for three years) and you have guys on the team who are similar age but far advanced in terms of experience. Ending the Satellite League doesn't help because players in Seo's situation could get regular games against other pros and sometime starters. Playing against East Tokyo Girls Technical College and Cooking Academy doesn't fit the bill.

3. He's the only one - Korean, that is. An Yong Hak and Mato Neretljak can communicate with him and Jang is able to, I guess (I'm not honestly sure what he communicates), but there has to be some culture shock still going on.

4. He's fast. The kid is a burner. He can get up and down the field. You can't teach that and it's something the team lacks.

5. He has a cannon for a leg. We only saw it once, but in his first game against FC Tokyo, Seo shot a blast off the crossbar. He hasn't done it since and I'm not sure if it's overcoaching or a loss in confidence.

My question is this - where was Seo for the Kyoto Sanga game? The Nabisco Cup is the epitome of the meaningless-but-competitive match. There was an extra spot open on the bench, not used. Was Tomoya Uchida the last spot on the bench? Is he injured? Why did Jang then go on to use a guy who hasn't even seen practice match time in Saturday's crucial J1 game against a very vulnerable and beatable opponent? And is he going to keep playing Seo until either, (a) he figures out how to play at this level, or (b) he runs the team into the ground?

The best option for Seo in my opinion is to rent him out somewhere so he can get some real playing time. If you cruise around J2, you are going to see a lot of squads that aren't very good and have no depth; Oita Trinita was the first team that came to mind. They have one of the smaller rosters in the league, they have two Korean nationals, a Japanese-born player of Korean heritage and a coach in Kwan Hwang Bo who can communicate with Seo easily. However, they seem to be not bad, so that is probably out. Plus, they are way the heck down at the bottom of the island. Distance might rule out them and most other J2 teams.

Kashiwa Reysol and JEF United both have much better options so he won't get time at either place; Tokyo Verdy seems obvious, with them bringing up sixteen-year-olds from their youth system; I'm not sure he improves there. There is only one real option. It's not too far away... only one prefecture. Omiya has done loans with them in the past and for the most part they were successful. They have a mix of experience and youth that will help him learn without alienating him. They have a coach who Ardija is apparently familiar with in Hiroshi Soejima - who Omiya was rumored to be considering for their head job numerous times in the past. They have a Korean player named Choi Sung Yong, a veteran of two World Cup campaigns.

Most importantly, they are currently really bad and only have 26 players on their roster. Thespa Kusatsu would be the perfect fit for Seo Yong Duk. Because the current situation sure as hell isn't.

Game Thoughts

Niigata is probably my favorite road trip of the year. The stadium isn't the best considering the running track and slight distance from the field of play, but it's one of my favorite places in Japan to see a game. I'm guessing it's probably because of the Albirex supporters. They're some of the most dedicated fans in the league, but they are more laid back then some of the more "celebrated" fanbases. They gave a nice hand to An in the introductions and gave Kitano a lot of grief, booing their former keeper for bailing on them. Both seemed perfectly appropriate.

The games might not be the textbook definition of soccer, but each time there is some sort of real tension: Toninho's last game, Leandro's last game and 2009's desperation draw all took place at the Big Swan and yesterday was no different. Both teams really needed to win, a loss for either would have been a real blow to their early season. Both teams went about winning differently. Albirex chose to take the air out of the ball, while Omiya pressed forward trying to get as many chances as possible on young keeper Masaaki Higashiguchi, in the hope that he cracked.

The 4-3-3 worked well for Ardija. They put up eighteen shots, including two off the crossbar and a couple near misses, as well as manufacturing nine corner kicks. The defense was good as well. The only real danger that the team was in was near the end when National Teamer and beacon of Fair Play Kisho Yano had two one-one-ones against former teammate Kitano. Both times, the Squirrels' new keeper snuffed out the challenges.

While the formation was good, Jang's substitution choices were... odd. The first one was Naoki Ishihara getting taken out for Kanakubo. Ishihara was assisting the offense well - he wasn't getting shots, but he was setting up the tandem of Masahiko Ichikawa and Yoshihito Fujita. Hayato Hashimoto, having a sub-par performance, was the one I'd probably take out. That being said, Kanakubo was a revelation. He might be the guy who can fill the void left by Rafael and Chikara Fujimoto when it comes to holding the ball in traffic. His two corners were right on target and gave us two real shots for goals.

The second sub was Seo for Arata Sugiyama. Shin Kanazawa shifted out of position to right back and suffered, while Seo offered nothing in terms of attack. Really dumb sub and it nearly cost us a point. The last sub was Watabe for Ichikawa. Watabe had a nice couple of runs at the end of the game. I'm hoping he doesn't lose the energy guy spot to Seo, because right he's offering more in terms of production.

If we play that way next week against Gamba, we'll score and probably win. However, you might not want want to read some of the Kansai-based blogs because I'm sure they will have 35 different ways of describing us as lowly. Here are the odds:

1. That we get called lowly by at least one Kansai blogger: Even
2. That somebody complains about us getting preferential calls in the game: 3 to 1
3. That we get called "thuggish": 2 to 1
4. That if a bad call goes against us, it will be acknowledged in any way: 150 to 1
5. That the ref will be Masayoshi "Justice" Okada: 2 to 1

Dudu Sighting

The most beloved character in Omiya history is back! No, not Ardy - I'm talking about Dudu! It looks like the Brazilian injury machine was back for a brisk 45-minute jaunt against Shonan Bellmare in a high noon encounter on Sunday. While the loveable forward was not able to put any balls in the back of the net, Jun Kanakubo and baby midfielder Taisuke Miyazaki both found the net in a 2-1 victory. Surprisingly, Seo Yong Duk was not one of the fourteen guys to play in the game. Could we see a Dudu / Dodo matchup next week? Ohhhhhh, I would not bet against it!

De Copa El Tuto Update

Shonan dropped their first DCET game, to get off to a rousing start. From reports I've read, Urawa Reds got the lion's share of completely unfair calls, which crippled Shonan to the point of uncompetitiveness. God, good thing we didn't have that happen last week! Anyway here are the standings... FC Tokyo and Kawasaki Frontale have yet to finish at the time of this writing, but I'm sure I can find an excuse to stick it to the Gasbags.

1. FC Tokyo 25 points (+1) I'm giving them an extra seven points because they are benefitting from Marquinhos getting a straight red against Sendai. See, that was easy.
2. Omiya 3 (-2)
3. Shonan 3 (-1)
4. Kawasaki 2 (-)
5. S-Pulse 1 (-)
6. Urawa 0 (+2)

No space for a Ten Reasons To Hate, so I'll save that for next week. I'm sure I'll have plenty of things to dislike a lot!


Orange! 51 more points to our goal!! Football!!!



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