Sunday, 2 May 2010

Agent Orange: Ohisashiburi!

Well, that was a long time coming! Nine games, nearly two months, three catastrophic injuries and one set of dodgy-manager-and-physical-trainer later, Omiya found itself on the winning end of a game. Not only that, but they managed to do it coming out of a break where they lost a lead. Amazing, I know. I want to be giddy about this win, I honestly do, but it's too soon to get optimistic. Frankly, I'm just glad Jang Wae Ryong is gone. I would've loved to see General Manager Haruo Yuuki join him, but I'll take what I can get.

Last year we played Kyoto after going through the worst three-game stretch in Omiya history. We had just lost three successive cup matches by the combined score of 16-3. The lead up to Saturday's game was similar to last year in one respect: the fans wanted Jang out. He didn't get fired and the team won, with no Chikara Fujimoto or Rafael (who at that point we didn't know even existed). We took that game 2-1 on a Mato Neretljak header and the last of Taishi Tsukamoto's free kick bombs.

This year, we won 2-1 on two nice Naoki Ishihara goals, one in which he turned a defender around before scoring and the other on an off-balanced stretch of the leg. It wasn't a great performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it did the job. I think Mato foreshadowed it on Friday's Ole Ardija TV show when he said, "It doesn't matter how well we play out there, we need a result" (if I'm misquoting, I apologize). He was right. And this was the perfect team for us to go up against at the perfect time. Sanga is reeling right now and we usually do well against them (here's a fun fact. Currently there are three fellow J1 teams that we have winning records against: Yokohama F Marinos at 5-4-1, Cerezo Osaka at 4-2-1 and Kyoto at 4-2-1).

As for my thoughts on incoming coach Jun Suzuki... I don't know. He's capable as a manager, he led an Albirex Niigata team to mid-table in similar financial circumstances and he gave young players a chance to succeed or fail on their merits. That's not bad. One thing I do really like about him is his dedication to the 4-3-3, which I think we'll see at Omiya after the World Cup break - I think our personnel fits that formation the best and that Rafael coming back is going to help as well.

The one big red warning flag I get from him, though, was his reliance at Niigata on Marcio Richardes. Richardes is a fantastic player and I'd love to have him here, but during that period he missed over twenty games and Suzuki only managed one win out of all those contests. Here on GGOA we've been harping on Jang not being able to get a result without Rafael; the same criticism could have been levelled at Suzuki.

The weirdest part of this whole thing is we're only one point off of last year's total. Of our five losses this year, four have been against last year's top teams. One was aided by a dodgy PK and a suspect referee and one was with a two-man disadvantage thanks to Tokyo no Murakami (I haven't delved deep into it, but last year they didn't even tie when he was refereeing them... just sayin'!). We're still not in great shape but I'd take the potential of this team over last year's squad, especially with an established manager. Eleven points going into the break and we'll be fine.

Game Notes

1. Very happy to see Ishihara score early, even happier to see him score the second one. Our problem has been not getting that second goal. I think part of that has to do with us not taking shots. Sounds simple, huh? Kawasaki Frontale has the number one and two scorers in Chong Tese and Renatinho, who together have 11 goals on 56 shots. Ishihara is right behind them with four goals on nine shots. Our leading shooter is Hayato Hashimoto with thirteen shots. We aren't manufacturing chances right now, that's something Suzuki needs to work on right away. Even in Saturday's contest, we only put up six shots.

2. Hashimoto went down early in the second and the team kind of broke down with Tomoya Uchida coming in. He was slow, again. He was hesitant, again. He couldnt connect with anyone on the field. Very bad first impression for the new coach to see. Jun Kanakubo was alright and got in a few dangerous chances. I had to laugh at the girly shove he gave Dutra after the Brazilian elbowed Arata Sugiyama. He might be the new Fujimoto.

3. Finally, it was good to catch up again with Nick from the Tokyo Nerdy blog. He and his very sleepy son decided to take in the game. It was interesting talking to someone with no real rooting interest in the game, because I could check and see when I'm right and when I'm just being biased (unless he's just full of crap and then I dunno what to make of the whole thing). Anyhow, he has a write-up on the match here. I guess we're popular in North Korea. I always thought of myself as Verdy's favorite lard ass, but Omiya alone is going to have to do.

A Whole Mess Of Bad

After nine rounds of the J1 season, the difference between eighth place and eighteenth is a mere four points. There are a lot of really mediocre sides this year, combined with a few at the top - kinda like the EPL except without the money. So here's a quick look. I'm not going to mention Omiya in this because who the hell knows how this team will play with a new coach.

1. Teams who I'd love to see drop but who won't - Gamba Osaka and FC Tokyo. There is too much talent on both squads for them to go down. They are facing injuries and bad form, but I highly doubt either will be in the bottom nine by the end of the year. Even if they are able to regain form, both have gotten some pretty favorable calls go their way in the past, Kansai-based bloggers who feel that Gamba deserves but doesn't receive a PK and one-man advantage every week notwithstanding. I don't think they'll drop.

2. Teams who look solid enough to withstand a relegation fight - Montedio Yamagata. Very good at getting results against teams they should be even with. Montedio don't really beat heavyweights, but they don't have bad losses to bad teams either. They are one of the most boring teams in the J-League, but Yamagata have enough to survive.

3. Teams who I have no clue what they will do - Cerezo Osaka, Vegalta Sendai and Jubilo Iwata. These are three wildcards. I expected Cerezo to be much better than they are. I think their defense is still suspect and the offense has yet to click. They are lucky to have a really good keeper in Kim Jin Hyeon. If he gets injured they are finished. Jubilo has a bad manager, bad ownership, depressed fans and a team that doesn't know who will be around come July.

Lee Keun Ho is reported to be finally, really and properly out the door in June, but Gilsinho might be back. It's not a great situation and one that could become ugly. Then there's the "surprise" team of 2010, Vegalta, which finds itself on a four-game bender with losses to bottom two Shonan Bellmare and Vissel Kobe. Seems as though the team dried up when the calls did. Star man Ryan Yong Gi leads the team with four goals, but three of those were PKs. The Sendai defense has been struggling as well.

4. Teams who need to fire their managers - Kyoto Sanga and Vissel Kobe. Maybe it's just the fact that they they paid us to take Yosuke Kataoka (and boy, was that cool that we booed him... loudly! I was worried that people were going to give him fake applause for the five years of crap that he put on display... noooo! Somewhere, a cute HUB waitress was weeping softly) and they insist on starting him, but Kyoto really might take the cake as the worst-managed team in J1. They have a lot of talent and in Hisashi Kato a guy who looks thoroughly incapable of doing anything about it. Awful former Verdy boss mismanaging another club? That sounds familiar.

Another familiar scenario involves a team loaded with underachieving over 30s. Why, that must be a Toshiya Miura-coached squad! Miura went with his tried and true philosophy of over-paying guys on their last legs and playing boring soccer. Unfortunately for Kobe, they are undisciplined as well: they lead the league with 25 yellows and two reds. There's a good amount of scoring talent and a decent enough defense, but they sit near the bottom in both categories.

5. Teams who need more players - Shonan Bellmare, Albirex Niigata and (okay, I lied) Omiya Ardija. In some ways, both Shonan and Niigata have over-achieved. Albirex has taken the old Robert Verbeek approach of packing it in and hoping for a 0-0 tie. It took them eleven games to break through with a win, but they have managed a boat load of ties. Shonan has been the opposite, putting up decent numbers on the offensive end, but leaking like a sieve at the back. They decided to stay with two old Brazilian imports in Adiel and Jean and both have been out with injuries. They need some more talent - especially in the center of the field - but have one of the lowest payrolls in J1.

The midfield for Omiya has been discussed ad nauseam. It still needs reinforcement.

It's way too early to say who will go down. One catastrophic injury and a team will sink to the bottom. One transfer window pickup and the same team might surge to mid-table.

And Finally, Muzak

In honor of new papa Neretljak, we bring you Lady Gaga... as sung by Christopher Walken.

And Finally, Finally

I have to apologize to the lady that leads Ardy around on the segway. I don't want her fired. It was a cheap joke at her expense, I think she does marvelous work leading Ardy out to the segway and standing there. She absolutely must stay.

Damn right I'm Orange! Happy!! and Football-shaped!!!



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