Sunday, 26 February 2012

Agent Orange: Carlinhos' Way

Because I have no idea how to write about yesterday in a consistent, flowing bit of prose, I'm opting to write in the "diary" format. Many writers better than myself have used the diary format to put out interesting articles. Ben Mabley has a series out about the Club World Cup that is both longer and more interesting than the actual event, but I digress. Here goes... and I'm sorry.

It's raining or cloudy when I wake up. I don't really know which because I am too damn lazy to look out the window. That is pretty damn lazy. I bought a ticket but I'm debating whether or not to go to the game because I feel lousy and it is going to be broadcast at 7pm on TeleTama anyway. It's a chance, however, to see a team who I have never seen before: Hangzhou Greentown, headed by the owl-like Takeshi Okada. Barring a shock run in the Emperor's Cup, or a first round match up with a University team who has green uniforms, Omiya won't play another team in green this year. I wolf down some Costco frozen pizza - delightful with a dash of tabasco - and head out for NACK5.

1pm and the lineups are out and I'm considering whether or not to turn around and go home. The good news is that all five of the new signings will start. The bad news is that Hayato Hashimoto is playing as the shadow striker behind Yu Hasegawa, and Daigo Watanabe is starting on the right. Good to see that coach Jun Suzuki is in midseason form.

Now I'm in Omiya and headed towards the Orange Square club shop. I'm debating now about buying a season seat before or after the game... or kind of at all. I made up my mind during the week that I was going to buy a season pass, but I'm looking at the lineup and having second thoughts.

At Orange Square. I'm buying. My problem is that I had to get another ticket on the last day of the 2011 season because my membership card doesn't work on the scanners. During the awful Kashima Antlers game in November, which actually killed a small part of my soul, I had been delayed a good ten to fifteen minutes because my card didn't work. I was asked if I had my receipt or other proof that I had a season seat and I said Yes. I then held up my membership card and season seat card, which absolutely baffled the girl and her supervisor for some reason. I guess it was my fault that I don't carry around receipts for things that I bought eight months ago.

I buy my ticket. The people at Orange Square are very helpful with my member card problem and set up a new membership for me. I wish the rest of the team worked as well as the ladies at Orange Square. Arguably the best part of the club.

I'm walking through Omiya Park. In terms of urban stadia, it's the best walk in Japan. Shizuoka has the unique mountain setting around Outsourcing but it's uphill and you need a car (or much better lungs) to get there. Omiya has the turtle pond, the shrine, the strange stone edifice right outside of the stadium... much better than anything else I've seen in Japan.

Up to the gate, nobody around. Great! Oh wait, I have to go around the stadium to Gate 2 because counting is hard, I suppose. Full house. I can see the strictness.

There's 7000 people tops. Thank God they didn't ask me for a receipt for my ticket.

One thing you might not know about me is that I absolutely hate assholes who wear team gear for teams that aren't playing that day. During the Fan Festa event at the end of January, some tool was wearing a Yokohama F Marinos scarf. Great scarf! It would look even better in, you know, Yokohama. Or shoved up the guy's ass.

Anyhow, I get to Gate 2 and the first thing I see is two fucking morons smoking and standing around in their Urawa Reds parkas. One of them is Japanese and the other is a foreign guy who has the build of Fred Flintstone. Of course a foreign guy shows up to NACK5 in an Urawa parka. I mutter under my breath and walk on, hoping the douchebag doesn't come up to me and start talking about how much better the Reds fans are.

Fred Flintstone turns around. It's not Fred Flintstone at all. It's new Urawa coach Mihailo Petrovic. Yabba dabba doo! I still think he's a dick for coming to an Omiya game in Urawa gear, or just for taking the Urawa job.

I'm at my seat now. Hangzhou Greentown has a travelling group of two supporters. They also have some really ugly uniforms, which remind me of the times that I had to drop stuff off for my mother to the old ladies in my neighborhood. I swear in every one of those ladies' houses they had stale, hard ribbon candy in glass candy dishes. Every time I tried to grab a piece, the whole assortment of candy would come out of the dish in one big blob.  

Talking of uniforms, hates Omiya's this year but seems to like things with lines and waves that don't really make sense. I think that the Albirex Niigata away jersey is the best, followed by Shimizu S-Pulse and their globe shirts, and ours. Every time I look at Sanfrecce Hiroshima's uniform, I can see a sailboat if I relax my eyes. Urawa's are bad because they have the dyslexic "energy drink" sponsor plastered on the front, along with the Greek restaurant badge. FC Tokyo also has a really awful uniform compared to the nice one they had last year. And LifeVal sounds like a feminine hygeine product.

Game time. I'm already sad watching Watanabe send a cross over the endline. Hayato is already walking. Has he taken up the mantle of Chikara Fujimoto? Ten minutes in and Hayato muffs a wide open chance, bouncing a header off the turf and ricocheting the ball over the crossbar. Don't think he could accomplish that again if he tried.

Greentown's former Kawasaki Frontale player Renatinho looks dangerous. It's getting distressing watching him muscle Kazuhiro Murakami, Watanabe, and Takuya Aoki or Hayato off the ball at the same time. The ball is predominantly on the right side of the field. When it goes to the left, Takumi Shimohira and Cho Young Cheol are showing flashes of skill but the ending isn't there. The left side is all new players and the right side is all returnees. Watching this game, you wouldn't know it.

Hangzhou opens the scoring when Murakami and Watanabe fail to close on Fan Xiaodong who sends a nice cross to the hurdling Wang Song. I'm not sure if I'm getting the names right. All the names are on the scoreboard in kanji, which is confusing as hell considering you have Japanese, Chinese and Korean players on the field.

Hangzhou is getting most of the early calls - not surprising considering that today's ref is the noxious Hiroyuki Kimura. Hangzhou goes in studs up. Foul for us. Second one is even worse and gives Omiya a free kick right outside the box. Hangzhou is arguing and pushing, a lot like the language students in my house. I really want to win this game because I don't like the guys in my house. Why?

1. Because when they talk to each other in their room they scream and it comes through the wall in a form that sounds like the adults in Peanuts cartoons.

2. Because they can't take a dump without crapping all over the toilet seats.

I don't know if any of them are Hangzhou fans but I like to think they are... unless Hangzhou wins. Carlinhos gets speared down, no call.

Halftime. Outside of some flashes from Carlinhos and the left side wings, we look like a team headed to J2. Yosuke Kataoka is on the bench, always a threat to come in and make everything worse. All the other subs would be preferable to either Watanabe or Hashimoto.

I move to the supporters' section and stand with one of my fellow road travellers. We talk about how bad Hayato Hashimoto is. I'm glad I'm not alone in this thought.

Same lineup for the start of the second half. Carlinhos is beginning to take the game over. You saw him doing it the first half but now he is everywhere on the field. The ball is going away from the right side and is firmly on the left. The short passing game is really good but the ball seems to end up with Murakami, Hashimoto or Watanabe. Carlinhos takes his first shot of the game and misses wide but pumps his arm in the air in the universal sign to Make Some Noise! 

The supporters have a Carlinhos chant that is sung to the tune of La Cucaracha. The original song is about about a cockroach who can't move because he loses his back legs. Not your finest moment, supporters.

Sub time. Keigo Higashi comes on for Hashimoto. A game-changer. Three minutes later, Cho Young Cheol comes across and puts in a lovely shot past the keeper. I hope that Jun Suzuki is not toying with the idea of playing Keigo as the Joker, like he did with Naoki Ishihara last year. I'm still stunned that Hashimoto got the start over Kota Ueda or Jun Kanakubo. I don't know why Rafael is out and now I'm wondering if we will see him anytime soon. I haven't mentioned Yu Hasegawa up to now because he looks pretty bad. I bestow the name Hiroshi Morita Junior on him, even though he does seem to work much harder than our former striker ever did. Hasegawa reminds me a bit of Yoshihito Fujita.

Goal two comes on a corner in which Yuki Fukaya dives for a header and deflects the ball across goal to a sliding Cho. I don't remember seeing any goals like that before. Omiya is controlling the game.

Renatinho is headed off the field. I don't know what he did at Kawasaki to get himself banished to the C-League but he is a good player. 
Kim Young Gwon is on for us and the team is pushing much farther forward now. Ueda gets a few moments on the wing and his play with Carlinhos looks dangerous already. Shintaro Shimizu gets a minute of play time to create something. He doesn't. 

Game over. Cho is very good at speaking Japanese which surprises me a bit. He's been here five years so it shouldn't, but it still does. Carlinhos gets a bit lost and doesn't make it to the semi-annual (God, I hope not... please at least seven this year) victory bow in front of the home supporters. Oh well, I'm glad I went and I'm home just in time to watch the replay and get mad again at Hayato Hashimoto.

Quick Thoughts

1. Carlinhos is better than Ueda.

2. I don't think Aoki is better than Ueda, but he's bigger and since Carlinhos is small it makes some sense to have Aoki in the team. However, Watanabe is small and nowhere near the player that Ueda is.

3. The only player on the team that I would like to see less in a game than Hayato Hashimoto is Yosuke Kataoka. That being said, I'm glad we don't have a situation like the one going on with the NBA team I follow, the Los Angeles Clippers. For a long time the Clippers have been the laughing stock of pro sports. This year, they have vastly improved and have much higher expectations. There still are some guys that aren't really good players though and one of them, Ryan Gomes, made a horrendous decision that cost the team a victory against league power San Antonio Spurs. After the game, Gomes and his family received death threats from "fans" of the Clippers. I don't ever want to see Kataoka or Hayato play for Omiya, but c'mon... death threats? That's too far.
4. Kosuke Kikuchi and Takumi Shimohira looked good together. Kim and Shimohira seemed a little more erratic. I liked Shimohira's speed and short passing game but the crosses and finishing need work.

5. The reserves also beat Greentown 4-2 earlier in the day, Jun Kanakubo and Masahiko Ichikawa scoring two goals apiece.

Orange! Happier!! Football!!! Cho gets the hero.



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