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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FC Tokyo Update - Ready for Sunday

The countdown is now well and truly in full swing, with only four days left until the J.League resumes, but more importantly for us, five days remaining until FC Tokyo return to action with our trip to fellow promotion-hopefuls Chiba. As with our last update, plenty's been happening around the club as we get ready for Sunday, although the squad was dealt a massive blow in our training game against Tochigi. First things first though...

Gotemba Training Camp
  The lads spent three days down in Shizuoka two weeks ago, and wrapped up a fairly intensive training camp on Thursday the 7th. This little trip presented the manager with a great chance to work Daiki Takamatsu (returning from his knee injury) and Jade North (just signed - though he had started training with us in February) up to speed, though unfortunately the two practices a day meant that the squad weren't able to get time off to enjoy the excellent outlet mall down there...

FC Tokyo 2-3 Tochigi SC
(Training Match 4 x 45 minutes)
  Oh, boy. Nobody saw it coming (that's usually how it works with broken legs), but we lost our attacking fulcrum (love that word) Sota Hirayama to a double leg fracture in this game, the Sunday before last. He'd gotten through 80-odd minutes, only had to get through to the end of the second 'quarter' and he would've been off for a bath, but then disaster struck. A 50-50 challenge, two guys slide in, one is a little late, and boom, you've lost your big striker for 4-6 months.
  Anyone who felt we didn't need Daiki Takamatsu or raised an eyebrow when we signed him is now eating humble pie (mine was alright, though a little bitter), as he now becomes the man, at least until The Salad is at full fitness and Big Bear feels he's ready to start and lead the line.
  The game? Oh, right. Yeah, we lost the marathon 180-minute encounter 3-2, but that was irrelevant on the day we lost the big man. As far as other team news went, starting from the back: the four 'keepers all played a quarter, with Shuichi Gonda getting the first 45; Yuhei Tokunaga returned and played the first two quarters; Jade North played the second and third 45s at centre half (pairing with Yasuyuki Konno for the second); Roberto played alongside Takuji Yonemoto in central midfield for the first 70-odd minutes (until Yone was replaced by Kazumasa Uesato, who went on to score our second goal); and Takamatsu made his first Gasmen appearance and got through almost 60 minutes, coming on for Tatsuya Yazawa towards the end of the second quarter and then playing all of the third. An extremely timely return from injury for big Daiki.
By the way, Tatsuya Suzuki scored our first goal, five minutes into the first quarter.

The Return of The Salad
  His buddies Roberto and Pedro Junior had long since returned (though P.J. has only been back in training for a week), but Roberto Cesar finally arrived back in the country on Friday morning, and all Gasmen supporters breathed a huge sigh of relief at the news. Apparently his return was delayed due to the birth of his child, and had nothing to do with him possibly "doing a Marquinhos." Given the injury to Sota, the return of our new number 9 (and he looks in great shape, which I'll get to) is hugely important, and he and Takamatsu should be able to cover upfront, possibly in tandem, which would be a proper handful for opposing defences in much the same way we expected Sota and The Salad to be in the first place.

Six Postponed Fixtures Rescheduled
  I appreciate that the J.League had a very difficult task in rescheduling six rounds of games in J2 (and five in J1) that were postponed in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan. Finding available matchdays was especially difficult for J2, as we had no real summer break on the original fixture list. So I knew we'd have some midweek games, and I understand why it took them so long to release the revised schedule. Having said all that though, when the revised fixture list was released last Friday, one of their decisions left me completely flummoxed (another word I love), and pretty darn frustrated to be honest. Here are FC Tokyo's six rescheduled games...
  • 6/29 (Wed) 7.30pm Okayama A
  • 8/7 (Sun) 6pm FC Gifu A
  • 9/4 (Sun) Tochigi SC H - Kumagaya
  • 9/28 (Wed) Kitakyushu H
  • 10/19 (Wed) Yokohama FC A
  • 10/26 (Wed) Oita H - Kokuritsu
  Anything jump out at you (apart from the nice colours) there? You saw it too? Good. Yes, that's right, on Sunday, September 4th, even though The Spews are AWAY to Chiba the same day, FC Tokyo has a home game at Kumagaya Nantoka-Nantoka Park Athletics Stadium IN SAITAMA! We have three 'home' stadiums that we play at during the course of the season, I find it impossible to believe that none of them were available to use on the first Sunday in September. I'll leave it at that, it's done, but I didn't buy a SOCIO membership to travel to Saitama...

FC Tokyo 5-1 Kofu
(Training Match 3 x 45 mins)
  Beautiful, sunny day at Kodaira last Saturday, and FC Tokyo put J1 side Kofu to the sword with a polished performance that demonstrated just what we are capable of when the lads are in the mood. Positives abounded, with Yohei Kajiyama, Naotake Hanyu and Yonemoto forming a solid central triangle in midfield - Yone, in particular, looked back to his ball-winning best, snapping into tackles all over the pitch; on the flanks Yazawa (and to a lesser extent Tatsuya) was a constant menace to the Kofu defence; Takamatsu presented for the full 85 minutes he was on the pitch and was rewarded with two goals; and North showed enough to suggest he's moved ahead of Tomokazu Nagira as our third centre-half with a composed 60-minute runout. On top of that, The Salad was around, and he's been off the donuts. More on him a bit further down...
  A very clever choice of opponent by team management, Kofu pose (or at least we thought they would) a similar threat to Chiba and their giant Norwegian striker Tor Hogne Aarøy in the form of last season's top scorer in J2 Mike Havenaar, but the mob from Yamanashi were seriously short of their best and weren't able to threaten down the flanks to create crossing opportunities. Havenaar ended up playing a lot like Hirayama last season, dropping very deep to receive the ball and never really threatening.
  I arrived a little late (again, but I didn't get lost, the train was delayed due to an earthquake), but just in time to see Takamatsu score his first Tokyo goal in the 9th minute, although it was hardly one for his highlight DVD. Still, it was a positive start to what would end up being a really positive display from the big man, with his second goal coming seven minutes into the second period, a free header at the far post that rounded off a period of sustained Gasmen pressure.
  Yazawa scored our other first period goal, finishing a brilliant move started by the man himself but also involving Casual and Tokunaga, with Tok supplying an excellent cross from the right. Hokuto netted the fourth with literally his first touch after coming on 30 minutes into the second period, and Sotan made it 5-0 early in the third period. Kofu finally broke through midway through the third period, by which time the game had become quite sloppy and we saw out time to win 5-1.

Otake ready to take a corner in the 3rd 'period.'
(Apologies for the crappy pic, but my phone camera is useless)
  The Salad had returned the day before, but it was obviously asking a lot of him to play any part here. Still, he was watching from the far side training pitch (quite close to me, as I was watching from basically in between the two pitches) and looked in great shape, a lot slimmer than in preseason or during the first game. During the third period he started doing some light exercises with Pedro Junior over the far side, and both of them seemed to be moving well, though as we know now P.J. wasn't considered fit enough to play in either game on the weekend. Naohiro Ishikawa also wasn't ready to play, but he jogged laps for over half an hour as he continues to push for a return to action.

FC Tokyo 1-0 Waseda University
(Training Match 2 x 30 mins)
  Sunday's much shorter game against the students of Waseda University was a more low-key affair, but most importantly saw The Salad get 47 minutes of work under his belt. No goals, but as I've mentioned, he's looking in good physical shape, so hopefully a full week of training will get him close to match sharpness for Sunday.
  The team for this game was made up of the players who didn't feature much (or at all for the 'keepers) against Kofu, and apart from The Salad being replaced upfront by a trainee (might've been the no. 40 who played the third 45 v Kofu, he looked lively) we kept the same team out there for all 60 minutes.
  So over the two games on the weekend Pedro Junior, Ishikawa, Uesato and Roberto didn't feature at all, but with the size of our squad we proved that we have the players to cover holes all over the pitch, and we appear to be rounding into form very nicely for Sunday.

Chiba Preview
  Look out for my Chiba preview later in the week.

You'll Never Walk Alone

1 comment:

  1. Has there been any official explanation from the club re. the saitama decision?