J2 Matchday 6
The Gasmen claimed a much-needed win over Toyama to round-off Golden Week, ending a run of three games in eight days at Ajinomoto Stadium. Tomorrow, the travelling Tokyo Kop will descend on Gunma, for our first-ever league meeting with Kusatsu, the only football club in the world nicknamed after hot springs, Thespa (The Spa).
Depends how you look at things, really, doesn't it? Are you a glass-half-full, or half-empty, kind of person?
Half full? Hey, we're unbeaten in three, have kept clean sheets in four of five, and sit two points outside the promotion places, having managed so far with nothing from the still-rehabbing Naohiro Ishikawa, and next to nothing from much-lauded imports Pedro Junior and Roberto Cesar.
Half empty? Well, as good as the defence has been, we've scored two goals in five games, we clearly still struggle with teams who sit back and follow the blueprint, and Daiki Takamatsu and Yuhei Tokunaga, who are trying to fill the boots of our two long-term injury victims, Sota Hirayama and Takuji Yonemoto respectively, have been pretty poor imitations thus far.
So what does Mr. Okuma do here? Probably the same XI I guess, not wanting to change a winning side and all that, but I'd like to see two changes from the team that started against Toyama, with The Salad returning from suspension to play on his own up front, and Yohei Otake coming in on the left of a midfield 5.
Those changes would see Takamatsu and Hokuto Nakamura replaced, and they could have few complaints after indifferent performances in the last game. I'm against us playing two holding midfielders in any game, but there's no point banging on about it because Okuma clearly favours that in the absence of Yone, so I'm begrudgingly pairing Kazumasa Uesato with Tok.
This is actually our second visit up there this year, after a 1-1 draw in a preseason friendly, a game described at the time as the perfect introduction to what we could expect in J2.
They're a very interesting club, for sure. Their nickname is very clever, also sounds like a brand of Italian scooter, and as I said in Nine Months of ....., I think they have the nicest and most original club crest of the other 19 J2 teams. Their stadium, which holds 10,050 (just 50 over the J.League minimum) and is sponsored by a soy sauce company, is actually located in Maebashi, which is just as well because the whole population of the town of Kusatsu is under 7,500!
Their rise has been pretty meteoric, considering they started in the Fourth Division of the Gunma League just 16 years ago, and in 2005 they joined J2, finishing last. Their best finish was in 2009 (10th of 18; having finished 9th of 15 the season before), they slipped to 12th last season, and they sit 13th on six points after Matchday 5, their two wins coming over Oita and Kumamoto.
They lost at home to Okayama in their last game, last Sunday, with the visitors snatching all three points in second half stoppage time, and their XI at kickoff was: Kita; Kobayashi, Nakamura, Mikuriya, Nagata; Goto, Matsushita, Kumabayashi, Rafinha; Alex, Bandai. Alex got their goal, Rafinha was their top scorer last season.
Hopefully the return of The Salad will get our attacking play going, and away from home this should be a more open game. With a pretty big clash coming up next weekend (Shonan at home), this is a great chance for us to start to build some momentum.
Its gotta be.....Away Win.
You'll Never Walk Alone