Friday, June 3, 2011

2011 at the quarterpost


It was around this time last year when Kashiwa was running roughshod over the rest of J2. Buoyed by the return of Nelsinho after his efforts in 2009 fell just short for survival the wily veteran coach brought back his core, jettisoned some talented but peripheral players, and led the squad to a dominating first place finish in J2.

This year, the squad was touted by most of the pundits in medialand to finish in a solid midtable position. Well, early results have shown the pundits have missed the mark.

In one of the strangest seasons in recent memory (due in large part to the tragic events of March 11th), perennial also-ran Kashiwa being at the top of the J League has to rank right up there as a huge shock. Stats have been overwhelmingly one sided in their favor as well.

For Kashiwa, it starts on defense. After 8 games, the squad is allowing a stingy 4 goals. That stat is a bit misleading though because they allowed 2 to Montedio in their only loss of the season after starting a patchwork back 4. Park Dong Hyuk, the foundation of last years back line, went down in the third game of the season against Kofu. In his place, Tatsuya Masushima has filled in commendably. The team has only allowed 1 goal in the 4 games he's started. The side back duo of Hiroki Sakai and veteran Brazilian Jorge Wagner have been upgrades over the 2009 combo of Yuzo Kobayashi (Yokohama) and Yusuke Murakami.

The offense currently boasts 4 of the top 10 scorers in the J League, starting with 33 year old striker Hideaki Kitajima. Kitajima was seen as an afterthought going into the season but has already managed to match his goal output from last year with 4. The engine of the squad is Leandro Dominguez who can beat teams with pinpoint passes or strikes of his own.

Surprisingly, Kashiwa has been a force on offense while lacking real contributions from last years starting striker duo of Masakatsu Sawa and Ryohei Hayashi. Former Celtic benchwarmer and JEF Chiba starlet Koki Mizuno has yet to make any impact on the team after a midseason transfer last year.

While the team has been a bright point, the fans have not been as successful in representing. During the Kofu game, some fans decided to scream racially tinged obscenities at former Japan youth team member Mike Haavenar. The incident have added to a less than stellar reputation for the Hitachi faithful.

Now the squad starts the tougher part of their schedule, starting with Yokohama on the 11th. Kashima has yet to play any of the other top 5 squads yet this year, how they fare in those matches will determine if they are ready to be contenders.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

King of the Sun

Less than one hour away until gametime and Kashiwa finds itself on a remarkable 13 game unbeaten streak. More impressive though, is the way it's come about.

Last year, the team was the worst defense in J1. Hands down. So Nelsinho purged alot of the guys who were regular contributors to the back line. On the outs were former stalwarts Kota Sugiyama (Shimizu), DF Jiro Kamata (Vegalta), Yusuke Muraki, and Masahiro Koga (bench). In their place, Park Dong Hyok, Naoya Kondo, Yuzo Kobayashi, and Wataru Hashimoto have comprised a back line that has allowed a measly 5 goals in 13 contests. 5 goals. Last year, the team allowed 4 goals in a game 4 times and 3 goals 5 times.

The offense has been even more amazing. The squad is tied for 3rd in the league with 24 goals. They've managed to do this without the services of last years leading scorers Franca (10 goals-in and out with multiple injuries), Yuji Otsu (6 goals-out with injuries), Minoru Suganuma (4 goals, not in Nelsinhos plans), Popo (4 goals relased to Vissel Kobe), Yusuke Murakami (4 goals, injured and not in Nelsinhos plans), and Hideaki Kitajima (4 goals, infrequent player).

Nelsinho has opted instead to go with a more youthful group anchored by new Brazilian import Leandro Dominguez, and supplemented with young offensive players Junya Tanaka, Masato Kudo, and Akimi Barada. All three of the youngsters accounted for all 6 goals in a big win over potential promotion challenger Tokushima Vortis.

The core of this team is very young. Of the starting 11, only Park Dong Hyok is over 30. Today's roster only has one guy over 30 and a plethora of guys under 23.

7 of the 18 members of today's lineup came from the Kashiwa U-18 program. 10 have been with the team their entire professional careers.

Looking at this squad, it has to remind you of the dominant Sanfrecce side from 2 years ago. That team disappointed and slumped to 16th place, kept most of its core and manager in place and rolled to a comfortable championship. They came up to J1 the next year and finished a remarkable 4th.

The job Nelsinho has done has been remarkable, and somewhat predictable. His M.O. has been to come in and shake things up, get instant results, and leave. Next year will be the real test of his acumen.

(As of this posting, last place Thespa Kusatsu put up a goal in the 9th minute of play to take a
1-0 lead......the streak might be coming to a close today.)

Anyhow, if you missed it, here are some links to highlights

2-1 win versus Kataller Toyama

6-0 slaughter of Tokushima Vortis

2-0 victory over FC gifu

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life on Top

Kashiwa ventures north to the Great White Kingdom of Sapporo to meet up with old friend Nobuhiro Ishizaki. You may remember Ishizaki as the clubs former manager and the 2005 mastermind of the Verdy slaughter of Real Madrid. The shock removal of Ishizaki was bad for both manager and club as Reysol plummeted to 16th place and Ishizaki failed to get new squad Consadole promoted.
This year sees Consadole hovering just below the middle with 2 wins, 2 losses, and a tie on the campaign. 2 dissapointing blowouts sandwich the two less than convincing wins for the squad. In fact, of the 5 teams that Consadole has played this campaign, none would be considered front runners for promotion.
Consadole is led on offense by former FC Tokyo forward Yusuke Kondo, who netted both goals in a win over Fagiano Okayama. In a more publicized move, Consadole picked up decrepit former Jubilo legend Gon Nakayama, who thus far has shown no impact on the team.
The key to this game will be possesion in the midfield and getting the ball to the feet of Leandro and Otsu. Do that and chalk up a win. Finishing would be nice as well.
This one is a bit dirty so be warned

Monday, April 5, 2010

Best Team in Japan....

Besides the 18 other teams in J1 of course.

Kashiwa now finds itself in the lofty position of being alone at the top of J2. A tense match between the two toughest defenses ended in a 1-0 victory for Kashiwa after Yuji Otsu managed to tap in a rebound off of a Leandro Dominguez shot. While Kashiwa did manage to outshoot a short handed Mito team (Defender Masashi Owada was shown straight red after going studs up into Masakatsu Sawa) 25 to 3, the Ibaraki side showed alot of composure along the back line. Keiji Honma really had an outstanding game in net, unfortunately for Mito, Otsu was in the right (and possibly offside) place at the right time

Final score 1-0

A far less enthralling encounter happened today when the Kashiwa reserves faced off against the Mito B squad. One of the older gentlemen on the squad, Hideaki Kitajima managed to put up a hattrick on the day with one PK and two others in the run of play. Minoru Suganuma managed one goal and earned the PK that put Kashiwa ahead early. Other goals were scored by Yuji Otsu, Yohei Kurakawa, and Junya Tanaka.

7-2 final

Next up is a visit to Consadole and old gaffer Ishizaki.

Is there something in the Chiba Bay water?

Is it just me or has Kashiwa produced it's fair share of dirty players over the years.

Let's take a look.......

Kota Sugiyama at Shimizu led the league in yellow cards last year with a whopping 12. Add in the two reds and the former Kashiwaa midfielder spent as much time sitting as he did fouling.

He was closely trailed by former teammate and current Kashiwa starting DF Yuzo Kobayashi who had 11. Not to be outdone, the peroxide topped hardman had a league leading 3 reds last year.

It took awhile but Alceu suited up in a J league game after 2 years of being absent. In 2007, the compact d mid racked up 11 yellows and 2 reds in his debut campaign. In 2008, the Brazilian roughed up then Omiya striker Kota Yoshihara in a training match between the orange part of the Noda derby and Consadole Sapporo. He would be released days later.

Injuries cut short the 2009 campaign of Masahiro Koga, before that he managed to get 9 yellows and 2 reds in his inagural Kashiwa campaign. He followed that up with an 8 and 3.

Current Verdy defender and beautifully bald headed former Kashiwa Reysolista Yukio Tsuchiya only played one season in yellow, but is universally hated in Saitama for not only abandoning Omiya in a rough 2007 offseason but for breaking the leg of Urawa poster boy Tatsuya Tanaka on a nightmarish tackle. Reports say the tackle haunts Tsuchiya to this day.

Other notable players of ill repute include a pair of National Teamers in Keiji Tamada and Kisho Yano. Tamada has made a reputation for himself as a diver rivaled only by Greg Louganis. Kisho Yano has added the occasional cheap shot to his repetoire of dives and fake injuries. The Niigata man gets around 6 to 7 yellows a year......not a good number for a striker.

You have to wonder why it is that Kashiwa seems to attract it's fair share of thugs and miscreants. Part of it might be the hardcore fanbase. While I personally have had no problems with any Kashiwa fan (indeed some of the people I like the most are Kashiwa supporters), there have been tales of them roughing up opposing supporters. While they are known for irreverent and sometimes risque displays of affection for their squad, the flipside is there might bea darker undercurrent of passion that isn't so great.

It could also be traced back to one of thee iconic players in Kashiwa and World soccer history. Bulgarian maestro Hristo Stoichkov played in Kashiwa for a brief time back in 1998 and 1999. The talented and angry maestro put up 12 goals in 27 games for the club. While his talents and exploits on the field have been chronicled, Hristo might be known more for his less than savory antics. Tales from MLS include how he used to ask for money for interviews and his ruthless play on the field, taking cheap shots and daring cowed officials to reprimand him.

The worst of his tales of aggression happened in a training match between DC United and American University when Stoichkov broke the leg of a college player after allegedly becoming angry at an officials decision.

Story Here

Was it enough to infect the DNA of the squad or was the squad aggresive from it's inception. Who knows?

No Earwigs today...two will come next time

Friday, April 2, 2010

Your Great Big Mito Preview!

I tried to find some sort of link between the two clubs and found absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. No common personnel whatsoever. Usually when I write these previews, I always fall back on the easy angle of saying "Blahblah faces his former teammates in what sure is to be a bloodbath of epic proportions" or some such nonsense, but I have nothing.
Mito finds itself currently stuck in a very muddled middle of the pack. The team has yet to lose a game so far in 2010, but has only one win on its books, that coming in a 2-1 victory over Tochigi FC. Since then they have managed to draw three times and score only once. Both squads are among the league leaders in defense (Actually Kashiwa is first with 1 goal allowed on the year and Mito is tied for second with 2). Both teams have managed to struggle on the offensive end. Kashiwa has yet to find a viable replacement for the Ancient Goalhawk Franca while Mito relies on a pair of Saitama castoffs in former NT and Omiya Ardija whipping boy Kota Yoshihara and former Urawa Red and Thespa Junki Koike.
Mito is one of the lower funded teams in J2 but still manage to stay competitive, especially in the early parts of the season. Possibly the most dangerous player on the team is a returner from the K League, Masahiro Ohashi. Ohashi is not the swiftest player on the pitch but can do damage through his right foot. He could possibly be the best set piece specialist in J2. However he can be attacked on the defensive side of the ball. It's going to come down to Sawa and Leandro to exploit the matchup.
Battle......Dragons....Get it?
Vendo's views at the Hollyhock

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blog Roll

I have been neglectful in letting you in on other sources of J League info.

First off, no Kashiwa blog could be complete without a mention of it's archrival JEF Chiba.

F2FF or From the second floor of Fukuari has gone through a facelift but still provides the best English language coverage of the Yellow Dogs of Chiba.

Verdy pops in with not one but two entries

Nerdy at Tokyo Nerdy is already linked at the bottom.......It's an eclectic ride through the dark world of Verdy. Spooky indeed.

Another of the semi-frequent posters at Soilent Green, Ultra Verdy pitches in his views from lovely France. I think.

His site is here

If you hurry, you can see a long clip of Kashiwa's game with Verdy.

Richy has the wonderful Forza FC Gifu site.....which is linked at the bottom.

The scrappy team Avispa Fukuoka is represented by a scrappy blog from Germany, Super Avispa!

Nice read and funny!

Vendo in Mito checks in with the Mito Hollyhock blog!!!!!!! The people's team in Ibaraki

Finally, the originator of the J2 blog in English, Shrimp checks in with Shrimp with Yokohama FC

There's also a guy who writes about Sapporo but he only links to Sapporo stuff so I'm not going to bother providing a link. Other sites have it. I will get around to putting these wonderful blogs in the link section later but if you are interested in J2, I suggest you check em out!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Epic Victory!!!!!!

After a slow start, Kashiwa's Brazilian striker broke a tie to lead Reysol to an epic victory!

7-1 over Ryutsu Keizai University!

(Oh yeah, 2-0 over Verdy as well)

Might as well talk about that a bit as well. Leandro Dominguez opened his account for Kashiwa when former Verdy boy Hayashi set up the winning goal with a pass while posting up. Hayashi, who entered as a sub for the returning Yuji Otsu was hands down the star of the game notching one goal and one assist. It looks like the team is going to handle the loss of Franca by going with a committee.

My personal favorite player (obviously not Nelsinho's though) Minoru Suganuma was on the bench but did not play in the game. He did however play one half against Ryutsu Keizai in which he set up the lone goal for Reysol in the first half. When he was removed with Barada, Hayashi, and Watanabe, the team responded and rolled for 6 goals, with two each for Alceu and Efrain Rintaro.

I think this might be a case where the player doesn't fit the system. Under Ishizaki, Suganuma thrived. He was able to put his head down and go for the goal in the 4-5-1 system. In the 4-4-2, he is forced to cover more ground, especially because the D mids play so far back. He's also forced to play on the right side of the field, with Otsu claiming his left spot after Nelsinho came into the fold.

Now that Leandro Dominguez is on the right, Suganuma has been forced to battle with Kudo, Hayashi, Tanaka, and Barada for sub spots.

He's a good talent and he's only 24. It seems like a waste but at the same time it's hard to argue with Nelsinho. He has managed to get results by not using Suganuma more than when the young wing is in the lineup. You can't demonize Nelsinho because the results are proving him right. And as long as others are producing in their short stints, there is no reason to play him.

As I wrote on Go Go Omiya Ardija, my hope was for him to go home to Omiya. I think in that system, he would really find his stride. He would be returning home and playing in a system that depends on players who can get the long ball and hold it against larger players and get a shot off. That is the one thing that Suganuma can do well. It's also addition by subtraction for's one less guy in a crowded rotation.

She is in Reysol colors.