So the first game has come and gone and how do I feel. Well, honestly better than I expected. I was quite afraid that FC Tokyo on a high after promotion, a cup win and a first Asian Champions League win, might come out of the blocks flying. In fact, it was Ardija that did that and almost got an early goal through Higashi. I definitely think that the Squirrels were far better in possession than in defence where they tended to close the attacking players down too slowly, if at all. Perhaps as I come from England, this opinion stems from our way of defending and I should give more credence to the Japanese way but frankly it worries me if we are going to give better teams than FC Tokyo time and space in and around our penalty area.
Concerning our attack-minded players, I was impressed when they moved the ball around with speed and accuracy and this on occasion created difficulties for the opposition's defense and chances for us to score. For me, this is going to be crucial in our attempts to score more goals and kill teams off, which we quite often (!!) failed to do last season. Rafael seemed to be struggling for pace and wanted too much time on the ball in the first half. Often the Tokyo defender was able to crowd him out too easily and a sniff of a chance to get free in space was gone. In the second half Rafael performed much better and this leads me to suspect that he is not 100% match fit. If this is the case, let's hope he gets there pretty quickly. I have no idea how his pre-season went, but one wonders! Kitano did reasonably well in goal, cannot be blamed for FC Tokyo's goal which as I have said elsewhere, was a wonder goal and I am happy with him being first choice. I thought Daigo Watanabe played well and got into some useful forward positions in the first half especially. I liked the performance of Cho Young-Cheol who has just joined from Albirex Nigata and Carlinho seemed to be full of energy in the midfield and covered well too. he also did a bit of theatrics to get the crowd going in the 2nd half which I enjoyed seeing.
Two of my favorite players in the Omiya squad are Kota Ueda and Keigo Higashi. Higashi, I have already mentioned as having a good game, but unfortunately Kota Ueda took no part in the match. I think he should get a starting place in the team, He is a good, young midfielder and I have been impressed with his performances and drive in the past and can't see why Jun Suzuki refuses to pick him.
As for FC Tokyo, I still think they are a team going places. We have to take into account their long journey midweek and also that it was their first game in J1 for one year. With a few new players added to their squad, they will gel and gradually grow in confidence as the season progresses. However in this game, they really didn't threaten Omiya much, which must be a worry to their expectant fans. Was it the famous ACL effect? Or just the first game of the season under a new manager and these things take time.
As for Omiya, I hope they take the positive from the game, keep working hard in training and improve in their next J1 outing. The Squirrels' next game is Saturday March 17th, away to Albirex Nigata. A big day for Yong-Cheol returning so soon to his old stomping ground and a big chance for us to get some points on the board. FC Tokyo will take on Nagoya Grampus at home on the same day. A much more difficult test which will test the Gasmen much more I imagine than did us Squirrels. Let's go Omiya!!