Friday, March 6, 2009

J2 2009 preview: Tochigi SC

Stadium:Tochigi Green Stadium (16,000)
Average attendance 2008: N/A
Last season's finish: 2nd (JFL)

2009 season's transfers:

22 DF Masataka Tamura (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
DF Atsushi Yoneyama (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
DF Norihiro Kawakami (Transferred from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
DF Yuki Inoue (Transferred from Ventforet Kofu)
DF Yuki Okubo (Transferred from Kyoto Sanga F.C.)
MF Keisuke Kurihara (Transferred from Vissel Kobe)
MF Takumi Motohashi (Transferred from Montedio Yamagata)
MF Atsushi Ito (Transferred from JEF United Ichihara Chiba)
FW Manabu Wakabayashi (Transferred from Omiya Ardija)
FW Kazuhisa Kawahara (On loan from Albirex Niigata)

3 DF Atsushi Terui (Transferred to FC Ganju Iwate)
4 DF Masakazu Washida (Transferred to F.C. Ryukyu)
8 MF Masamitsu Kobayashi (Retired)
9 FW Yusaku Ueno (Retired)
10 FW Satoshi Yokoyama (Released)
13 DF Toru Yamazaki (Transferred to Matsumoto Yamaga F.C.)
15 MF Isao Kubota (Transferred to New Wave Kitakyushu)
17 MF Koji Fukasawa (Transferred to Fukushima United F.C.)
22 GK Tatsumi Iida (Released)
23 DF Ryosuke Kawanabe (Released)
26 FW Yuichi Sakamoto (Released)
27 MF Daisuke Hoshi (Released)
30 DF Chon Ryungpop (Released)

My view on the transfers:
Tochigi have done a complete make-over since last season, and brought in 10 players from different clubs in J1. A few players have been released as well, including FW Yokoyama, who scored over 20 goals for them the last two seasons. The defence has been beefed up with Yoneyama and Okubo as the two biggest signings, both players who received a fair amount of playing time in J1 last season. MF Kurihara, who played 29 matches for Kobe last season, will take command of the midfield, and the veteran will be joined by former Montedio-player Motohashi. Motohashi only played a handful of matches last season, much due to injuries, but is still regarded as a very strong player. Ito from JEF is the 3rd newcomer, but he's not nearly as renowned as the two others. Up front Kawahara from Albirex and Wakabayashi from Omiya will surely make good additions to the team.

Preferrable starting line-up:
4-4-2: Shibasaki - Tamura / Okada , Kawakami / Irie, Yoneyama, Okubo - Sato, Motoyama, Kurihara, Takayasu - Kawahara, Matsuda / Wakabayashi

My view on the team:
Alot of unknown players, but they got a good group of core-players that should be able to carry the team forward. The midfield is without a doubt the strongest department, with the experienced Kurihara pulling the strings. Sato is a real threat going forward, and we should expect alot of goals from him. Motoyama and Takayasu are good players as well. The defence doesn't look the same though, and Tochigi will probably suffer some heavy defeats as they doesn't seem to have enough quality in their side to do anything about the bigger teams. Yoneyama is an experienced player though, and against the smaller teams Tochigi should be able to do well. Up front Kawahara is the main threat, but he's never been the type of player that bags 15-20 goals a season. Wakabayashi likewise, and Tochigi might have to rely on Matsuda for goals. Most likely Kawahara and Matsuda will be the starting members.

Player to watch: Yukihiko Sato

Manager: Hiroshi Matsuda
Tochigi got a good coach in Matsuda, who's been in charge of both Avispa and Vissel in the past. Not a defensive-oriented coach, so expect a Tochigi-side that won't be afraid of going forward.

Tochigi enjoy's a good back-up among the local fans, but doesn't have the biggest fanbase.The fans are as passionate as others though, but I doubt the Tochigi Green Stadium will be sold out at any time this season.

Where they will finish:
Tochigi is the newly-promoted team that looks the strongest on paper, with their numerous additions to the team. A nice 2nd place finish in last year's JFL isn't too bad either, so clearly it's a team that got some quality. I think they will be able to win a few matches, but more likely they will suffer the same "destiny" as Gifu did last year, not being quite able to perform consistently over the full season.


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