Mito and Kashima played in the 4th annual Ibaraki Soccer Festival yesterday, which Kashima won handily. Still, there were some points improved over last year.
Firstly, the defense on the whole was a lot better. As mentioned by several players, the second and third goals were sloppily let in. Mito was scrambling to recover at the start of the second half, and then again after the quick goal was scored, and the team didn't settle into the planned strategy until after letting in the third goal. From then on, defense was tight as it was in the first half. Aside from those five minutes of desperation, it was a 0 - 1 game.
Secondly, Mito played a combination of first team members and bench players (leaving out Bruno and Biju among others) and gave everyone play time, while Kashima seemed more or less to play its top team with substitutions only when necessary. No reason to feel negatively about that point, though. Last year both teams played teams including first and second team players, but this year Kashima has to prepare for Saturday's Xerox Super Cup against Hiroshima.
However, the undeniable difference in ability between Mito and the 2007 double champions is very high, and offensively there is no comparison. Kashima is able to link up passes amazingly and away from the Mito players while also seeming to always be able to be where Mito wants to pass. Most importantly Kashima is able to sneak through to the front and take shots, while Mito pushes up the side to cross in front of the goal. Those crosses rarely link up, and that strategy is only successful against a team of the same relative strength.
In any case, it was a fun time aside from getting fleeced by the parking lot and the cold of the wind in the shadow of the visitors side.