01 September 2008

Training Match: Mito 1 - 2 Tochigi

I made the drive to Utsunomiya yesterday to see Mito's B team and reserves play Tochigi's top team and B team. The managers seemed to play eclectically, letting all players get some time and try new strategy (Mito's Shiozawa played as defender and forward in the same match), but the players played incredibly hard and there were several heated exchanges.

Tochigi's strategy was very effective against a team like Mito, with a hard press through the middle. Mito typically works the wings.

After the match I had an extensive e-mail correspondence with Tochigi midfielder Koji Fukasawa. He was covering Mito's Kanazawa (who led J2 last year in crosses, both in number and success in hitting the target), and put in a J. League worthy performance. He was very critical of his own play while the fans thought it was very good. If that is the case, you'll definitely see him as a pro very soon.

Tochigi SC seems on track to enter J2 next year. Everything has been approved and the last step is to finish 4th or higher in the JFL. Tochigi is in first place and has a more than 3 game advantage ahead of the 5th place team with 9 games left. Barring a total meltdown Tochigi will be facing Mito as a league rival in March. Tochigi would likely be joined by Okayama, Toyama, or Tottori. It seems almost certain that two of these four teams will be in J2, a decent chance for three, and even a small chance that all four could join. In addition, Tokyo amateur side Yokogawa Musashino could theoretically apply for J. League Associate Membership by the end of the year and create Tokyo's third professional team. Otherwise that team and Honda FC may remove two of the four promotion chances.

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