Mito played to yet another spirited win yesterday with four wins in a row. This results in being 3rd in the standings and perhaps 1st among teams showing talent and hard work.
I was working security at the main gate and only saw glimpses, but later with the highlights I saw that my glimpses happened to be the best of them. Arata scored for the second game in a row to be tied for 4th on goals early in the season. The lone goal of the game was typical of his style. After taking a great through pass from Kim Tae-Young, he pushed pass the chasing defenders and popped the ball past the keeper to place the ball perfectly. It's come to the point where Arata can have the ball, and seeing the situation, you can know 5 seconds ahead of time that the goal will be scored. He wasn't the only one, though, as many players made great chances, especially Takasaki. The defense also held together very well despite Nakamura's injury, making it an easy day for keeper Honma.
Still, the score was too close considering the adversary has never beaten Mito. And the team has to work on finishing off all those close chances. The team, taking an always-positive win at any cost attitude, also spent the last five minutes keeping the ball and running out the clock. Necessary, of course, but not exciting. Being ahead by two points would have added to the only 85 minutes of great display.
This marks Mito's first 4-game win streak since the team's inaugural J. League season in 2000. A win at Kusatsu on Saturday would be the same (as the last 5-game streak was the same streak as the 4-game). After Kusatsu comes Gifu, then Toyama, then Yokohama, Okayama, and assuming a strong showing on Saturday the first real challenge may be Sendai in late April. If Mito could win all of these, the team would surely place first ahead of Osaka and Shonan with plenty of cushion. Fanciful dreaming, but this year it seems possible... and for the first time more likely than to lose them. Indeed, when promotion contention is looked at a month from now, is it unreasonable to think that the current top three teams will be the three favorites to join J1 for 2010? Even considering the possibility speaks immensely for the heart of the players... Currently operating at the smallest budget of the 36 pro teams. 80,000,000 yen... The only pro team running at under US$1,000,000 a year. Hopefully 2009 will show that money isn't everything, but also hopefully this year's performance will result in more money coming in for 2010. :)