Last year's matches vs. Sendai were all high scoring encounters, and I knew that especially this year, the last 3-goal match would be an anomaly and that the second match would have more goals. Unfortunately, Sendai took all of them.
It is difficult to be optimistic. The team is woefully injured and the two players brought in to help patch things up aren't meshing well yet. It is now to the point where the unthinkable happened as attacking midfielders are in such short supply. Naoto Ishikawa, who joined the team last year after being on the youth squad, needed to fill the gap on the bench. With 9 minutes left and the match clearly out of reach, coach Kiyama put him in for the experience, and he became the first product of Mito's youth team to play in a J. League match. His former teammate Yanagisawa is on Yokogawa's roster in the JFL but has never played. Until Saturday, the highest league play of any former Mito youth team member was in the Tohoku regional league's Fukushima United as midfielder Ohashi moved there earlier this year.
Luckily that was the only historical event that took place. Another close call was the chance to lose by 6 goals for the first time in league history... It took several nice saves from Honma to prevent that.
Until this point, the only matches to allow large amounts of goals and then lose have been against Shonan, Osaka, and now Sendai. Mito can remain competitive against other teams despite injury, I feel. Those three teams though are also a foresight into J1 promotion this year as I don't think other teams will be able to overtake them. Mito seems stuck on a second tier with Kofu and Sapporo (with whom Mito could draw even after Arata's injury). Despite the injuries Mito seems competitive and ready for its best finish ever, probably beating the prediction of 8th place Kiyama made before the season. But even if Mito ONLY loses to the three top teams, they can probably keep a better record to make it to J1. It will take a combination of close competitors drawing and a resurgent Arata in 2 months as well as a drop in form for the top three sides for Mito to have a chance, and that probably won't happen.
Still, it's much better than fighting to prevent being the bottom club. The ride continues tomorrow at Gifu, where a loss would rattle the team's confidence and more than likely dump Mito out of the top 6 for the first time since round 2.