29 July 2009

Mito 3 - 1 Tosu

Mito beats Tosu by 2 goals yet again with the only downside to the performance being the Tosu consolation goal late in the match. This was the only one allowed by Mito in July's six matches.

Mito started the scoring early as Kikuoka fired a free kick straight at the goal keeper six minutes in. A kind Tosu blocker allowed it to slightly bounce off his hip and head straight in for the opening goal. Goals would then be scored by Tae-Yon Kim and Kota Yoshihara. Kim's goal was controversial to Tosu fans and players as the referree has nudged to the ground by a Tosu player and many on the field were distracted, perhaps thinking it was a foul. But just like in pro wrestling, the referree's condition has no effect on play as long as his health is not in danger, and the match continues. Kim took the ball and fired it from almost half the field length into a goal as no Tosu players made an attempt to even move near the ball to stop it. The official stood up and immediately signalled that the goal was scored. Yoshihara's goal was less controversial, and was just a good header to put Mito up by three.

By beating Tosu who were also on a good run, Mito has tallied the best 10-game record in the division and snuck up on the leading teams. Only 2 wins seperates Mito from promotion territory and 3 wins from1st place. Arata has returned, Sendai and Shonan are both slumping, and Osaka isn't as dominant in matches as before. Saturday's match home vs. Tochigi (the first I'll have been able to attend in a while) probably won't pose much of a problem, but the next match at Shonan may be the match of the year for both teams.

Some Japanese commentators are starting to put Mito as a prediction for 3rd place and promotion this year, and while Osaka, Shonan, Sendai, and Kofu are all possible to be somewhere in the top 3, it's hard to see what other teams are able to beat Mito at this stage. The teams of these 5 with the best 3 records over the last leg of the season will be promoted. This leg Mito has shown that it can be right there despite the loss of a star player that returns full time for the home stretch.

How the poorest pro team in the country will keep the team together after this year, promoted or not, is now a major worry, though. Drawing this much attention means the wolves will be at the door in December, stripping away any players hoping to earn more money from a club with plenty to spare. Promotion could mean the first time a club goes from J2 into J1 with a substantially weaker team.

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