As we head into the extended break for the World Cup, I figured it was time for a review of sorts. With 12 games played, we're a third of the way through the season and the league table is starting to take shape. As it stands, we're top:
So yeah, things are looking pretty well placed for our traditional summertime improvement in form. Top, best goal difference, most goals scored and fewest loses. There's not much room for complaint, and credit where it's due, we're top because we've earned it. The influence of Ono cannot be overstated, and as I wrote at the end of last year, the lack of a creative midfield play maker was the difference between at top three and a top seven finish.
In goal, Nishibe is playing well and is yet to pull off any howlers. Long may it continue in Yamamoto's absence. I'm hoping for a speedy return to the squad, if not starting member, for Kaito. Should Nishibe get injured again, third choice Takeda in goal in not an ideal situation by any means.
We've got by fairly well with starting defenders Iwashita and Aoyama out injured. Bosnar may not be a world beater, but he's been absolutely massive for us so far this season. The two goals he's contributed aside, his contribution to the side was most notable by his absence against Niigata. We're a better team with the big man in the starting line up, and when Aoyama and Iwashita are fully fit, the back line selection will cause Kenta some headaches.
The midfield trio has to be, to my mind, Ono, Hyodo and... Honda. In Honda's absence, I'd have either Edamura in there next, followed by Teru. Ono is world class. Simple as that.
Up front, Okazaki, Jungo and Johnsen have been banging the goals in this year, but with the future in mind, hopefully Hara or Omae will get some run outs when the chance arises. Nagai is also chomping at the bit to get some back into some regular football. I don't doubt he can still compete at this level - his speed is scary, and I want to see more.
So anyway, all things considered, a great opening third, but with 22 games still to go, noone's getting carried away just yet. The season's been on hiatus for two days and I can't wait for its return! In the meantime, here's my highlights of the season so far:
Kyoto 2-4 S-Pulse
For the result it would have been the Sendai game, but for pure entertainment, a thrilling comeback, cards flying round like confetti, dodgy refereeing, half time desolation followed by full time elation, this game had pretty much everything. I wish I'd been there to witness it live, but a packed Dream House was something to remember in itself. There was enough in this game to talk about for days after. Will we have a crazier game than this before the season is up? I doubt it.
S-Pulse 2-1 Urawa
Johnsen's 93rd minute winner at a packed Ecopa. This video says it all:
S-Pulse 2-1 Omiya
(Yes, it was a cross but) Yamamoto's wonder strike in the 86th minute against Omiya. Timely and stunning.
Worst Game / Moment
S-Pulse 0-2 Niigata
In the last 12 games, there's been enough drama to last a year, but we're not even half way through. Stay tuned after the world cup for more crazy football fun J. style as S-Pulse march on towards glory!!