Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not just a training match

By Ray Gunawan

Kashiwagi in action for Urawa in their training match
So normally a training match isn't anything to get excited about, but sometimes it is.

Our training match against Niigata might just be one to get excited about. The final score of 3-0 is impressive; more importantly it shows that we might just have signs of life in our attack and our defense might not have to rely on Tsuboi and Nobu Yamada when either Nagata or Spiranovic is unavailable.

This was the starting XI:

GK: Yamagishi
DF: Ugajin; Aoyama; Tsutsumi; Noda
MF: Nozaki (Youth); Kashiwagi; Kojima
FW: Umesaki; Sergio; Yajima (Youth) 

Sergio scored in the first half and Umesaki grabbed a double in the second half.

Since regaining full fitness after a string of injuries Umesaki has been in impressive form for the Reds. When healthy Umesaki has been impressive for the Reds, it's just that he keeps on getting injured. I just hope that his injuries are behind him, imagine a front three which includes Genki and Umesaki on either flank; sounds appealing doesn't it?

All we need is a striker to slot in between them; hopefully we can find one in the Washington mould?

Yes I know it's just a training match, and I shouldn't get overly excited, but it is encouraging every time we shutout the opposition. Having Tsuboi and Nobu Yamada as your CB will do that to you. 

Seeing Aoyama playing well in defence along side our other younger defenders (Tsutsumi and Noda) is encouraging to see. I know Aoyama is naturally a defensive midfielder, but he does have the size and tools to play CB. Then we need to factor in Mizuki Hamada, who represented Japan U22 alongside Genki, can I start to hoping and believe we wont see Tsuboi and Nobuhisa in defense again?

What caught my attention the most from this training match was the performance of two individuals; Kashiwagi and Ugajin.

Both, from all reports, had solid outings after struggling so far in 2011. Coming into the 2011 season, both Kashiwagi and Ugajin were meant to be prominent figures, first team regulars but both haven't lived up to their expectation.

Kashiwagi came to the Reds at the beginning of the 2010 season from Hiroshima and was suppose to be our new playmaker. That didn't happen last year because Ponte was still pulling the strings; the offence went through Ponte as long as he was on the field. After Ponte left at the end of 2010 alot of us thought that the attack would be Kashiwagi's to run, but enter Marcio Richardes.

I wasn't too happy originally when they signed Richardes from Niigata as his game was similar to that of Ponte which would impede Kashiwagi's role on the team. I'm of the opinion that Kashiwagi's poor form this year is the result of bringing in Richardes, and Richardes hasn't been playing well this year. Is Richardes still on the field because we're paying him too much to be sitting on the bench? (Another time maybe?)

As for Ugajin, he was signed at the back end of 2009 from Ryutsu Keizai University and nothing was really expected from him. He was an ex-Urawa youth player so I guess it was an obvious choice for him to go back. When coach Finke gave him an opportunity he took it with both hands and didn't look back; that was until this year.

Americans call this phenomenon the "sophomore slump"; it happens to second year players who don't live up to the expectations (which are sometimes unfair), placed on them after a solid rookie season (first year). Ugajin exceeded everyone's expectation in 2010 and I do believe he will be back, hopefully sooner rather then later because he's an important piece to not only our defence, but our attack as well.

Imagine having Ugajin linking up with Genki on the left flank; the possibilities.

Ray runs the URDBLOG website focusing on all things Urawa Reds. Ray will contribute the occasional article to Asian Football Feast focusing on the happenings at Saitama.


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