After having a lot of training sessions to try and build fitness and try to bring the new players into the squad we played our first games of the week against Honda Lock and a Kyushu Universities team.
Honda Lock play in the JFL which used to be considered the 3rd level of Japanese football, but since the introduction of J3 is now probably generally thought to be the 4th level.
I say generally because there i the fairly odd situation of company teams in Japan which 25 years ago were the strongest in the country, but were not allowed to enter the J-League when it started. Some of these company teams turned into J-League teams without the company name in their title (but often kept the company behind them unofficially; ie Toyota became Nagoya Grampus, Mazda became Sanfrecce).
Some company teams kept going and have left teams like Honda Lock which are probably more than good enough to compete in J3, but choose not to do so.
They certainly aren’t at J2 level and are a club which Avispa should be looking to score 3-4 goals past and practice a few new set plays and work on their transitions from defence to attack.
It didn’t really work out like that as we lost the game 1-0.
As with most pre-season friendlies there were two different teams for each half:
1st half team:
The most interesting name being Sakimura who came in for some experience after scoring against us in the U-18 game, and with big expectations having played for the National team at youth level.
Morimura came off after 39 minutes.
2nd half team:
The 4141 formation which I prefer, with Park trying to fill the problem position of defensive midfield.
Jang came off after 28′ for a youth team player.
Nobody should be happy with the result. Losing 1-0 to a JFL team is not a good sign for the coming season.
Having said that I am a firm believer that a bad pre-season can sometimes lead to a good season.
After seeing a lot of things which aren’t working, and the players seeing that they need to do a lot more work to achieve their goals for the season then it can be a good ‘kick up the backside’ for the players to keep working right up to the season start.
If we had won all our games 7-0 (or 14-0 as Oita did against Fukuoka University) then would the players be working as hard to get better?
A large part of that depends on the players however. If they have faith in the direction of the team, and are embarrassed enough to be unable to beat University and JFL teams to work harder then it can be good. If they start looking for other people to blame and give up then it could be a disaster.
The second game was against a University team, again with different players playing for each 45 minutes.
The teams had a much more youthful look, and there were some names missing from the game against Honda Lock. I don’t know if people picked up injuries, or if Pusnik decided he needed to leave some players out and try other options.
Team for the first half:
This looks like a strong team for me, with a lot of goals.
The back line was kept the same and suggests players are trying to learn a position and their team-mates.
There was a better result than the previous game as we won the half 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ishizu.
Team for the second half:
We scored a couple more goals as Ushinohama scored one from the penalty spot, and then doubled his personal tally for the day with a second from open play.
While I don’t think that winning is the most important thing in pre-season it is certainly a habit, and I hope the players now get it into their heads to try and do more of it.
If you start to forget what it is like to lose a game then it will hopefully make them mentally stronger to fight until the final whistle and stop the injury time goals which we conceded so many of last season.
Yokohama F marinos are up next and if we can put in a good performance and sneak a win the it really puts us in the right direction and sets up what will hopefully be an encouraging friendly back at Level-5 stadium against Kashima in March.