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Reality vs. Ideal
The beginning of the football season is always a juicy time for philosophizing (is that a word?) and predicting. Two games of J1, three games of J2, and the first games of Nabisco...

I was sad to hear that Kusatsu was not able to hold their own against Sapporo in yesterday's J2 match. As I said in pre-match entry, there were a number of things that had been brought up in various analyses that I've read. Kusatsu is inexperienced in the J.League, so the big question was whether they would be able to mentally hold their own during the course of a game. They go into a game really nicely, as they did in yesterday's match when they scored the first goal, but then as the game progresses and the up and down waves get choppier they lose their focus. Kusatsu ended up allowing four whole goals to Sapporo (in roughly 20 minute intervals each). Eeep.

The Nabisco had its share of some interesting match reports. Frontale punched in four goals against Verdy before allowing four to tie. FCTokyo got a promising first goal before folding 3-1 to Kashiwa.

Anyway, reading the coach and player comments for many of these games, I can't help but ponder what mechanism is at work behind these results. Particularly in the first few games of a season, the challenge is presenting a team that is balanced and has the basic components down pat more than anything else. For the long season ahead, consistency could be the dividing factor.

For some teams like Reds, the thinking seems to be that the lack of balance (between offense and defense, patience) will be rectified by the considerable offensive advantage that their players embody as the weeks progress. But what about some of the other "offense-oriented" teams like FCTokyo, Kusatsu, Frontale.. who are relative new-comers? They have inspiringly spirited performances in portions of the game, or in one game, and then can't hold it together for the others. That period of patience is perhaps more important for these teams than any complicated offensive manouveurs or player-switching and strategizing. Their ideal can't be supported by the reality of their situation, and they sort of deflate right when they should be stubbornly hunkering down.

On the other hand, you have a team like Omiya Ardija who have shown that the wise application of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy could be very effective. They have a mature and patient defense and a simple-is-sweet offense. Their 2-0 victory over Gamba, their 1-1 draw with Vissel, their 2-0 Nabisco victory over Albirex, all show that they can pull out consistent performances even when they are up against different types of teams, even if various distractions occur during the game. Their play also has the added advantage of working against the opponent's mental focus. The opponents are irritated by their patience and then caught off-guard by the simplicity and speed of their offense. A team like Omiya, though, cannot work unless the entire team has a unified understanding of the team's concept and aims going into a game. They know when it's their moment to look for a goal, they know when to stay patient and cool.

Of course this is just the beginning of the season, and the team-building that many coaches are aiming for right now may bear fruit down the road when other teams are losing gas. Their pursuit of the "ideal" certainly has caught my interest, but the realistic attitude of teams like Omiya is just as inspiring especially since this is their debut in the J1. Do you fight simplicity with simplicity? Or do you have to pull out something with more depth and complexity?
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