Match to Watch
Sagan Tosu are the surprise team of the young season. Some smart offseason moves had them primed to improve on last season’s 13th place finish, but even the most optimistic of fans could not have imagined they’d be this good in the early going. An opening 1-0 win set the stage, then they looked even better in dispatching Urawa Reds, 2-0, in Matchweek 2, but the absolute thumping they gave Vegalta Sendai over the weekend was the real breakout performance.
This weekend will present Sagan Tosu with their stiffest test yet, though. A trip to Shimizu S-Pulse will give their attack another chance to shine, but, more than anything, reveal just how good their defense is. They haven’t conceded yet all season, but they haven’t met Katsuhiro Nakayama and Co.
If Sagan can topple S-Pulse, it will be a massive statement. But S-Pulse are out to make a statement of their own and scoring the first goal on Sagan, or maybe even the second and third too, would make clear they have one of the most fearsome attacks in the league.
Player to Watch
Oita Trinita are off to a nice start this season, grabbing a win and draw from their first two matches. Their defense has been up to the task, looking stout in each contest. What they need is a little juice in the attack, and Arata Watanabe can give them that.
The attacking midfielder has been good in the early going, even scoring in the opening weekend. Trinita need a hub for their attack and the outstanding Watanabe can be that. If he shines, so can Trinita.
The F.C.Tokyo defense that Watanabe and Co. will be facing this weekend has some good defenders, but they haven’t been excellent this season. This will be the perfect blend of a challenge for Watanabe, and also an opportunity to run riot if he’s at his best.
Storyline to Watch
Goals, goals, goals. The start to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE has been all about the onslaught of goals, but who’s been winning and losing so far this season? That’s been decided more by who can keep goals out.
Kawasaki Frontale, Sagan Tosu and Nagoya Grampus are the only teams in the league who have conceded fewer than a goal per game and, not coincidentally, they are sitting in the top three spots of the table.
You still have to score to win, and Kawasaki Frontale are leading the league in goals scored, but keep an eye on the defenses. Who separates themselves as great defensive teams is looking like the real key to who reigns supreme this season.