12.11.2014, 03:33

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So, that was the season that was in the JFL. The official awards have already taken place, with Yuji Unozawa and Naohiko Minobe predictably taking the big awards but here is my.

28.10.2014, 05:41

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So, that was the season that was in the JFL. The official awards have already taken place, with Yuji Unozawa and Naohiko Minobe predictably taking the big awards but here is my review of the JFL season.

Team of the year: Nagano Parceiro

A fairly easy one this. From May onwards until the last two games they were literally unbeatable. Deservedly crowned champions, it is a real shame they can't go up to J2 yet. Their time will come though.

Sad to see you leave award: Goshi Okubo

Okubo was lighting the league up in the first half of the season, scoring 12 goals and acting as the focal point for a surprisingly good Sony Sendai team. Unfortunately for Sony, Montedio Yamagata were paying very close attention to their Tohoku neighbours and saw an opportunity to bolster their already strong striker corps and brought Okubo in. Okubo, had he stayed in Sendai, could quite easily have finished JFL top scorer, his 12 goals were still enough to keep him joint fourth of the top scorers chart despite missing half a season of JFL play. Somewhat surprisingly, he has since been released by Yamagata, so there is a chance he could be plying his trade for Sony Sendai once more. Watch this space.

Player of the year: Yuji Unozawa

Americans might call him the “face of the franchise”, and there is no doubt that Unozawa is the most recognizable name connected to the club. He scored a league leading 20 goals this year, and his 

awareness and positioning created numerous more.

Fast starter award: Shunta Takahashi (FC Ryukyu)

It looked like the ex-Montedio Yamagata frontman was on pace to break all sorts of scoring records at the start of the year. Defences had no answer to his all action style as scored in each of the first seven JFL games, and 12 in his first 11. Then, things dried up as defences started focus on him more. This, of course, left room for other players (like Ganaha, Efrain and Tanahashi) but Takahashi's form dropped off and wasn't the same player in the second half of the season, even though he ended up with a highly respectable return of 13 goals. Next year he will have the chance to team up with Yuji Unozawa & Yuki Sato at Nagano Parceiro. Takahashi could (probably should) be well in the goals in 2014.

Manager of the year: Naohiko Minobe (Nagano Parceiro) & Tetsumasa Kimura (Sagamihara)

The players of Nagano Parceiro didn't achieve their best season all by themselves, the wily Naohiko Minobe, he of nearly guiding Tokushima Vortis to J1 fame, had a huge say in it. It was a big coup for the JFL club to get Minobe to coach them, and the mustachioed head coach didn't let them down. His brand of swift, sharp attacking football was too much for the other teams to handle as they dropped 61 goals on the JFL, whilst their solid defence held firm to the tune of only conceding 25 goals. Minobe's men will be the favourites to lift the inaugural J3 championship trophy next year.

It is very easy to look at Parceiro and think that they were the only team to excel this year, but JFL newcomers SC Sagamihara had an excellent debut season in this league under the stewardship of Kimura. Having come up from the Kanto League, though many weren't expecting the green and blacks to struggle, most people will have been surprised by the way they took to this league like a duck to water. Their attacking style led them to be the second highest scorers in the division after champions Nagano, but that style led to extreme stress on the defence as they conceded goals a-plenty. If they can fix their defensive woes, they could be a team to keep an eye on in J3 next year.

Game of the year: Blaublitz Akita 3-6 Fujieda MYFC

Crikey, you don't see games like these often. The visitors were 3-0 up at half time thanks to their Brazilian strike partnership of Alan & Kerlon (2) and they didn't rest in the second half as Alan grabbed two more goals to claim a hat-trick. Nishiyama grabbed another goal for the away side, while two goals in the 90th minute put a kinder gloss on the result for Blaublitz. This result was to be the high point of the league season for the Shizuoka club as things went rapidly south soon after.

Disappointment of the year: Machida Zelvia

All set for a determined promotion push, Zelvia really let everyone down this year, eventually finishing fourth behind near neighbours SC Sagamihara. Where it all went wrong is quite difficult to say, but the fact that they suffered two drubbings against Nagano, the team they were supposed to be challenging for honours, was a sign that all was not well. The sacking of manager Yutaka Akita after the first of these heavy defeats was designed to trigger an improvement in the team's fortunes, but it didn't quite turn out that way. The first three games after new boss Naoki Kusunobe was appointed were all games that they failed to win, and included morale-sapping home draws against Sony Sendai and Yokogawa Musashino and from this point on they were always going to find it difficult to catch the top two. What they probably weren't counting on were their free scoring, upstart neighbours SC Sagamihara chasing them down and pipping them to third on the final day. An annus horibilis for the Tokyo club, one which they will want to rectify in J3 next year.

Cometh the hour award: Yutaka Takahashi (Kamatamare Sanuki)

Takahashi was the hero of the J2/JFL “play-out” as he scored both goals in Kama’s 2-1 aggregate win over Gainare Tottori which sealed their promotion to J2. Takahashi only came to Sanuki halfway through the season due to an injury crisis but his important goals have earned him a place in Kamatamare’s history books.

That just about wraps up this year’s JFL. Congrats to champions Nagano Parceiro & promoted Kamatamare Sanuki. The JFL will be back next year with a host of new clubs spanning the length and breadth of Japan, and hopefully it can provide the same amount of entertainment as this year’s incarnation. Sushi Football’s JFL restaurant will now take a winter break for urgently needed renovations (and rest!) in order to be ready for the start of next year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following the ups and downs of the JFL in 2013 with me. Same again in 2014?


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