Monday, November 30, 2009

One week left in the J League season

If you think the 26-week MLB regular season is too long, or maybe the 8-month grind of the NHL (including playoffs) is a bit stretched, you won't be a fan of soccer. Particularly the J League. The 2009 season started back on March 7th and is just finishing up this coming Saturday, for a total of 39 weeks. That's the same length of time it takes to have a child and I'm not sure which is more difficult to endure.

OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. I've seen some good soccer games this season. And the schedule is stretched due to international matches, Nabisco Cup ties, and Emperor's Cup fixtures. Still, it's too long and by the end, there is little left to decide.

There are only two teams left chasing the title. Two-time defending champs Kashima Antlers lead Kawasaki by 2 points. Sadly for Frontale, they lost a game at Oita back on November 23rd which cost them the league lead. At the time, Oita was the worst team in the league and already relegated. But Kawasaki couldn't manage to get even a point in a 1-0 loss and they are now staring up at the Antlers. The equivalent for NFL fans would be New Orleans visiting Tampa Bay needing a win to clinch the NFC title and losing (interestingly, Tampa Bay travels to the Superdome on the 2nd to last week of the season).

December 28th update: Tampa Bay beat New Orleans in overtime so the Saints have yet to clinch first. My jinx continues!

Anyway, it's another in a long series of Kawasaki chokes as they continue to struggle to land their first top-flight silverware. The final weekend sees them visit relegated Kashiwa Reysol while Kashima travels to Saitama to take on Urawa Reds. Frontale needs a win and a Kashima loss or tie in order to take the championship. It's unlikely but not impossible and so there's a bit of excitement this Saturday.

I was toying with the idea of going to Kashiwa to see the game, but it's sold out as the Reysol fans are taking advantage of their last chance to enjoy J1 football. As well, with both games occurring at the same time, you would need an out-of-town scoreboard to properly follow the championship chase. I'm not sure if other scores are posted regularly in Kashiwa, so I think I'll just stay at home flipping between both games. I'll be rooting for Kawasaki; here's hoping that the last weekend of the season was worth the wait.



Update: Kashima won their game 1-0 to clinch the title while Kawasaki won 3-2 in Kashiwa. As for me, I was stuck at work and missed the games, although with the result, not that disappointing. The Emperor's Cup is all that's left for Frontale, so we'll see you in Sendai next week!

Update (12/4/2011): Kashiwa was relegated in 2009, but won the J2 championship in 2010 and the J1 title in 2011. Truly an amazing sports story that will get no coverage in the hype zone controlled by ESPN.

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