2019 Regista Awards: J2 League

It’s been another crazy season in J2 League, where we witnessed a new record for the largest win in the division (actually, it was the largest win in all Japanese professional tiers), the development of several players and tough fights both for playoffs and relegation spots.

And while we’re still wondering why J2 League has to feature 22 squads instead of 20 and why the playoffs winners can’t go up after having played 44 matches in the season, we’ve also come to the Regista Awards regarding this league. To pick up the nominees in the several categories we’ve created, we reached out to this egregious panel:

It’s time dive into the polls!

Best Team | Kashiwa Reysol (73,2%)

It was a no brainer, although Kashiwa were tipped to win the championship in the pre-season, so there shouldn’t be any surprise. Actually, their first part of the season was tough and they struggled a little to find the right pace to lead the pack. In fact, they were seventh on the table after Matchday 18. Then they took the command of the table only on Matchday 25. but they never left it again.

A streak of 11 consecutive wins – ELEVEN! – between June and August gave Reysol the push they needed to distance themselves from their opponents. Once they got their groove on, it was impossible to catch them and they granted themselves the title on Matchday 41, since Yokohama FC and Omiya Ardija didn’t quit their chase.

We think they won’t be able to play such an offensive formation in J1 – you probably won’t survive with Esaka, Cristiano, Segawa and Olunga all together on the pitch –, but the second coming of Nelsinho definitely worked. If they can strengthen the roster, especially on the defensive line, they could be a nice squad to watch in J1 2020.

Flop Team | Avispa Fukuoka (53,7%)

FC Gifu definitely was a disappointment and JEF United Chiba never stop to fail us, but seeing Avispa Fukuoka dropping so badly was incredible to witness. We knew that the ending of Ihara’s cycle would have left some scars, but not so deep to watch. Avispa were on relegation zone until Matchday 23, when they lost at JEF United Chiba 3-0 away. From then, they managed to escape the hot part of the table, but not for good.

Fabio Pecchia’s appointment was a massive failure, but manager Kiyokazu Kudo put it all together to at least lift Avispa above the danger line. The club managed their best position in the table at the last match, when they defeated Kagoshima United 2-1 at home and closed the year on sixteenth place. We hope the appointment of Shigetoshi Hasebe will shake the club at its core and bring better results for 2020.

MVP & Best Keeper | Jon Ander Serantes, Avispa Fukuoka (81,7% & 86,7%)

Polls were hacked? Were Cristiano and Kosuke Nakamura the rightful winners for both these categories? It may be, but this love showing by Avispa Fukuoka fans still gave us the opportunity to tell an important story about growing and going beyond your limits.

MIP | Hiroto Goya, V-Varen Nagasaki (53,6%)

Last year, Hiroto Goya seemed pretty lost. He had a terrible year on loan at Tokushima Vortis and honestly we don’t what Gamba Osaka would have done with a 25 years old-striker who scored a lot with the U-23 side, but basically never managed a breakthrough in the first team. While many U-23 from Gamba debuted and stayed in the first team, Miyamoto didn’t trust him enough.

And having failed at Vortis, under the brand of #RicardoBall, wasn’t looking good for Goya. So he had to go to the basics and meet a manager like Makoto Teguramori, which is probably the most successful “old school” head coach you can find around in these days (Sorimachi has been sacked from Yamaga, so…).

Somehow it worked: V-Varen were never in real contention for playoffs, but they never risked relegation. Meanwhile, Goya scored 22 goals and ended up in third position in the top scoring charts, by having a streak of seven games with at least one goal. He was on loan at V-Varen, now we’ll discover what faith Gamba holds for him.

Best Rookie | Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, Montedio Yamagata (38,7%)

Montedio Yamagata were clearly one of the best team in the league, despite their final run of results brought them away from direct promotion, for which they’ve been in contention for a long time, spending a quarter of their season in that zone (they were still there in Matchday 33). They got a good manager (Kiyama is now heading to Sendai) and exciting players: Haruya Ide, Shun Nakamura, Shuto Minami.

Among them, there was also rookie Tatsuhiro Sakamoto. Graduated from Toyo University, Sakamoto joined permanently Montedio for 2019 season, although he was already registered as a special player the season before for four months. He played all the matches in this J2 season and scored seven goals, contributing to big results (like the win away against Kashiwa).

Surely he’ll be looked by other teams, who knows if Yamagata will be able to keep him around.

Best Signing | Leonardo, from Gainare Tottori to Albirex Niigata (73,5%)

There were no doubts about which move was the best one during this season. And here we explained why Leonardo should be one to watch closely also for 2020.

Best Goal | Robin Simovic, FC Ryukyu v Omiya Ardija 2-3, October 27th (41,2%)

There were several choices, but this Ibra-esque back-heel circus move by Robin Simović won the hearts of the fans. This was a fantastic move for two reasons:

  • This was the winning-goal for Omiya in Okinawa after conceding twice against FC Ryukyu;
  • Just think that Omiya were so lucky to have Simović in the roster as a back-up for starter Juanma Delgado. We hope to see the no. 9 back to J2 with more pitch-time in 2020.

Best Manager | Takahiro Shimotaira, Yokohama FC (51,4%)

When last year Yokohama FC reached fourth place, we all thought they were going to win the whole thing and then face Jubilo Iwata. Instead, they stamped on a problem called Tokyo Verdy, who surprisingly defeated them at the last kick of the match, courtesy of a goal by Douglas Vieira. It wasn’t easy to restart this season with promotion in mind and, in fact, Edson Tavares was sacked in May.

When Takahiro Shimotaira was picked as his successor, many had some doubts. For two reasons, mainly: a) Shimotaira hadn’t been hired since his sacking from Kashiwa the year before; b) his way of playing football and developing the roster didn’t seem to suit with conditions in Yokohama, because the club always looked for expert players and veterans rather than youngsters.

No problem for him: Shimotaira started to bench both Leandro Domingues and Ibba (and using less Shunsuke Nakamura and Daisuke Matsui, while King Kazu played just three games this season) to give more space to Katsuhiro Nakayama, Koki Saito, Yosuke Saito and Yusuke Matsuo, who all made their part in the wonderful run that brought YFC back to J1 after 13 years.

And about the whole Kashiwa sacking… we all know that that’s when probably Reysol lost the J1 status, because Shimotaira wasn’t the problem in the first place. The current manager of Yokohama FC won the award of “Manager of the Year” both for JLR-readers and J. League itself: that can’t be an accident.

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