2019 Regista Awards: J1 League

A title conquered after 15 years by a city which lacked a trophy for too much time, the rise of many players and the attention towards foreign stars (who although failed most of our expectations): 2019 J1 League has been rich and definitely worth-watching, with a title assigned again at the last game. A direct clash, bringing excitement like never before (the average-attendance all year round was the best the league ever witnessed).

But there has been more than this and the Regista Awards are here to witness it. Just like in 2018, we kept our quality panel for the J1 League. We wanna thank whoever has been involved in this particular column and participated to shape the narration of J. League during this whole 2019. So our thanks go to:

Give them a follow on Twitter. And so… we can start!

Best Team | Yokohama F. Marinos (78%)

It seems there wasn’t any doubt in our readers’ mind. Marinos swept the opposition in the second part of the season, just like when everyone thought injuries and departures would have postponed their plan of winning it all. Ange Postecoglou has done a terrific job and deserves a lot of credit for the beliefs he brought to Japan, proving how his career in 2010s has been a continuous success.

At the same time, Marinos have built something that can last the test of time. The roster is deep and it’s going to get deeper than 2019 due to many signings already happening in the last Winter. We though also Oita Trinita deserved an ex-aequo award for their incredible run, but Yokohama have something big to celebrate. And this might not be the only silverware in their next future.

Flop Team | Urawa Red Diamonds (58,2%)

Nagoya Grampus and Vissel Kobe were also in contention, but Urawa Red Diamonds’ season is probably the biggest disappointment of all. They reached indeed the AFC Champions League final, but this time Al-Hilal looked way better than 2017, despite Reds’ squad seemed stronger than the time they won the continental trophy.

Instead, in the league everything fell apart quickly. Just like the year before with Hori, Oswaldo didn’t stand the whole season and he was sacked mid-year; his replacement was charismatic caretaker Tsuyoshi Otsuki, who though stayed all season long. And he was surprisingly confirmed as the new head coach for 2020, despite Urawa concluded fourteenth, just one point above the play-out line (their worst season since 2011).

It’s incredible how the biggest average-crowd in J. League had to witness to such bad performances at home by their team: Reds collected only 15 points in 17 home games. In a home table of 2019 J1 League, they’re in 16th place, just one point above Matsumoto Yamaga. They might even risk something in 2020 if things align in a strange way in the relegation fight.

MVP & MIP | Teruhito Nakagawa, Yokohama F. Marinos (80,4% & 69,8%)

We might try to add something, but we wrote this piece almost two months ago and it seems still solid to explain why readers vote him for both categories.

Best Goalkeeper | Kim Jin-hyeon, Cerezo Osaka (48,8%)

Given how goalkeepers didn’t have a particularly good year in 2019 (although the absence of Shun Takagi in our nominees surprised us), the award to Kim Jin-hyeon is both a collective and individual effort. It’s collective because Cerezo Osaka had the best defense in J1 League this season (and the second-best in history during a J1 season!), so Lotina’s work in Osaka must be recognized.

At the same time, in a year where South Korean keepers haven’t shone their best performances as always (Jung Sung-ryong fell out of favor in Kawasaki, Gu Sung-yun was discontinuous in his performances and Kwoun Sun-tae is getting older), Kim represented a solid interpreter of the role in this league. He had some super-saves and guided the backline with a solid drive.

Best Rookie | Ao Tanaka, Kawasaki Frontale (65,9%)

You almost feel sorry, or at least surprised, seeing how much potential Kawasaki Frontale this year had, only by ending the season in fourth place and missing an ACL-spot due to Vissel Kobe winning the Emperor’s Cup. This might be though a blessing in disguise, given how Frontale played a lot of matches and they seem to need more clarity about a stable starting XI to field.

Manager Toru Oniki rotated a lot of players, but he found new certainties. In a year where Hidemasa Morita was fielded as a right-back (why in the world?) and Shintaro Kurumaya as a center-back (why, again?), Yasuto Wakizaka and Ao Tanaka were certainly two big discoveries not only for Frontale, but also for the future of the Japanese football.

But if the former looks like a good heir to Kengo Nakamura’s throne, Ao Tanaka’s game is different. He’s a solid holding midfielder and Japan national football team might need him as an alternative to Wataru Endo, the only real alternative Japan found in that position after captain Makoto Hasebe retired from the international duty. J. League also awarded Tanaka as the Rookie of the Year, so there’s that alignment in place.

Best Signing | Marcos Júnior, from Fluminense to Yokohama F. Marinos (85,7%)

The Brazilian winger… actually, is he really a winger? He played basically everywhere this season and Postecoglou was clever enough to exploit his ductility to Marinos’ advantage. We were so impressed we’ve talked about in this piece.

Best Goal | Ryotaro Meshino (SAG-GAM | May 11th) & Yuta Koike (KSM-JUB | July 6th) – (34,5% each)

Those two goals represent in our opinion two different instances. On one side, the proficiency of Gamba Osaka’s youth sector, capable of producing several wonder kids in recent years, only to see them going away to Europe. Before Meshino, it was the time of Keito Nakamura and Ritsu Doan: the former no. 40 signed for Manchester City and there might be a reason, seeing this beauty.

On the other side, resiliency marked with Kashima Antlers’ mentality. The club sold a lot of players in these last years by cashing in several sums, but never splashed the market to replace them. Instead, they either promoted their kids to the first squad or found solid replacement around the league. With Yuta Koike – who has gone back to Sint-Truinden at the end of his loan – hasn’t gone that way, but the mentality was always the same.

Best Manager | Ange Postecoglou, Yokohama F. Marinos (70,6%)

Logic would say that – for once – J. League hasn’t done any damage in awarding the accolade to Tomohiro Katanosaka, Oita Trinita manager, who has done an amazing job (and we ran through his four years in Kyushu again here). But Ange Postecoglou’s journey in Japan hasn’t been the easiest from the start, so going from risking relegation in 2018 to winning the title in 2019 certainly caught the eye of many of our readers.

And you can’t deny it: Postecoglou has shaped Australian… no, Asian football forever. His 2010s – spent between success with Brishane Roar, the Australian national team and Yokohama F. Marinos – were full of glory. We can all agree he’s a value to J. League and he might also deserve a European chance in 2020s. First, though, he wants maybe to expand Marinos’ trophy cabinet by adding another title or two in the next future.

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