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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 1st
Manager: Holger Osieck (Germany)
Prospects: First priority is the Asian Champions League, but a spectacular double is not out of the question.
One to watch: Takahito Soma, a stylish wing back who can finally emerge from Alex Santos' shadow.
Guido Buchwald is gone, replaced by former coach Osieck, although assistant coach Gert Engels is still there. Engels said recently the new coach is more of an "in-the-stands" coach, whereas Buchwald was a "dugout" man, meaning Osieck has a more technical approach compared to Buchwald's reliance on motivation.
Reds have hardly moved a muscle in the transfer market, although their one big addition -- Yuki Abe from JEF United Chiba -- should turn a strong midfield into a formidable one. It should also give Reds a free-scoring midfielder they've been craving. Abe scored 11 goals last year and so Urawa may not need to rely so much on Washington.
Urawa has lost Alex to Red Bull Salzburg, if only for a season, and although inconsistent he weighed in with some important, and spectacular, goals and will be missed.
Where could it all go wrong? Well, central defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka, last season's MVP with an ego to match, could get too big for his boots and start eyeing a midseason move to Europe -- or even Brazil.
The spectacularly immobile Washington also could lose the remnants of what little pace he has and become literally rooted to the spot on the Saitama Stadium halfway line. (J.M)