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Saturday, March 3, 2007
J. LEAGUE 2007
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS
Last season: 4th
Manager: Kenta Hasegawa
Prospects: A similar finish to last year
One to watch: Fernandinho, has the eye for the defense-splitting pass that few possess.
S-Pulse very quietly and very methodically finished in fourth position last year -- not that many noticed -- which was a massive improvement on the 15th-place finish in 2005.
They were unspectacular in their ascent last season but should be a little easier on the eye this time around. Playmaker Fernandinho has been picked up from Gamba on loan and this special little player can create goals in abundance. Those happy to see him will be Korean forward Cho Jae Jin, scorer of 16 last season, and new striker Akinori Nishizawa, scorer of eight goals for relegated Cerezo Osaka.
The arrival of Nishizawa, who had failed stints at Spain's Espanyol and England's Bolton Wanderers, will go some way to softening the blow of losing Marquinhos to Kashima.
S-Pulse were also ably supported last year in the scoring department by youngsters Takuma Edamura (nine) and Jungo Fujimoto (eight) and these two midfielders head an impressive cast of youngsters at the club.
Another plus point for the team is that it had the second-best defensive record in the league last season behind Urawa Reds. Adding some steel to the backline, though, is Arata Kodama from Gamba.
S-Pulse let go of former Japan defender Ryuzo Morioka, who has joined Kyoto Purple Sanga.
The mix of some decent youngsters, solid strikers and an above-average defense should mean a comfortable top 6 finish. (J.M.)