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Saturday, March 6, 2010
2010 J. LEAGUE PREVIEW
Team-by-team previews of the 18 teams competing in the first division.
Last season: sixth
Last season was supposed to be the year that Reds finally left all the drama behind and got back to winning ways, but the club's appalling seven-game midseason losing run showed how deeply entrenched the problems had become.
Now that inspirational defender and chief agitator Marcus Tulio Tanaka has left for Nagoya Grampus, however, manager Volker Finke has scored a significant victory against player power.
Tulio's leadership, courage and ability will be sorely missed, but a new, lower-key Urawa is emerging.
Australian defender Matthew Spiranovic and Burkina Faso wide man Willy Sanou's arrival from Germany is evidence that Finke is beginning to stamp his identity on the club, while Yosuke Kashiwagi's move from Sanfrecce Hiroshima further shifts the emphasis toward youth.
A spectacular debut season from Genki Haraguchi and Naoki Yamada has helped Finke's vision along, but there are still plenty of egos to be satisfied. How the manager handles out-of-favor veterans such as Robson Ponte and Naohiro Takahara could be crucial.
A passing of the Urawa baton is definitely taking place, though, and the year ahead should be the transition period that was supposed to happen last season. A squad with so much talent can never be ruled out of the title race, but an Asian Champions League place would be more in line with Reds' new modest approach.