Matthew C. Perry’s numbers the last four seasons speak volumes. It’s not that the Samurai have risen as a DODDS Japan and Far East Division II boys soccer power, but how they’ve done so and how it has transformed the program.
Since the start of 2010, the year the Samurai won the first of their three D-II tournaments, through last season, Perry has gone 111-22-11 and scored 498 goals, including 192 in 2012 alone, the year coach Mark Lange said the program was at its strongest.
“We expect to win now, every time we step on the field,” said Lange, starting his 11th season at the Samurai’s helm. “The expectation is there. They’re playing for the star” on the Samurai jersey crest, emblematic of a Far East championship.
What Lange says he likes best is that from season to season, no matter who dresses in Samurai maroon and white, the same effort and expectation is there. “The team that won it last year was totally different from the one in 2010,” Lange said.
Quite different from the 2000s, when Lange often remarked how the Samurai were the “cones that everybody ran around. “We remember what it was like. We play with respect every time on the field,” he said.
They got off to a bit of a rough start in last weekend’s Western Japan Athletic Association tournament in which the Samurai went 1-2-1. But Lange returns a core of veterans who have been part of two championships in two years. “One year older, one year wiser,” he said.
Leading that charge will be two-time D-II Most Valuable Player Gaku Lange, the coach’s son, now in his fourth and final season before heading off to play at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
Lange the younger scored 52 goals and had 13 assists for the 25-6-4 Samurai, and has 103 goals for his career.
On Okinawa, Yuji Callahan and Kadena emerged as something of a surprise team last spring, having had few matches the first six weeks and changing coaches midway through the season.
But with most eyeing Seoul American, Nile C. Kinnick and reigning champion Christian Academy Japan as the favorites, the Panthers rose up and grabbed the banner at home. Callahan’s father, Mike, was back coaching for the first time since 2006, the last time Kadena won D-I.
Like the Samurai at D-II, this season, Kadena will surprise nobody, Yuji Callahan said. “They’ll (opponents) know what’s up now,” he said. “Once you have that reputation, you have to work to keep it.”
Kadena can put balls in the opposing nets, player and coach said; the question is: can they can keep opponents from doing the same?
“We have to rebuild,” Yuji Callahan said, adding that the team isn’t so much focused on what went on last season. “Last year was last year; this year is this year. The good aspect of the sport is, you don’t know what will happen until the last minute.”
The Pacific’s season begins in earnest this weekend with matches in Japan and Okinawa on the ledger. Korea’s season has been under way since late February, but DODDS Korea schools begin play this weekend.