Japan Soccer League champs taken down a notch
Call it “Epiphany Week” for the leading soccer teams in Japan, who received what one coach termed a “wakeup call” from international school foes.
Yokota’s boys were 12-1-1 and already had clinched the league title before suffering their worst loss of the season Thursday, 5-1 against defending Far East Class AA champion Christian Academy In Japan.
That occurred two days after Kinnick’s girls, previously 11-0 and having clinched their JSL title weeks ago, tied the American School In Japan 1-1.
Long before CAJ topped Yokota, Panthers coach Tim Pujol knew the Knights would be a tough team, even with 13 of 15 players from last year’s team having graduated.
Twice last season, CAJ brought its B squad to Yokota to play the Panthers’ B team, and Pujol officiated both contests, “so I saw what was coming… ” he said. “They definitely have a good team.”
CAJ, 3-0 this season, went up 2-0 before Yokota could answer on Scott Monahan’s 14th goal of the season. The Knights added another goal before Yokota moved more strikers up front but then “the wheels came off,” as CAJ put it away with two more scores.
“We had a lot of good chances but they did a better job of finishing than we did,” Pujol said, adding that he felt the score wasn’t “indicative of which team dominated. From my view, I felt the play was equal.”
Even CAJ coach Sean Collier said he believes Yokota controlled much of the play.
“They had a shot that went wide here, our defense made a good play there. We just finished our chances,” he said. “We still have a long way to go before we’re up to where we were at last year’s Far East.”
By contrast, Kinnick’s tie with ASIJ “could have gone either way,” coach Nico Hindie said of a match in which the Red Devils led on Frances Zukowski’s team-leading 17th goal of the season before Lisa Hart’s goal in the 50th minute tied it.
Both Yokota’s boys and Kinnick’s girls took the verdicts hard, coming away with a renewed sense of motivation, Hindie and Pujol said.
“It was good for us to be tested like that,” Hindie said. “Most of our matches, we’ve won handily. Now, they’re motivated to beat [ASIJ]. They all promised me they would beat them next time.”
Yokota’s boys were “stung, embarrassed” after Thursday’s loss, Pujol said.
“Before the game, there was a different look in their eyes. They were expecting CAJ to be good and excited for the challenge. I don’t think they expected to win 5-1, but I don’t think they expected (a 5-1 loss), either.”