November 26, 2008: Yokohama FC will not be returning to J1 next season, but some of their players might be in line for a winter move to the top flight.
On the evidence of their strong team performance in a 2-2 draw at home to promotion-chasing Vegalta Sendai on Saturday, Yokohama have at least a couple of players who would fit right back in to J1 if top clubs came calling.
The two that impressed me most were centre forward Hiroaki Namba and left back Kosuke Ota.
Namba is a Japanese version of Chong Tese, Kawasaki Frontale's all-action North Korean striker, and looks considerably bigger and more powerful than his statistics suggest: 1.72 metres and 68 kgs. Like Chong, Namba puts himself about and is a constant menace to opposition defenders in the air and on the ground.
Even when Yokohama FC were relegated in 2007, Namba looked useful, if a little raw, and plays with a strong spirit.
Considering he will turn 26 on December 9, Namba has played fewer than 50 league games as a professional in J1 and J2, and has plenty of running and aggression left inside the tank. He would be good value for any J1 team looking to strengthen its squad, and a big miss for Yokohama FC should he move on.
Ota also stood out, on the left side of Yokohama FC's back four. Like Namba, he came down from J1 with the club in 2007 but remains unscathed from a psychological point of view.
Still only 21, he plays with an intensity and a tempo that reminds me of Oita Trinita's Masato Morishige -- and, coincidentally, wears the same shirt number, six. Ota is a sturdy 1.78 metres and 74 kgs, and likes to get forward and join his attack.
There are plenty of winter moves in the pipeline, and it would not surprise me if the names of Namba and Ota appeared on the shopping lists of several J1 clubs.