Shimizu S-Pulse are a club unlike any other in Japan. Not only were they one of the J.League’s Original 10, but they debuted as a team made up exclusively of players from Shizuoka Prefecture. 10 cup finals later, S-Pulse are known as an iconic J.League club but one that narrowly avoided relegation last season and are in search of their first trophy in over two decades.
S-Pulse spent a chunk of last season in the drop zone, but a five-match unbeaten streak in the summer put them in the fight for survival, which took them down to the end of the campaign. That is when S-Pulse really rose to the occasion, winning their last three matches to make it to 14th place.
Last season, S-Pulse scored just under a goal a game and most things in attack ran speculatively through striker Thiago Santana, whose 13 goals were 11 more than anyone else in the team. Reinforcements were clearly necessary to shoulder the load, create more chances, and finish them off. To that end, Takeru Kishimoto arrives from relegated Tokushima Vortis to add all-around attacking heft, while Yuta Kamiya joins after having a positive impact at Kashiwa Reysol in 2021. Also important is the permanent signing of Samurai Blue goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, who was impressive last season in some big games despite Shimizu's general struggles in defense.
S-Pulse have bet on stability this season, with nearly all of Hiroaki Hiraoka's squad returning for 2022, but one squad member who won’t be back is Keita Nakamura. The attack-minded midfielder was the creative engine for Shimizu last season and will be big boots to fill.
Goal for 2022
The end of last season demonstrated the potential of this squad as it is currently built. When everything is clicking, S-Pulse are beating with healthy rhythm. Both the defense and the attack require massive improvement, though, and Thiago Santana has some new faces to develop chemistry with.
That said, this team knows each other well, and a fast start wouldn't be surprising as a result. Avoiding relegation is the minimum target — and it will be a battle — but Hiraoka's men will see a lower midtable finish and slight improvement from last year as the goal for 2022.
What to watch for
Ambition has certainly been raised by the promotion of Shizuoka rivals Júbilo Iwata back into the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE and finishing above them will be seen as a must for many supporters.
With both sides tipped as potential relegation candidates, it could all come down to a battle for prefectural supremacy. Keep a close eye on Matchweek 31 as these two sides do battle late in the campaign, potentially with top-flight survival on the line.