2024 J.League season preview: Kyoto Sanga looking for purple patch

2024 J.League season preview: Kyoto Sanga looking for purple patch

It took a decade for Kyoto Sanga F.C. to secure their place back in the top flight, but they are now going on their third straight season in the Meiji Yasuda J1 League. What does 2024 have in store for this club looking to become a top-flight mainstay?

2023 review

A three-match winning streak early in the season saw Sanga reach as high as fifth place, but that proved to be a bit lofty. Kyoto quickly dropped into the bottom half, where they spent the bulk of the season, but they never fell below 15th place as they avoided any real relegation threat.

Sanga were reliable both in the attack and defensively, putting forth a balanced and responsible team from the start of the season to the finish. Though perhaps they are without bigger names compared to the rest of the division, Sanga were a complete team, relying on contributions from everyone, full of effort and good organization.

Key loss

Patric - No Sanga player scored more goals than Patric’s 10 last season so there will be a hole up top with the Brazilian heading to Nagoya Grampus.

Additionally, there is some work to do at the back with Rikito Inoue departing for Urawa Reds.

Sanga are well suited to finding group solutions for individual absences, but losing crucial players up front and in the center of defense is no small problem.

Key addition

Toichi Suzuki - Suzuki was one of the best young players in the J.League a few years ago at Shonan Bellmare. Now, he's headed back to Japan after a stint at Lausanne Sport in Switzerland and Sanga are betting on him being their go-to man in the attack.

Not only could Suzuki provide the type of creative spark that could help lift the attack in 2024, but he has the potential to grow into a star for years to come. Landing a player like Suzuki, both for the present and future, is huge for Kyoto.

Goal for 2024

The team's foundation is set as an established J1 side and now the question is how high can they climb.

With the work Cho Kwi-jae has done in creating a clear system and getting the team to buy into it, there’s no reason that the top half can’t be within reach.

The question is whether they can find an area to turn from solid and reliable to truly outstanding and the best bet may be up front. Suzuki provides them a dynamism they have lacked and Marco Túlio comes over from Central Coast Mariners in the A-League to replace Patric up top. If those two can successfully combine with the likes of Yuto Toyokawa, Sanga could be one of the most improved attacks in the league.

While just comfortable stability in J1 should be welcomed in 2024, there's no telling what could happen if these new signings hit the ground running in Kyoto.