Tokyo Verdy are J.League royalty, having won the first two league titles, but they’ve been in a long lull and spent the last 15 seasons in the second division. Now, they are back and intent on continuing their climb back to the top.
Verdy were very good all season, reaching the top six of the J2 table by week four and staying there the rest of the way.
They had the best defense in the league, giving them a chance in every game, and at times it looked like they might even sneak into second place to claim the automatic promotion place. It was not to be, but a 2-1 win over JEF United Chiba in the promotion play-off semi-final put them 90 minutes away from a top flight return 15 years in the making.
Fortunately, Verdy were granted a little more than 90 minutes because it took an Itsuki Someno goal six minutes into stoppage time to nab a 1-1 draw with Shimizu S-Pulse and send them through as the higher seed for that elusive berth back into J1.
Ren Kato - Verdy relied on Kato’s ability to play up and down the left side for them last season, utilizing his versatility to hold the flank together from week to week.
A capable player on either side of the pitch, his combination of versatility and reliability made him invaluable to Verdy’s promotion efforts. It’s no wonder he was scooped up by one of Japan’s biggest clubs, Yokohama F·Marinos, this winter and Verdy will have to work hard to make up for his absence in 2024.
Fuki Yamada - The loanee from Kyoto Sanga can provide some much-needed verve to the Verdy attack. He’s played top-flight football so he’s not going to need time to adjust to the level and at just 22 years old, there’s still tons of potential for Yamada to tap into.
Even if Verdy can maintain their defensive excellency from last season, they’re going to need a little bit more from their attack and Yamada figures to be crucial to those hopes.
Goal for 2024
After 15 years outside the top flight, Verdy just want to make sure their return lasts longer than a year. If they can make that happen, 2024 will have been an unqualified success.
While they’re relying on familiar faces in defense, they are betting on some young players growing to lift their attack. In addition to the aforementioned Yamada, promotion play-off final hero Someno is also just 22 years old and could prove to be a breakout star.
If Verdy’s young players make good on their potential, the attack may give their defense enough help to cement their place in J1 once again.