Player in Focus: Nagoya's hopes anchored to record-breaking Langerak against Marinos

Player in Focus: Nagoya's hopes anchored to record-breaking Langerak against Marinos

There are a lot of things that go into having an excellent defense. The manager has to conceive and implement a system that keeps everyone organized, the whole team has to buy in, the defenders have to stay connected, and everyone has to win 1v1 challenges. Nagoya Grampus have all of that, and the final ingredient - an excellent goalkeeper in Mitch Langerak.

Langerak is already one of the most decorated goalkeepers the J.League has ever seen and the Aussie set another record last matchday, recording his 18th clean sheet in the first 28 matches of the season. It was a record that was previously held, well, by himself, as Langerak set the mark last campaign. And that is a theme at the Toyota Stadium, where Langerak is so spectacular that the only measuring stick at times seems to be his own achievements.

Lagerak’s resume is impressive, with spells at Borussia Dortmund and Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga making it clear the level at which he is capable of playing. He was also a member of the Australian team that competed at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. But resumes can flatter, and when he signed for Grampus in 2018, he would be judged by how he played in Nagoya, not his resume.

Somehow, Langerak has outplayed his reputation. A brilliant shot stopper, he’s come to Nagoya’s rescue time and time again over the last four years. But the Aussie is not just a shot stopper. He organizes the Nagoya defense, shouting instructions from the back and impacting the match so he doesn’t have to make saves. His distribution also helps Grampus play out of defense, relieving pressure and keying the attack. Everything Nagoya could possibly want from their goalkeeper, they get from Langerak.

Langerak’s arrival coincided with a recent promotion from J2, and since then the club has gone from merely challenging for top-flight survival to challengers for continental glory. Those dreams have been anchored by one of the J.League’s best defenses — and that has been anchored by Langerak.

This weekend, Nagoya host the highest-scoring team in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE, Yokohama F·Marinos. That would normally put a fright in teams, but not Grampus. With Langerak in goal, they know they are up to any task an attack throws at them, and victory is always within reach.

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