Player to Watch, Matchweek 19: All eyes on Yamashita as Sagan eye third place

Player to Watch, Matchweek 19: All eyes on Yamashita as Sagan eye third place

Sagan Tosu’s terrific season is being led by their defense, which has conceded just eight goals—five fewer than any other team in the 2021 MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE. Nevertheless, even with an outstanding rearguard, Sagan do need goals to win, and that’s where Keita Yamashita has been so crucial in their march to the top four.

The 25-year-old forward has been the key to Sagan Tosu’s attack, scoring eight times already this season. Despite only 12 starts, that ranks Yamashita among the league’s top seven goalscorers and is double Sagan’s next highest-ranked player. Amazingly, Yamashita is doing this in his first top-flight season and he’s already tallied more than in all of last campaign at JEF United Chiba in J2.

Yamashita’s excellence comes in large part from his positioning, constantly playing off the last defender’s shoulder or remaining active in the middle of the box where he can capitalize on any good pass from a teammate or mistake by the opposition. You won’t see him scoring long-range rockets or dribbling through the defense as much as creating space in dangerous areas to take advantage of opportune moments.

Whether starting or off the bench in Yokohama, Sagan Tosu will need Yamashita to be his clever and opportunistic self on Wednesday when they make the trip to Kanagawa. Sagan are just one point behind Marinos and a win will see them jump to third place in the table. It’s a giant match, and even with Sagan’s great defense, a win is going to require goals. That’s where Yamashita could be crucial.

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