Wed 30.May 2012 12:26 Tanya Taylor,
Rebecca Moros blogs from Japan: "It's sink or swim time"
Rebecca Moros is playing for INAC in Japan
Image: GoDuke/Andy Mead

I am writing from the Japanese Shinkansen, better known as the bullet train. As I sit comfortably next to Bev the Japanese landscape screams by, green rolling hills and Japanese style homes and buildings as far as the eye can see. We are on our way to Kumamoto for our first official game since getting approved for a work visa.

When I last wrote you it was my 27th birthday and the very beginning of my time in Kobe, Japan. A lot has happened since then. For one thing, our apartment is nearly finished, and Thursday we had internet installed, finally. It never crossed my mind that I could be without internet access for a month in such a modern and technologically superior country. However, since they don’t have free Wi-Fi in cafes when I say I was without internet, I was really without internet. I’m sure there was a faster solution to our internet anguish, but our limited communication skills left us in an extended holding pattern.

The plane has since landed, and man it feels good to be back on the grid! Being without internet was not all bad. Notable downsides – I missed my sister’s graduation from Law School, Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday. Missing it in person was a given, but not getting the email updates and photo albums was a real bummer. I felt like I missed it in mind and body. Major upside – the time I would have been on Skype and staying in touch with America I spent almost exclusively studying Japanese and getting used to my new life.

A Little About Soccer

Not a day goes by where I’m not wowed by something someone does. The players are insane. INSANE. Their individual skills and soccer savvy are simply breathtaking, and the young eighteen, nineteen, and twenty year old players are head and shoulders above anything I’ve seen before. I’d venture to say the future of Japanese soccer is rock solid, and I’m pumped to watch some of my teammates in the U-20 World Championship this summer.

A Little About the Team

INAC Kobe Leonessa boasts eight world champions from the 2011 World Cup, including last year’s balon d’or (Homare Sawa). INAC is also the home of three of Japan’s top U-20’s and South Korea’s unbelievable number ten (Ji SoYun, drafted to the Boston Breakers of the recently defunct WPS). INAC plays a high pressure, possession style, and in opposite fashion to the U.S. a player’s job is first to fit in, not stand out.

Whereas in America we emphasize physical dominance, 1 v. 1’s, and individual moments of brilliance, the Japanese seem to be focused on team tactics, technical perfection, and above all else consistency. That makes fitting in a prerequisite to standing out. It’s not that we don’t have our technical and tactical players in the U.S., and it’s not that individual moments of brilliance or physical dominance aren’t valued in Japan. It’s more likely that the different systems determine the parameters that focus and limit the players developing in them. It’s a curious thing to drop down into such a contrary soccer culture, and I’m thick in the middle of a world I was not raised in. It’s sink or swim time, and I’m learning and growing every day.

On Saturday we tied Okayama Yunogo Belle (home of Aya Miyama, Japan National Team star, former WPS star, member of the L.A. Sol, St. Louis Athletica, and the Atlanta Beat). I debuted in the second half as the center forward in a 4-3-3 system. Having had a number of chances and not being able to convert on any of them, I am once again reminded (it has been years) of the woes of being a striker! It’s the familiar feeling of a good performance just not good enough.

What I’m Learning:

My transition needs to be faster. The players around me think and move so quickly, and I have to, have to, have to catch up. At times I need to cut the angles of my runs. Wider runs create space, but narrower runs put you in on goal. In the words of Naho Kawasumi, “relax”. Perhaps impossible given it was my first game in eight months, but probably advice worth taking from one of the world’s best goal-scorers.

It was so exciting to finally be playing again and add to it being surrounded by some of the world’s best players, and you’ve the recipe for the thrill of a lifetime!


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