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[ODDS and EVENS] Yokohama FC Forward Koki Ogawa Makes His Mark as Top Scorer in J2

Koki Ogawa led the J.League's 22-club second flight with 26 goals, 10 more than any other player, igniting his team's return to J1 next season.

Yokohama FC's Koki Ogawa scores his second goal against Roasso Kumamoto on October 23. (KYODO)

Remarkable achievements happen throughout the year.

And one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a columnist is discovering, researching and writing about such things as Yokohama FC forward Koki Ogawa's 2022 season.

Ogawa finished the season with 26 goals in 41 games, first among all players in the J.League second division ― first by a whopping amount. Fagiano Okayama's Tiago Alves scored 16 goals.

In professional soccer, everyone knows that scoring goals on a consistent basis requires more than strength or skill. 

Teamwork, of course, plays a pivotal role in a player's success at finding his target. To their credit, Yokohama FC players didn't deviate from the plan: get the ball to Ogawa and let him do what he does best.

Of Yokohama FC's 66 goals, Ogawa scored nearly 40% of them.

In other words, the 25-year-old forward was the driving force behind the team's runner-up finish in J2 this season. Yokohama FC had 23 wins, 11 draws and eight losses (80 points) to finish second behind Albirex Niigata (84 points), who also earned promotion to J1.

Yokohama FC closed out the season with a 4-3 away loss to Roasso Kumamoto on Sunday, October 23. Ogawa's performance (goals in the 20th and 54th minutes) was the type of play that manager Shuhei Yomoda had come to expect from him.

Before the season began, Ogawa approached his job with lofty ambitions.

"I wanted to make an impact and thought that with 22 or 23 goals I would end up as the top scorer," Ogawa told reporters in Kumamoto after the team's season finale. "I was hoping I could reach 26 or 27 goals, and I was able to score my 26th goal today. I think it was a good season."

Versatility Pays Off

Ogawa led the 22-team J2 in shots (126), with 53% of his attempts on target.

He's been described as a ruthless tactician this season. And he demonstrated repeatedly that he's capable of putting the ball in the net in a variety of ways.

A few numbers help to illustrate this point. Ogawa scored eight times on headers. Ten of his goals were rifled past opposing goalkeepers with his right foot. He used his left foot on eight other occasions.

Clearly, the smartest decision Yomoda made about the direction of his team in 2022 revolved around Ogawa's offensive skill set.

After the team's Sunday match, Yomoda reflected on this point.

"During the preseason, he competed in various positions and I gave chances to various players," Yomoda said in comments posted on the team website. "But I think he won [the role] after the opening match."

Ogawa pounced on a scoring opportunity in the 46th minute in Yokohama FC's season-opening match on February 19 against visiting Omiya Ardija, giving his team a 2-0 lead. The hosts survived Ardija's rally, winning 3-2. 

For Ogawa, it was a tone-setting performance. He took five shots, the first of eight times this season he had five or more. Nothing earth-shattering about those numbers, but they help point out that he remained the No. 1 scoring option for the club.

Yokohama FC found its offensive rhythm early in the season, too, winning its first four matches. In the fourth match, Ogawa had his first two-goal effort of 2022, a 3-2 decision over Mito Hollyhock on March 13, including the winning tally in the 84th minute.

A Welcome Change of Scenery

Before making his Yokohama FC debut, Ogawa mostly played for Jubilo Iwata, appearing in 79 matches (11 goals) for a club that competed in J1 from 2016-19 and in J2 in 2020-21. He also made 19 appearances (seven goals) on loan for Mito Hollyhock in 2019.

In 2021, in Jubilo's title-winning campaign to return to J1, Brazilian teammate Lukian Araujo de Almedia was the premier scorer in J2 with 22 goals.

As Jubilo's No. 1 scoring option, Lukian, as he's commonly called by fans and teammates, thrived in that role.

Ogawa had limited opportunities to showcase his scoring skills, taking only 21 shots in his 24 appearances and scoring one goal. Without a doubt, there were times in 2021 when Ogawa was eager to do more. 

Upon joining Yokohama FC, a change of scenery and a new role with a new team elevated his profile as a footballer. He became a franchise cornerstone.

'Amazing Calmness In Front of the Goal'

And fans were enthralled with his goalscoring exploits. Comments posted on a YouTube video of Ogawa's scoring highlights vividly describe how he captured their attention and generated excitement through the season.

"It's amazing how he's scoring points from anywhere," one commenter wrote, the Japanese-language website Football Zone reported. Another shared the view that Ogawa has "amazing calmness in front of the goal."

Is it better to classify goalscoring as art or science?  

The sequence of events is a breathtaking visual on occasion, but can also appear as methodical as an engineer's blueprint.

Either way, Ogawa is thrilled with the results this season.

"I'm really happy to have my name engraved in the history of Yokohama FC," he told reporters on Sunday. "And I am also very happy to have contributed to the team in my hometown, where I attended the [team's soccer] school when I was in elementary school."

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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