KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Daniel Schmidt and Vegalta Sendai kept it rolling over the weekend in Japan as they further cut the deficit in their pursuit of a Champions League spot.
Naoki Ishihara's stoppage time goal helped Vegalta Sendai to a big 2-1 win over Shimizu S-Pulse at the Yurtec Stadium to keep them very much in the hunt for two of the remaining spots left for next season's AFC Asian Champions League.
Schmidt was between the sticks for Sendai as they have now won four of their last five games.
The Japanese-American goalkeeper was called into action early to make a save when Brazilian forward Douglas headed his attempt at goal, forcing him to tip the ball away from danger.
At the other end, the host opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Kazuki Oiwa his foot on Gakuto Notsuda's corner kick to steer the ball past Shimizu goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan to give his team the lead.
Schmidt was called to the rescue again as he made a kick save on an attempt from Yu Hasegawa.
However, Shimizu would find the equalizer several minutes into the second half when Douglas made his presence known again as he headed ball home. He did have some help as the ball crashed off the crossbar before hitting Schmidt's heels and crossing the goal line.
Despite the freakish-like goal, Schmidt made up for it with another save as Douglas sent another header towards the goal, forcing him to parry the ball away again.
Sendai were still on the attack in the late stages of the game and were rewarded in the 95th minute when Yoshihiro Nakano headed the ball into the path of Ishihara and the striker's diving header hit the back of the net as they took all three points on the night.
The win puts Sendai in sixth place in the standings with 38 points - eight points behind Kawasaki Frontale and four behind FC Tokyo, who sit in second and third place.
Elsewhere in Japan, another American has been discovered playing in the country's top flight. Leo Osaki is a midfielder who plays for Vissel Kobe. He made the move to the team during the summer and now plays with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Andres Iniesta.
Osaki was in the starting lineup along with the other two, but it did not help as Kobe fell in a 3-1 loss to Consadole Sapporo.
Kobe, like Vegalta Sendai, are in the hunt for the Champions League as they are only six points out from third place.
Mix Diskerud was in the starting lineup for Ulsan Hyundai, but their three-game winning streak was put to a halt as they suffered a narrow 3-2 loss to Incheon United.
Despite the loss, Ulsan are well within the top six for the championship round as they sit in third place with 45 points.