Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Anderson Lopes says the shock resignation of three-time J. League championship winning manager Hajime Moriyasu left him deeply saddened, but the Brazilian insists the players must shoulder most of the blame for their slide into the relegation mire.
“I have worked together with the coach for a year and it is really sad that he has gone,” Lopes said on Saturday, when he scored his third goal in two games to rescue a point in a gutsy 1-1 draw at in-form Yokohama F. Marinos — the team’s first game after Moriyasu stepped down on Tuesday.
“The coach has quit but 90 percent of the blame lies with the players.
“I really learned a lot from him as both a player and a person and I am truly grateful for that. Life goes on but I pray that he does well.”
Sanfrecce’s comparatively low budget means they continue to struggle to hold onto their best players.
Nigerian striker Peter Utaka — last season’s joint-top scorer in the top flight with 19 goals — was the most recent key man to leave. He moved on loan to FC Tokyo one game into the season, and Hiroshima’s lack of firepower has been a major factor in its decline this term.
Lopes has scored six times this season, including a brace off the bench in a 4-3 defeat at Urawa Reds, which turned out to be Moriyasu’s last game. Hiroshima has failed to win any of the matches in which Lopes has scored and the 23-year-old admits he wishes he could have traded his goals for wins to keep Moriyasu at the helm.
“If I could exchange the goals I have scored for wins, then I would do that but I can’t go back and I have to try and figure out how to help us move up the table. That is the important thing,” he said.
Akinobu Yokouchi is acting as caretaker manager following Moriyasu’s resignation, and Lopes believes there are pluses to be drawn from a change in leadership.
“There are positives to be gained from a new manager coming in because it gives an opportunity to players who haven’t had much playing time,” said Lopes. “It will increase competition for a place in the team and I think that will improve the team as a whole.”
Former Japan defender Moriyasu took the reins at Sanfrecce in 2012, and despite a lack of spending power steered the team to the league title that season, as well as in 2013 and 2015.
The 48-year-old’s resignation hit some of the club’s longer-serving players even harder, with captain Toshihiro Aoyama saying he felt like he had “lost a parent.”
“I have played under him for five-and-a-half years and won the title,” added veteran defender Hiroki Mizumoto. “He raised Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s status as a club and I learned a lot from him so it is disappointing that our results have led to him leaving us. I feel bad that us players could not get the job done for him.”
“But Yoko-san (Yokouchi) came in and had to get us regrouped for this game with the aim of getting three points. It was not easy to refocus our minds, but we worked hard and got ourselves together. It is a bit of a shame we only got one point.”
Sanfrecce’s draw against Marinos snapped a four-match losing streak but the club is still second from bottom in the table, five adrift of 15th-place Consadole Sapporo, who came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with fellow strugglers Omiya Ardija on Saturday.
“For this point to be meaningful we have to play well for the remaining 16 games of the season and stay up,” Mizumoto said.