The relative newcomers have already made an impact in the J1 with the coaching acumen of a former South Korea international and a striker who may represent Japan in Brazil.
Of that original group, Sagan Tosu became the last to finally achieve promotion after finishing a well-deserved second place in the 2011 J2 season.
Despite being marked by most observers as a sure candidate for quick relegation, Sagan surprised almost everyone with an incredible J1 debut. The end of the 2012 season saw them just one win away from a third-place finish and a spot in the AFC Champions League, but a defeat to Yokohama F. Marinos meant that Sagan would end the year in a very honorable fifth place.
In a league that has mostly favored Japanese or Brazilian coaches, Sagan are unique in the rare presence of former midfielder and South Korea international Yoon Jong-Hwan. The 40-year-old was the mastermind behind their 2011 promotion and fantastic 2012 finish.
Despite being a relatively new club, Sagan Tosu have bred two of Japan’s last generation of attackers: both Mike Havenaar and Yohei Toyoda have spearheaded the club’s offense, earning call-ups to the national team in the process.
Tosu was the final stop for Argentine international David Bisconti, who spent half a season at Sagan before his retirement in 2002.
Longtime player Omi Sato was a crucial part of Sagan’s early years, playing there from 1998 through 2005. The converted striker was known for his solo goals and carried the team’s attack for several seasons.
Tatsunori Arai spent three seasons at the club over two stints, and was the J2’s top scorer in 2005.
Striker Yoshihito Fujita also spent three seasons with Sagan; his 24 goals in 2007 showed promise, and he kept up the pace in 2008 despite injuries with 18 goals including a hat-trick against Vegalta Sendai.
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