Soccer: Iwata wins MVP as Marinos, Frontale dominate J-League Best XI

Yokohama F Marinos defender Tomoki Iwata took out the J-League's most valuable player award Monday while making his first appearance in a Best XI featuring five members from the newly crowned champions.

Runners-up Kawasaki Frontale, winners of four of the past five J1 championships, also had five players named to the ceremonial side.

The 25-year-old Iwata became just the fourth defender to claim the league's top individual accolade and the first since former Japan center-back Marcus Tulio Tanaka won it in 2006 with Urawa Reds.

Iwata played a crucial role for manager Kevin Muscat, who tasked the Oita Prefecture native with keeping the champions secure at the back while they employed a potentially risky high defensive line.

"All I've been thinking about is improving as a player and winning the championship," Iwata said. "The hard work has paid off."

Goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka, midfielder Kota Mizunuma, defender Ryuta Koike and forward Elber were the other 2022 Best XI selections from Marinos, who held off a title challenge from Kawasaki to win their fifth J1 crown and first since 2019 in Saturday's final round.

Four Frontale stars were repeat picks -- 2022 World Cup squad defenders Shogo Taniguchi and Miki Yamane, as well as midfielders Akihiro Ienaga and Yasuto Wakizaka. Frontale attacker Marcinho made his maiden appearance.

The only Best XI member from outside the top two clubs was the J1's top scorer, Brazilian forward Thiago Santana, who earned his first selection after bagging 14 goals for relegated Shimizu S-Pulse.

Iwata, who made his professional debut with then third-division Oita Trinita in 2016, said winning the award was "like a dream."

"When I started my career in J3, I never thought I would one day win the MVP and the league championship," he said. "In the middle of this dream, I still have a goal. I want to keep striving."

Kashiwa Reysol's 21-year-old forward Mao Hosoya was named best young player, while the best goal award went to Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Takumu Kawamura for an injury-time effort from within his own half against S-Pulse on Sept. 3.

© Kyodo News