The Mighty Squirrels have their first away match of the new J1 season on Sunday, when they travel to promoted side Kyoto Sanga for an intriguing-looking contest. Ardija of course put in a highly promising performance in their 2-0 win over Albirex Niigata, but Sanga managed a creditable 1-1 draw at Nagoya Grampus in their opening game back in the top flight.
Hisashi Kato's side picked up the likes of Yuya Sato from JEF United and Atsushi Yanagisawa from Kashima Antlers over the winter, but nevertheless took the lead at Nagoya via an early penalty from old favourite Paulinho. Kyoto were later pegged back by Frode Johnsen's fine glancing header, but arguably did enough to indicate that they will have enough about them this year to prevent an immediate return to J2.
The main positive to emerge from Omiya's victory was an early blossoming of the relationship between midfield playmaker Daigo Kobayashi and young striker Pedro Junior, who combined for both of Ardija's goals and will be hoping to build upon their encouraging start. Indeed, Nagoya carved open enough opportunities to suggest that there is the possibility for goals against Sanga for any forwards alert enough to make the most of the chances that come their way.
It would be easy to put pressure upon the youthful Pedro after his blistering display at the weekend, but the way that he combined with Daigo was exactly the kind of dynamic interplay that Ardija fans have been hoping in vain to see over the last couple of years. Couple that with the Brazilian's stated target of fifteen J1 goals this year and it is no wonder that there is already a level of expectation about his contribution at Kyoto.
But as well as Omiya's attacking play, the performance of goalkeeper Koji Ezumi also caught the eye against Niigata, as the visitors - roared on by an away support numbering 4500 - fought hard to get back into the match after half time. Ezumi, preferred to former first-choice net minder Hiroki Aratani after putting in an increasingly authoritative series of displays towards the end of 2007, has surely never played as well for Ardija as he did on Sunday.
Long range shots from new Albirex striker Alessandro and goal area threats alike were dealt with comfortably and with a confidence that augurs well for the Squirrels being able to build upon last year's strong defensive outlook. A win at Kyoto will go some way to building upon the positive start to the season made by Yasuhiro Higuchi and his charges.