Um, wow. Time has caught up to me. This will be the final (shorter) edition of K League Preview, where I throw in Incheon, Busan and Jeju. To be fair, the three sides don’t have too much to elaborate on (nor do I know much about them, I’ll admit).
CLUB NAME: Incheon United Football Club
History: Founded in 2004 as a Citizen club to fill up the Incheon Munhak Stadium (although they know play in Incheon Football Stadium). Their claim to fame was in 2005 where they finished runners-up to Ulsan in the K League, losing the Final (was a playoff system back then) 6-3 on aggregate after a torrid first leg.
2014 Season in one sentence: Awful start that had them in relegation spots for most of the first half of the season, but Incheon recovered and won the battle to avoid relegation, finishing in 10th on 40 points.
Transfer Window: Incheon’s just got no money. Midfielder Lee Seok-Hyun was the first to flee, joining Seoul. Later leaving was attacking midfielder Nam Joon-Jae and defensive midfielder Koo Bon-Sang. Between them, 50 appearances last season. Poof! Gone. It gets better. Youngster (well, 24, but he’s still got lots of potential) Moon Sang-Yoon joins the defending champs. It gets even better! Bae Seung-Jin. Ahn Jae-Jun. Park Tae-Min. Choi Jong-Hwan. 113 appearances between them. All gone!
But all is okay, right! They’ve brought in a foreign defender, and winger Kim Dae-Kyung from Suwon. They can stop the bleeding and at least keep this team above relegation next season, right? Right? Guys?
And then the nail in the coffin. Brazilian playmaker Ivo leaves. For China, of course, where else? Then, veteran Seol Ki-Hyeon realises how much of a mess this team is in and promptly retires. (Not really the reason.)
may have gotten definitely got a bit carried away there. Sorry.
Players to Watch: Is there anyone left?
Well, defensively, Lee Yoon-Pyo is going to have to be a rock in center-back with his new Croatian partner Matej Jonjic. Incheon will hope for a quality season out of left winger Lee Chun-Soo, but certainly hope that Kevin Oris, who scored 16 goals for Daejeon (yay) and 14 goals for Jeonbuk in his two previous stints in the K League, will continue that sort of form.
Prediction: Incheon look incredibly thin, devoid of talent and very beatable. Kevin Oris must be one of the K League’s best players this year or else Incheon could very well be going down.
K League Result: 11th
CLUB NAME: Jeju United Football Club
History: Founded in 1983 as the Yukong Elephants, representing the Gyeonggi region, and playing their games in Seoul from 1991-2000. Evicted due to the decentralization policy, Yukong move to Bucheon (a satellite city of Seoul – so much for spreading “footy fever” to the other provinces, KFA!) before selecting last vacant World Cup stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island in 2006 as their new home.
2014 Season in a sentence: Although Jeju were hoping for a Champions League spot, it never really seemed likely – their 5th place finish was quite apt for a team who got the clutch 1-goal wins when they were needed.
Transfer Window: Fairly quiet. They lose Hugo Droguett to O’Higgins Chile and Hwang Il-Soo to the Army, two of their best players. But get Kang Il-Soo back from his loan to Pohang – the speedy winger is a threat, but has trouble finishing. And of course, Jeju signed the obligatory pair of Brazilian strikers. Fernando Karanga seems the more interesting of the two. Duncan Elder over at K League Review did a scouting piece on him, check it out here: http://kleaguereview.com/fernando-karanga-k-league-scout/
Players to Watch: A name Koreans might remember is Yoon Bitgaram. He never really turned into the player he was once touted to be, but the Jeju midfielder is able to dictate the tempo and the play fairly well. He also scored an absolute cracker against Pohang last season. Song Jin-Hyung is another name people might recognize, a key attacking midfielder.
It will also be interesting where they play midfielder-turned-striker Park Soo-Chan if at all this year. He had a 4 goal performance last season that caught everyone off-guard. But to really solve Jeju’s scoring woes, Fernando Karanga seems to be the go-to guy. Kang Soo-Il can’t really finish and therefore the pressure will be on the young Brazilian to convert his chances.
Prediction: It’s Jeju vs Jeonnam for 6th in the league. I’m not totally sure why I picked Jeonnam over the Islanders, as you’d think on paper Jeju have an edge. But if Karanga isn’t the player he is expected to be, then Jeju could have trouble finding the back of the net as it feels like only a couple of their players can really finish.
K League Result: 7th
CLUB NAME: Busan I’Park Football Club
History: Everyone, myself included, seem to forget that Busan are the third (and worst) Hyundai club. They are in fact a founding member of the K League, as the Daewoo Royals, and 4-time champs. In recent years, however, Busan have remained firmly mid-table. However, on several occasions, including last year, they found themselves in a relegation scrap.
2014 Season in a sentence: Busan had an okay start (around 7th-8th) before really hitting rock bottom (around 10th-12th) but beating up on their fellow relegation contenders near the end to finish in 8th.
Transfer Window: Busan’s transfer window saw them lose two very important players. Brazilian import Fagner went off to greener pastures, but it was the loss of crafty midfielder/winger Im Sang-Hyub to the Army that could really hurt them this year. Im made the K League Team of the Year – the only player not in the first half of teams to do so. He also bagged 11 goals last season. Coming in, they bring a reinforcement in defense and another trio of Brazilians – two of them, forwards – Bergson, Nilson and Wesley.
Players to Watch: Busan have a strong goalkeeping platoon with Lee Bum-Young and Lee Chang-Geun. You might recall that the first Lee went to Brazil 2014 (but didn’t play) and was thought by many to be somewhat of a PK specialist.
However, it’s the Brazilian forward Bergson who will need to make a big impact at the club. Promoted to the Gremio first team in 2009, the striker has been on loan around the world but has struggled to find playing time at that. Plus, he’s goal-deprived – only 4 in his last 6 years. Hopefully, at Busan, he can get regular starts and untap that potential that his Brazilian Serie A side clearly saw when signing him as a teenager.
Prediction: Due to my bias seeing Daejeon finish 9th, maybe 10th is a tad harsh. However, Busan might struggle with the loss of their consistent Im Sang-Hyub and will surely be in yet another relegation scrap.
K League Result: 10th
Tim’s K League Prediction:
— Tim Lee (@korfan12) March 6, 2015
— Tim Lee (@korfan12) March 6, 2015
So… it’s over. 12 teams, 8 posts and 10,000+ words later, the 2015 K League Preview series comes to an end. Let me know what you thought of the series – hated it, loved it, too long, not long enough, waste of space or super informative – whatever. The K League is just around the corner now, with action beginning in the next 24 hours. Maybe I’ll have a just for fun post on the kits later in the day, the Weekend Listings and the K League Round 1 Preview. Lots of stuff coming up. Thanks for reading this series, it’s been fun. Give me a follow and Jalgayo (for now!) from the TSC!