Happy new year to you all! Start the year off right with a new KPA News Roundup with updates on the Freiburg Duo, Hwang Ui-jo, Lee Seung-woo, and Park Jung-bin. Let’s hope for an amazing 2020 here on the Tavern!
Bundesliga Update (Jeong Woo-yeong & Kwon Chang-hoon)
It’s been quite a while since we’ve covered Bundesliga news on the Tavern, and, unfortunately, we can attribute that to the lack of news coming out of Germany thus far this season. With Ji Dong-won recovering from injury over the last few months, that leaves SC Freiburg’s Kwon Chang-hoon and Jeong Woo-yeong as the only Korean players in the Bundesliga available for discussion. However, both of Freiburg’s new Korean signees have not made as much of an impact as some would have hoped for this season.
Let’s start off with the player that hasn’t gotten a chance to shine at the senior club level this season: Jeong Woo-yeong. The 20-year-old Bayern Munich prospect initially moved to Freiburg this summer to open up the possibility of receiving regular playing time in the Bundesliga. It was also the logical move at the time: JWY felt as if he had outgrown the Bayern reserves, who currently play in the German third division. By moving to Freiburg, he had a chance at making an earlier breakthrough to proper first division competition.
JWY, however, isn’t playing for the Freiburg first team and won’t likely see such much first team action this season. Ironically, the Incheon native is currently paving his lane to regular first team minutes on the Freiburg reserve team, which currently plays one level below the Bayern reserves. In October, Freiburg sporting director Klemens Hartenbach attributed JWY’s physical development as his current career roadblock, claiming the young player “still has physical deficits.”
Hartenbach furthered his point, claiming that JWY needed to “work on his physicality” for regular first team minutes. Basically, JWY needs to bulk up before he can get the opportunity to face former defender teammates like Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule. The food in Germany could be a helping factor in this situation; a nightly Doner run likely wouldn’t hurt. Jokes aside, JWY is on the KNT roster for the AFC U-23 Championship next month. Maybe he can impress enough on an international stage for some genuine first-team action soon.
While JWY has spent time at Freiburg mostly off the match roster list, Kwon Chang-hoon has been spending most of his time on the bench. So far this season, KCH has made a total of nine league appearances with the Bundesliga halfway through the 2019-20 season. He’s made mostly minimal impact on each of his playing opportunities, typically coming on as a late substitute to bolster the Freiburg offense.
Despite this, KCH has only scored once this season: a tap-in during his debut last August in which he sealed Freiburg’s 3-1 victory over Bundesliga bottom-dwellers Paderborn. KCH’s next significant appearance would come in Freiburg’s home affair with Bayern Munich last week. His replacement of injured Mike Frantz in the second-half of the match allowed Freiburg to keep a high press on Bayern that kept the game competitive. Freiburg would, however, lose the highly entertaining match 3-1 to two goals by Bayern in additional time.
KCH’s most impactful appearance thus far has been his most recent appearance coming on once again as a second-half substitute away at Schalke last Saturday. In the 66th minute, KCH would launch a left-footer from more than 20 yards out that would end up striking the left post. He would hustle for the deflection only to be pulled down on the inside of the right edge of the box by defender Juan Miranda. It would set up a Vincenzo Grifo penalty goal that helped Freiburg make it out of their trip with a crucial point.
If KCH’s recent appearances are an indicator of anything, it’s that there’s definitely a possibility of KCH playing a more significant role in the Freiburg attack this season. He likely won’t be a threat to start in Freiburg’s front two, typically reserved for Lucas Holer and Freiburg legend Nils Petersen. However, KCH may be more suited to play in the attacking midfield if he wants to break through as a regular starter in Freiburg’s matchday lineup.
The good news is that KCH still has quite some time to develop and become adapted to the Freiburg system throughout the rest of the season. The 25-year-old has already made considerable progress in his career in Europe, having arrived from the K-League over two years ago. He quickly grew accustomed to faster paced football in France and was able to move to Germany after just two seasons in Ligue 1. If history is an indicator of anything, it’s that KCH has the time and ability to adapt and develop into a new system.
The Bundesliga is currently on its Winter Break period and will resume on January 17. Ji Dong-won is currently on track to return from injury and may get an appearance with Mainz right off the bat. JWY, although a bit unfortunately, will likely split time sitting on the first team bench and playing for the reserves over the remainder of the season. Finally, KCH can likely break through for starting opportunities but will have to prove himself a bit further before doing so. Let’s hope it all works out for the three of them.
Hwang Ui-jo Takes Break in Korea, Expected to Return to Club Soon
After appearing as a substitute against Strasbourg over two weeks ago, Hwang Ui-jo has not made a single appearance for Bordeaux. Initial reports claimed he left France promptly after the match to do his civil service in South Korea. However, it turns out that he is actually in Korea to sort out paperwork regarding civil service, which he will do in the summer. Despite receiving a military exemption after winning gold in the 2018 Asian Games, HUJ is still required to do a month-long military training program mandated for all South Korean men.
Since starting the midseason break, the 27-year-old has missed a French League Cup match against Brest on December 18 and a league match against Rennes three days later. Both matches ended in losses for the Girondins. HUJ will also miss Bordeaux’s match against the French second division’s Le Mans in the Round of 64 in the French Cup. He is set to return to France on January 6 or 7 in time to make the squad for a Ligue 1 face-off against Champions League underdogs Lyon.
So far this season, HUJ has scored three goals and two assists in fifteen appearances for his club in Ligue 1. Despite his many playing opportunities at the beginning of the season, he has yet to start for his club since their match against Monaco on November 24. In addition, HUJ did not make the squad selection for the Korean derby against Stade Reims. Suk Hyun-jun, however, made a late substitute appearance for Reims. He would create the game-tying assist with a nifty cross in the third additional minute of the second-half.
Since the Reims match, Bordeaux manager Paulo Sousa has been implementing a 3-4-2-1 formation, placing 21-year-old Josh Maja at the striker position. He has rotated Jimmy Briand out of the starting lineup as well, going with Frenchmen Nicolas de Preville and Yacine Adil in the attacking midfield positions behind Maja. HUJ has made a mere two substitute appearances over the four-game stretch in which he has not started a match.
It’s unclear whether this has become the long-term starting situation for Bordeaux or the manager had simply been preparing early for HUJ’s three-week absence. Since the start of the season, HUJ has shifted attacking roles with the French club he signed for last July. Originally signed as a pure striker, the KNT’s leading goal-scorer of 2019 has been employed as a winger for his club in recent times. Hopefully, HUJ’s break will help him get the mental refreshing he needs to perform stronger in the second half of the season.
Although HUJ has yet to score for Bordeaux in almost two months, he’s proven his ability to adapt to football in a top-level European league. The Seongnam-born striker still has some ways to go before he can become a full-fledged star for his new club. However, he’s shown great potential over the last few months. HUJ will get more significant playing opportunities for his club, which sits just five points out of a Europa League spot in the tightly packed Ligue 1 table.
Lee Seung-woo Finally Debuts in the Jupiler Pro League
Four months after signing with his new club, Lee Seung-woo has finally appeared for Sint-Truiden (STVV) in the Jupiler Pro League. Last Thursday, the 21-year-old made his club debut against Waasland-Beveren, coming on as a second-half substitute for midfielder Alan Sousa. Despite his decent individual performance, his club would go on to lose the match against their peers in the bottom half of the league, 1-0. This comes just one month after the sacking of former STVV manager Marc Brys.
In a post-match interview, LSW discussed the managerial change, explaining that it was “the coach’s decision” to leave him out of squad selections earlier in the season. He later expressed his content for getting his first playing opportunity but confessed that he missed “the match rhythm.” Ultimately, the Suwon native reassured fans of his decision to leave Italy, touting STVV as “a good backdrop for young players to grow.”
Under caretaker manager Nicky Hayen, LSW has made three squad selections for his club. Hayen still believes, however, that LSW “needs more experience” and will only be fielded if he “adapts to the team.” Ultimately, though, Hayen likely won’t be offered the permanent manager position for his club. Instead, within the last few days, many media outlets reported that former A-League manager Kevin Muscat had agreed to oversee STVV. Muscat is set to become the first Australian to lead a football club in a major continental European league.
This comes as good news for LSW, who reportedly clashed with his former club manager after making an injury-causing tackle on a fellow teammate during training. The relationship between the two had become increasingly sour since the October incident. Brys, in particular, was not fond of LSW’s attitude, which he attributed to the young player’s fondness of his early success with La Masia. Now, LSW has a chance to redeem himself under someone who may better understand the difficulties of an AFC export adjusting to a European league.
Perhaps because Muscat would be going through the same situation.
Bonus: Park Jung-bin Soars in Start with Swiss Club Servette FC
Yes, I do love my alliterations. And I also love it when Korean soccer players find success abroad.
Park Jung-bin, who signed with Servette FC of the Swiss Super League last month, has already made a big splash for his new club. Employed as either a left winger or attacking midfielder, the former Danish league veteran has scored three goals and one assist in three appearances for his new club. All three of his goals came in an incredible hat-trick performance in a 5-0 rout against FC Zurich on December 8.
Set up with yards of open space, PJB would score the first goal of the match with a shot inside the box in the 18th minute. He would later score Servette’s third goal in the 51st minute in a similar fashion. Then, five minutes later, the 25-year-old would put his team up by four, taking a pass from his right side and subsequently blasting a beauty from outside the box. The lone performance helped PJB win Servette Player of the Month for December 2019.
Although the Busan native has started well in his first few matches in Switzerland, PJB will have to continue to impress in the second-half of the Swiss league season. He has played his entire career in Europe but has yet to receive a call-up to play for the senior KNT. PJB has also yet to receive a military exemption and may be looking to play as an overage player on the Olympics squad this August. In order to do so, he’ll have to keep scoring goals and do everything he can to ensure Servette qualifies for the Europa League next season.
The Swiss Super League is currently on Winter Break but will resume with its second half of the 2019-20 season on January 25. Servette is set to take on Neuchatel Xamax that day at 1 p.m. ET. PJB is expected to start.
P.S. PJB and his Danish wife actually have their own YouTube channel. Many of their videos provide some deep insight into PJB’s training and life outside of football. I didn’t realize this until two weeks ago, but I found the videos pretty funny and amusing. And they do get uploaded on a pretty regular basis. I’d check them out.