The 2015 season is in the books. Jeonbuk claimed their fourth title, while poor Daejeon was sent back down to the Challenge. Busan became the first chaebol (corporate) backed club to be relegated as they went down via the playoff, while Suwon FC was promoted. The K League will have their first ever top-flight intercity derby next season! What else happened? Suwon and Pohang claimed the two other league Asian Champions League spots while Seoul won the FA Cup. I think that about covers it. Thanks for reading!
(Oh you want more? Okay, more after the jump)
Jeonbuk wins at a canter
So like everyone and their mother thought, Jeonbuk won the league. According to the Wikipedia page, Jeonbuk was league leader for 35 of 38 rounds (rounds 2-4 Ulsan was the leader). Edu carried the team early on with a flurry of goals before taking the money train to China, and then Lee Dong-gook picked up the slack in the second half. Lee Jae-sung continued to establish himself in the upper echelons of Korean football as well. Jeonbuk was often unspectacular, but were solid and often found a way to win.
Suwon/Pohang make their case, but fail to push through
Suwon was “in” the race for the title throughout the season, and checking the Wikipedia page once again, it shows they were second for 30 of the 38 rounds. That being said they never really pushed the Jeonju club for first. Whenever Jeonbuk gave them a chance to close the gap, Suwon more often than not tossed points as well. The loss of North Korean international Chong Te-se midseason certainly hurt the club’s chances as Kaio and Ilyan Mitanski both failed to really make the grade. Kwon Chang-hoon burst onto the scene as well, impressing both in Suwon’s blue and Korea’s red. Yeom Ki-hoon rolled back the years to turn in an MVP caliber season (he didn’t win it though), and became Korea’s all-time assists leader.
Pohang made a late push, but like their blue cousins failed to ever really make Jeonbuk sweat. A bit of a mixed bag for the southeast club. On the one hand they were a dark horse candidate to win the league before the season, but on the other hand finishing third feels like quite an accomplishment. Their foreign signings were a bit of a bust, particularly the (overly) hyped Andre Moritz. Shin Hwa-yong was solid (and underappreciated) in goal, Moon Chang-jin continues to grow and impress, and Kim “The Line Breaker” Seung-dae was decent. Pohang will be interesting next season as Kim Seung-dae heads to China while coach Hwang Sun-hong will take a break. Former U-17 boss Choi Jin-cheol will take the reigns.
Seongnam and Incheon: The citizen clubs make themselves heard
Aside from the noise at the top, Seongnam and Incheon, two of the “citizen” clubs quietly did themselves proud. Both ultimately missed out on Asian competition as Seongnam finished fifth in the league while Incheon lost to Seoul in the KFA Cup. Nevertheless, considering the resources at their disposal both finishes are admirable. Hwang Ui-jo jumped on the map with his goalscoring exploits for Seongnam, while Incheon were buoyed by their two big foreigners Kevin Oris and Matej Jonjic.
Seoul fails to impress, but wins anyway
The big boys from the capital never really looked too impressive this season. Once again they stumbled badly out of the blocks, but eventually got their act together to win the KFA Cup. Seoul did manage to entertain as the first Supermatch with Suwon saw them get pummeled by a fantastic Chong Te-se (5-1 to the blue side), then bounce back to smash Suwon 3-0 in the next meeting. The third game was forgettable, but the fourth saw Yun Ju-tae score a poker as Seoul won 4-3. The question going through fans’ minds now, “Is Dejan coming back?”
Original league member. Four time league champion. Asian champion. Now relegated. <sniff, sniff>. In all honesty a well-deserved relegation. Busan was piss poor this year. An offense that couldn’t score, a defense that couldn’t stop conceding late goals. Not even the return of ‘Soldierella’ Lee Jeong-hyeob could keep them up. A long year awaits in the Challenge.
- Jeju: So the islanders were an interesting team. Free-flowing and full of goals, but the price was that they conceded a ton too. Probably in the news too much because of one Kang Su-il. Otherwise Yoon Bitgaram continues to be a solid midfielder and Ricardo Lopes (already gone to Jeonbuk) was one of the better foreign signings of the season.
- Ulsan: Tipped to be potentially very good, Ulsan decided to give the other teams a 3-4 month head start before they decided to start playing. Kim Shin-wook ended up being top scorer, but everyone else said it was no fair because he got to play the weak bottom half teams. New boss Yoon Jung-hwan failed to replicate the magic he had at Sagan Tosu with big boys Ulsan.
- Jeonnam: Ultimately a season to forget for the other Jeolla side. Started brightly and the trio of Stevica Ristic, Lee Jong-ho, and Mislav Orsic were among the best in the league. But then Orsic went missing, and the team fell apart late.
- Gwangju: Survived, and quite comfortably too. They’ll be happy with that.
- Daejeon: I’ll just leave this space open for Tim Lee to vent (should he choose to do so). Tim here: We were shit. The team lacked… everything. Adriano was often isolated up top and the whole team relied on him to make things happen. Defensively, we were a shambles, from Gameweek 1 all the way to the final gameweek. No notion of when to step up and close down or get stuck in. No notion of how to clear lines or defend a routine corner. Our midfield creativity was non-existant, Seo Myungwon having an off-season plagued with injuries. Managerial changes weren’t enough as even in games where we were on the verge of an upset under the new gaffer, mental toughness wouldn’t see us through to the final whistle. Wanderson was brought in and the whole team slacked and let him do the work, and aimless random running doesn’t always provide results. Hwang Inbeom was discovered mid-season and was simply sensational, but a season-ending injury sort of killed us. Props to Jae for being able to keep things so succinct and compact throughout this post – I’ll stop here before I write an essay. Point is – our relegation was deserved and we need to focus on building a team composed of individuals and a star player or two, not a team composed of a star player or two with individuals putting on their best imitations of training pylons.