Mega post alert! Well, maybe not a mega post, but a post covering a broad range of things. We’ve got Korean Players Abroad listings for the Europe-based players – is Kim Jin-Su injured? – and the Middle East-based players – a Korean derby, I hear? – and we conclude with the best of all – after weeks of anticipation and waiting, the K League FINALLY STARTS! Well, only the first tier (the Classic) is in action this weekend but there are some intriguing matchups including
Daejeon, Daejeon and Daejeon a de facto Super Cup – Jeonbuk vs Seongnam.
|Saturday||9:30 AM||Hong Jeong Ho||Augsburg||Wolfsburg||None|
|Saturday||9:30 AM||Ji Dong Won||Augsburg||Wolfsburg||None|
|Saturday||9:30 AM||Kim Jin Su||Hoffenheim||@Schalke||None|
|Saturday||10:00 AM||Yun Suk Young||QPR||Tottenham||NBCSN|
|Saturday||10:00 AM||Kim Bo Kyung||Wigan||Leeds United||None|
|Saturday||12:30 PM||Koo Ja Cheol||Mainz||‘Gladbach||GolTV|
|Saturday||12:30 PM||Park Joo Ho||Mainz||‘Gladbach||GolTV|
|Sunday||12:00 PM||Suk Hyun Jun||Vitoria Setubal||Belenenses||None|
|Sunday||12:30 PM||Son Heung Min||Bayer Leverkusen||@SC Paderborn||None|
|Off||n/a||Lee Chung Yong||Crystal Palace|
|Off||n/a||Ki Sung Yueng||Swansea|
Ji still going through the motions at Augsburg, he’s been struggling recently but hopefully he can improve. Hong Jeong-Ho has just returned to training. Perhaps bench for both.
Kim Jin-Su appears to have a calf injury, but there’s not much more in the news about it. If he’s healthy he should be a lock but keep an eye out to see if this injury is just minor or if it takes the leftback out of the next little bit.
Yun Suk-Young goes to Tottenham in the only Premier League game of the week (other games have been postponed and stuff for the FA Cup). QPR can move out of the relegation spots with a win at the expense of Aston Villa. Yun will start.
Kim Bo-Kyung is on really good form, he’s been named Man of the Match for Wigan 3 times in a row and has scored in the last 2. Last week’s goal was a cracking finish. Kimbo is being played as a central mid in a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1 of sorts. He had 52% pass completion last week which is slightly worrying but most of the failed ones were on the longer side. Had 7 interceptions. Kimbo’s warranted a call-up to the KNT in March in my opinion. He’s a quality player, hence the fact he’s in Europe, when he’s playing well. The friendly against Mali comes to mind. Worth a look for sure.
Koo Ja-Cheol/Park Joo-Ho up in the air.
Son Heung-Min should start after not being eligible to play the DFB-Pokal tie midweek, which Bayer won in Extra Time. He’ll be fresher than most of his teammates.
Middle East News
With a new manager, Kwak Tae-Hwi and Al-Hilal go to relegation contender Al Khaleej. (Sat 10.45am EST, Sun 12.45am KST)
In Qatar, Nam Tae-Hee and league-leading Lekhwiya play midtable Al-Kharitiyath. (Sat 10.00am EST, midnight KST)
It’s a Korean derby! Lee Keun-Ho‘s El Jaish and Han Kook-Young and Cho Young-Cheol‘s Qatar SC do battle for 3rd. (Sat 12:15pm EST, Sun 2:15am KST)
Over in the UAE, Lee Myeong-Joo and Al-Ain host Al-Jazira, 1st vs 2nd. An epic match in the Emirates awaits. (Sun 12:30pm EDT, Sun 1:30am KST)
***TAVERN REMINDER! We lose an hour of sleep this Sunday as Daylight Savings Time begins? Ends? I don’t remember which. The most important thing is, if you observe DST where you live, the clock springs forward an hour. $@&#%#&@!***
K LEAGUE STARTS FINALLY!
At last! The K League Classic season begins after much anticipation and build-up. Here’s a look at the opening round matches.
SATURDAY MATCHES – March 7th 2015
Incheon v Gwangju (midnight EST, 2pm KST)
Incheon have lost so many players in the off-season that their XI is hard to predict. Gwangju are just coming up and are lacking in attack but have a stoic defense corps. The Verdict: 0-0
Streaming: Naver, SpoTV+, Afreeca
TV: SpoTV+, CJ Hellovision Incheon
MATCH OF THE WEEK: Jeonbuk v Seongnam (1am EST, 3pm KST)
The official season opener, on national television no less. Jeonbuk’s green machine gets to work at the Castle against Kim Hak-Bum’s Seongnam. Can the Sparrows do what they did so well against Gamba midweek – that is to say, give the opposition no space on the ball in their final third? I think not. On the road, Seongnam aren’t exactly convincing. However, if there’s any hope for the visitors, Choi Kang-Hee has said publicly that his focus is on the ACL this season. The Verdict: 3-0 to Jeonbuk
Screaming: Naver, SpoTV+, Afreeca
TV: KBS1 (w/ Lee Young-Pyo commentating, KBS1 probably stream too, but the other streaming feeds should be the same one as KBS’.)
Busan v DAEJEON (2am EST, 4pm KST)
DAEJEON ARE BACK! After a glorious triumph last season in the K League Classic, the Purple Crew travel south to the Asiad against the I’Park. Both these teams aren’t fancied to do well this year, so a win would be a great start to the season. The Verdict: 1-0 to Daejeon
Streaming: Naver, SpoTV+, Afreeca
SUNDAY MATCHES – March 8th 2015
Jeonnam v Jeju (midnight EST, 2pm KST)
One of the three battles for 6th place, as both these teams are expected to be duking it out for 6th place in the league until Matchday 33. Can the Dragons’ youthful attack be victorious in Gwangyang? There’s little to seperate these sides. The Verdict: 1-1
Streaming: Naver, Daum, Afreeca
TV: Yeosu MBC
Suwon v Pohang (midnight EST, 2pm KST)
Suwon suffered an unlucky 1-0 loss to Beijing Guoan as Dejan Damjanovic scored for the Chinese side to haunt Suwon again (Dejan is formerly of FC Seoul). Pohang begin their season revitalized with the addition of foreigners and a good pre-season. The Steelers will be fresher. The Verdict: 2-1 to Pohang
Streaming: Naver, Daum, Afreeca
TV: T-Broad Suwon
Ulsan v Seoul (3am EDT, 4pm KST)
Yoon Jung-Hwan makes his K League debut with his new look Ulsan side, while Choi Yong-Soo’s side looked lackluster but came away with the win midweek in the ACL. Choi has admitted his side are probably a 5th place side, as well as mentioning that he is interested in bringing back the infamous Park Chu-Young to the K League, but admits that it will be “difficult”. Osmar Barba was rested for Seoul, but they fielded a strong side on Wednesday. Ulsan have home advantage and an edge on fitness. The Verdict: 2-0 to Ulsan
Streaming: Naver, Daum, Afreeca, SpoTV+
>Tavern Owner interrupting: I was going to get to a kickaround where I would encourage everyone to tune into the K-League this season, especially if you have not given it much consideration. The K-League needs support -as past seasons have seen declining attendance and difficult to find TV broadcasts. That wasn’t the case after the fervor created in the wake of 2002’s spectacular and electrifying World Cup run by the Taeguk Warriors all the way to the semifinals. Interest in the K-League then was at an all time high but in the decade that followed, the declining numbers and lack of interest clashed with Koreans turning their attention instead to Park Ji-Sung and super late weekend TV watching Manchester United games from afar. Year after year, (with the exception of some teams and particular derby matches) the beautiful cavernous World Cup stadiums would gradually become empty during match days, save for a smatterings of fans scattered around. All this happened incredibly despite K-League teams winning a number of Asian Championship titles in recent years.
Fast forward to the eve of the 2015 K-League season: after the Asian Games gold medal win of 2014 and a dramatic Asian Cup run to the finals last month, there seems to be some renewed interest in Korean domestic football. Case in point, Seongnam, who nearly got relegated last season, and have struggled on a number of fronts since their Unification Church source of funding dried up with the death of their cultish leader, just last Tuesday saw 7800+ brave the terrible weather to show support for their club in an Asian Champions League midweek match – a remarkable attendance boost for one of the few clubs with a relatively new 16K football specific stadium. 50% full is WAY better than the anemic numbers of recent seasons.
KBS announced that they would be airing a number of K-League matches this season and would report K-League results in their sports news roundups. Positive change on the way? Let’s hope so, because the future of Korean football does depend on a having a lively domestic football scene and culture. We need new generations of young Koreans continually inspired by their own local football scene, and a vibrant football culture that encourages them in a sustainable future with football, rather than an American has-been sport that encourages sloth (tell us what you really think about baseball Tavern Owner!) Let’s not forget, Ki Sung-Yeung, Yun Suk-Young, Lee Chung-Yong, Koo Ja-Cheol, Ji Dong-Won – these current Euro based players cut their teeth initially in the K-League. If hypothetically Korea were to go deep again in a future World Cup, they need quality players, experienced players – and they will not all be based abroad. If hypothetically Korea were to go deep again (or we take it as the next sign of the apocalypse and they win the whole damn thing) – can you imagine that they would do so without an authentic football loving culture that actively supports and nurtures it’s own domestic leagues?
Say if people were to tune in from abroad, say from the US, Canada or Europe, that would be added bonus.
I am challenging myself and the Tavern to find ways to catch K-League games this season -thus we will have the Tavern stay open extra late (or open bloody early) to watch games live. This will be difficult, but if the Tavern could open up at 2am EST for Asian Cup matches – we will find a way. I’ve instructed the Tavern bartender, the Tavern bouncer and the kitchen staff to stick around for certain weekend or midweek matches. I love the smell of galbi at 4 in the morning. If you’re in the West Coast – you have an easier time to catch games – make them late night Friday or Saturday reasons to party.
Additionally, I will be going (for the first time ever) to see my local MLS team, DC United as they take on Montreal. Like the K-league, the MLS season also starts March 7th. Think Globally, Act Locally. Soccer in the US will never improve unless there is a critical mass that take the sport seriously. It’s improving here…but it has a long way to go.
Back in late January, I missed this ESPNFC post about Ryan Johnson, a former Portland Timbers player who signed a 2 year contract and taking on a new challenge in joining Seoul E-Land.
Speaking of Seoul E-Land …Surprise if you live near Durham, North Carolina, this Sunday you could see a K-League Challenge team in a pre-season exhibition match. NASL’s Carolina Railhawks will be hosting Seoul E-Land at 3pm, tickets are on sale here. Why Carolina? Seoul E-Land’s manager Martin Rennie used to coach there, took the Railhawks to 1st place in 2010 before becoming Vancouver Whitecap’s manager -where he was the last manager to coach Lee Young-Pyo before he hung up his boots last year.
Fun Fact: the last time a NASL team took on a Korean side was 1982, where the NYC Cosmos beat the Korean National Team in a friendly 0-1.