After a surprising 2nd place finish last season, who have Suwon brought in? Can they surprise the league again?
CLUB NAME: SUWON SAMSUNG BLUEWINGS FOOTBALL CLUB
City: Suwon, Gyeonggi Province (Suwon is the capital of Gyeonggi Province.)
Stadium: Suwon World Cup Stadium (43,959) (AKA The Big Bird Stadium)
Average 2014 Attendance: 19,608 (1st)
Manager: Seo Jung-Won
Captain: Yeom Ki-Hun
Ownership: Cheil (Samsung’s subsidiary)
Founded: 1995 (First season in 1996)
K League Championships: 4 (1998, 1999, 2004, 2008)
Korean FA Cups: 3 (2002, 2009, 2010)
Will participate in 2015 Asian Champions League, Group G with Brisbane Roar, Urawa Red Diamonds and Beijing Guoan
Suwon are arguably the most supported team in the country, and one who has had plenty of success in previous years.
Samsung invested in a football club in 1996, the 14th season of the K-League, so compared to archrivals Seoul they are relatively new. However, they have only ever played in Suwon, allowing them to forge strong ties with their community as opposed to Seoul who bounced all over the place. Also, Suwon’s fans are always out in big numbers at the Big Bird or on the road to cheer on the Bluewings, including their ultras, Frente Tricolore, for one.
Suwon quickly became a powerhouse in Korean football, probably thanks to the funds they had at their disposal. Under manager Kim Ho, they finished runners-up in the League and KFA Cup in their first season. Thanks to the former KNT manager, Suwon won 2 K Leagues, 3 League Cups (now defunct), a Korean FA Cup and two Asian Club Championships. Then legend Cha Bum-Keun took the reins in 2004 and continued the winning tradition, including a double in 2008 (League and League Cup).
The team is now managed by 44 year-old Seo Jung-Won, who, despite playing for both the Seoul and Suwon franchises, is considered more of a Suwon legend (with nearly 150 appearances for the Bluewings from 1999-2004.)
Former Famous Players/Managers: Park Gun-Ha, Lee Woon-Jae, Cho Jae-Jin, Hwang Sun-Hong, Kim Doo-Hyun, Lee Jung-Soo, Yoon Sung Hyo (as player and as manager), Cha Bum-Kun (as manager), Kim Ho (as manager), Seo Jung-Won (as player and manager)
2014 Result: 2nd Place (67 pts)
Suwon’s 2014 Season saw them finishing in 2nd place of the K-League and giving eventual winners Jeonbuk a little to worry about in the latter stages of the season. They had attacking talent with streaky but talented North Korean international Jong Tae-Se, and league top scorer Santos. The stats back that up – 2nd best in goals scored, shots taken and shots on target. The Bluewings took advantage of a fading Pohang side to comfortably secure 2nd place.
Suwon lost midfield stalwart Kim Do-Heon this transfer window to Seongnam FC, but secured the name of two dangerous Brazilian forwards in Kaio (from Jeonbuk) and Leo. They still have one more international spot open (as of February 21st, 2015) and I was expecting that signing to be a defender, as was the case last season with centre-back Ferreira, to strengthen their relatively inexperienced backline. They also could do better in midfield depth, but with the ACL fast approaching, no new signings seem to be on their way.
Players To Watch
This is a very talented team on paper, which is unsurprising considering the owners, Samsung. They have 2014 World Cup goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong between the sticks, and he is, despite his well-documented failures in a KNT shirt, one of the better keepers of the K League.
Up in attack, Suwon now boasts a highly talented strikeforce. Kaio didn’t get much of a shot at centre-forward last season due to Lee Dong-Gook’s form, and can also play on the wing. Santos has an excellent shot and is a good finisher, and he plays as a no.10. Leo comes out of Switzerland and FC Sion. His former manager there described him as a typical modern striker and particularly effective on 1v1 situations. Not to mention Jong Tae-Se, the North Korean dubbed the “People’s Rooney.”
Key To Success
KEEP THE BALL MOVING: Although Pohang is known for using the “Steel-Taka”, Suwon are also capable of some excellent passing moves. There were a few incredible team goals last year with some delicious one-touch passing that could have easily won goal of the year. With new signings in attack, manager Seo Jung-Won’s ultimate goal will be to keep that chemistry with a new batch of players.
Suwon has a strong squad on paper, and if they show the same consistent form as last season, they should finish in a solid position in the league. Their ACL group is do-able and they certainly have the depth in attack to rotate. However, concerns remain about an inexperienced defense. My gut (which is usually wrong) says:
ACL RESULT: Semi-Final Exit
K LEAGUE RESULT: 4th Place