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Transfer Talk: The Case For Will Packwood to Jeonnam

(via skysports.com)

The early K-League signings Yojiro Takahagi for FC Seoul and Lukian by Bucheon FC prove that things can indeed happen in this summer transfer window. More importantly it shows that some K-League teams are looking abroad for some reinforcements. What's exciting about both of these signings is that they're still young enough to be around for a while if they find their groove. Takahagi is 28 and entering into the "prime" years of his career. Lukian is only 23 years old with plenty of upside, especially in a league as offense starved as this.

With those waygook signings in mind, I'd like to make a push for the Dragons to get some American blood. Traditionally speaking, we Migukins have been woefully under-represented in the K-League. Austin Berry and Seth Moses are the first ever Americans in the K-League Challenge and they joined this year... and play for the same team (FC Anyang). The lone American in Classic was Jeff Yoo and he left the league nearly 15 years ago. I think it's high time the Stars and Stripes get a little more representation over here. Of course I'm quite partial to this because I'm a Yank and it'd give me yet another reason to root for my guys. However, outside of my own selfish reasons it could also make quite a bit of sense for both the team and the player I have in mind.

That player is Will Packwood. At the young age of 22 the young defender finds himself without a team after being released from England's Championship side Birmingham City early last month. A long time member of the US National team picture, Packwood has represented his country at the U17 and U23 levels during his surprisingly long eight year tenure as a professional footballer. Recently he went the full 90 in friendlies at Bosnia and Herzegovina and at Denmark. He also featured quite well for the US in the Toulon Tournament in France, including scoring one of the three US goals against the Netherlands. The full 90 minute games may not seem important, but Packwood had to miss nearly nine months back in 2013 with a broken leg suffered in an FA Cup match against Leeds United. With his recent run of international form and the durability to go 90 regularly, it would seem he's left the injury behind him.

Since the injury he was sent on three separate loans to League Two's Bristol Rovers, and lower league clubs Colchester United and Cheltenham Town this past season before his release. A brief training stint with MLS' New England Revolution didn't result in a signing, so the young central defender is looking for a new start. He was even quoted as saying "I'm just looking to train well and play well and looking to impress whoever I can" in a recent ESPN FC article. Well, Mr. Packwood, the Dragons should be looking to be impressed.

The Dragons defense hasn't been terrible this season... but they also haven't been great. Their goals conceded per game is worse than the league average and only better than cellar dwelling Daejeon. The once rock solid backline has only kept one clean sheet in the last seven league games and has been known to let in back breaking goals late in games. In a league that doesn't see a ton of goals scored, keeping the clean sheet is often the difference between zero and three points. Now trailing Jeonbuk by 10 points for the league lead and still in a dog fight to stay on the top half of the table when the split comes, every single point is vital for the Dragons season. Add the fact that Jeonnam's only scored as many goals as they've conceded (23) and the need for a solid defender with offensive upside only increases for this transfer window.

Packwood's not going to blow anyone away with blinding speed, but he has a strong shooting ability, is comfortable on the ball, and his style of play would fit well into the possession-centered approach the Dragons have been employing lately. With the already lethal attack of Oršić, Ristić, and Lee Jong-ho the Dragons don't need anyone to take the offensive reins and run with em. However, someone with a decent shot and ability to get forward would open up even more space for the big three to operate. If Jeonnam were able to have both Choi Hyo-jin and Packwood make runs up the field with the threat of a distance shot, that would allow the team to spread the ball out more and attack from the middle of the field with a defender as well as on the wings. Packwood would also be a big body in the box with an ability to finish on corner kicks and threatening set pieces. Something that's sorely lacking apart from Stevo's aerial ability.

In a league with relatively low average height like the K-League, Packwood's 191cm frame would help ensure that he could win most headers and quite a few tackles. His physical gifts would help him cover attackers when defending corners and set pieces, an area where the Dragons have been quite weak this season. Add in his time spent defending in the demanding world of English Championship football and you're looking at a young man that will know how to play the physical side of the game as well or better than most defenders in the league. At 22-years-old he'll likely improve upon these physical skills to add technical ability over time and round into a valuable veteran presence at a young age.

OK, so he'd be a good fit, but why the hell would he want to come here? Aside from the celebrity status foreigners often receive in the K-League, he would be able to hone his craft and not be under the microscope. Not only has Packwood been a part of the national team for a long time, but he's also been plying his trade as an American in England. It's something the American media eats up and assumes he must ascend to the heights of Clint Dempsey or higher in Europe or be deemed a failure. Another of his options (and honestly the most likely) is to head back home and join an MLS side where he'll fight for minutes. Don't get me wrong, fighting for minutes is a damn fine way to cut your teeth, but he could be getting game minutes here for a team that may well find their way into the AFC Champions League next year. While there's a lot to be said for the growth of MLS, playing against J-League sides and the growing Chinese Super League would be a fantastic feet-to-the-fire way to grow.

Take fellow yank Lee Nguyen for example. Nguyen signed with PSV Eindhoven of the Eredivisie and was being hailed as the next big thing in American soccer. He made two appearances with the club. He then made a move for more playing time and joined with Danish Superliga club Randers FC. He had more appearances, but it still wasn't clicking for him. It wasn't until he decided to change things drastically and leave Europe that his career really took off. In 2009 Nguyen was the first American to sign for V.League 1 in Vietnam when he joined Hoàng Anh Gia Lai. He scored 13 goals and 16 assists in 24 appearances in all competitions for the club and got his career back on track. Nguyen returned to MLS a few seasons later, found his way back into the national team picture and was an MLS MVP front-runner last season. While it's impossible to know what would have happened to his career had he stayed in Europe, the results of moving to Asia are still showing in his world class play.

Though no one would expect him to score nearly as many goals, the K-League could do for Will Packwood's young career what the V.League did for Lee Nguyen's. Give him a drastic change of scenery to focus solely on his craft and come out of it a better player. With him, the Dragons could easily challenge for the best defense in K-League and assure themselves a top 3 finish and a place in the Champions League.

It won't happen... but... ya know... it'd be fun if it did.


  1. Has Seth Moses even played a game yet? I don't remember ever seeing him listed. Berry has been a standout for Anyang though that's probably not saying much given their form.

    1. I couldn't find anything on Moses actually playing, just that he was on the team sheet at the beginning of the season. As a Chicago Fire fan, I'm not surprised Berry's done well for Anyang this season. Always liked him at CB and really hope he finds a better team this window. It seems doubtful, but a Challenge team that's higher in the table or a Classic team would be nice for him. I'd love to see him in a Dragons shirt.

  2. Just my opinion, but when it comes to signing players, most have come from either Brazil, Croatia, or Australia. It would be great to see more players come from the U.S. or the even lower European leagues come over here. In 2009, there was a player from Germany named Kevin who played for Seoul. It didn't work out for him though and he left after half a season. It was the same with the Portuguese player in 2010 whose name I can't remember.

    1. K-League's definitely obsessed with Brazilian players, and I don't necessarily see that stopping any time soon. However, I really think K-League (and other Asian leagues for that matter) could be a great way for young Americans to develop. If it came down to riding the bench in MLS or getting paid to play and live in a foreign country the decision shouldn't be that hard, right?


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