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2015 K-League Awards

After weeks of votes coming in from all corners of the globe, the results are in for the winners for the K-League United 2015 Season Awards. These are the most dynamic, profound, and thrilling players and moments of the season as voted on by you. 

With the 2015 K-League season officially in the record books, we here at K-League United are pleased to look back on the best and brightest of our inaugural season covering the league. The winners earned the most votes in polling in two different stages: a shortlist created by KLU Staff and members of the ROKfootball Forum, and then fan votes open to the public.

Love the choices? Think someone got snubbed? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! But for now, here are the award winners.

By Ryan Walters – @MrRyanWalters

Differing from the Rookie of the Year, this award honors a player in his first K-League season who had prior professional experience and the American center back stood out from some serious competition. Coming from the more physical MLS, Austin transitioned his game quite well and continued to keep opponents tightly contained in the defensive third. He also went into challenges with more frequency and tenacity than his Challenge counterparts were used to, which caused some strikers hesitation. He was typically one of the first players to respond to changes within a play (i.e. clearing a rebound off the post) due to his quick reactions and continually read passing lanes to stall opposition attacks.

Additionally, Berry's above average strength and jumping ability found him a regular spot on attacking set pieces. He even bagged himself a rare defender's goal off a corner. More often his presence would draw defenders out of position and leave other attacking options open. While joining set pieces wasn't entirely new to him, it was a responsibility added to organizing a young backline and playing the role of locker room leader with a language barrier. The combination of all three led to a strong second half of the season for Anyang, and an exceptional finish winning five of their last six and holding a clean sheet twice. Given his performance in his first year here in Korea, he undoubtedly has suitors in both Challenge and Classic and this winter should prove quite interesting for the now Free Agent.

For more on Austin Berry, you can read his July interview for K-League United HERE.

By Stephen Waddell – @the48clubkorea

Perhaps not so much a comeback player as a come-completely-from-out-of-nowhere player, but it’s hard to deny that Joo Min-kyu is worthy of an award this season. This time last year he was bumbling around the Goyang Hi midfield with 7 goals in 2 seasons. Fast-forward 12 months and not only has he banged in 23 goals in 39 games for Seoul E-Land but he’s managed an appearance in the All-Star Game to boot.

Uli Stielike has so far resisted calls to give him an international cap, but he’s certainly been close to that magical call-up. Perhaps the only remaining question is whether E-Land will be able to hold onto him for another season or whether Japanese, Chinese and Qatari chequebooks are already being waved in his general direction.

By Jae Chee – @armchairregista

September 23, Seoul World Cup Stadium. It's the 29th minute, left back Jang Hak-young receives the ball about 30 yards out from goal on the left flank. Seoul's Ko Kwang-min moves to cover, and the Seongnam skipper swings in a long cross. The cross doesn't look like much at first. It doesn't penetrate the box and is seemingly too far out and too wide of the goal to cause any problems for Seoul's defense. Park Yong-ji has other ideas. The Seongnam wide man takes measure of the flight of the ball, steadies himself, and smashes the ball towards the goal. Seoul keeper Yu Sang-hoon makes a desperate leap to keep the shot out, but it flies over his outstretched arm and into the net. Cue celebrations. What a goal. Watch the highlight HERE.

By Stephen Waddell – @the48clubkorea

2014 was a mixed bag for Seongnam to say the least. The sweetness of winning the FA Cup on penalties was tinged with the bitter aftertaste of only narrowly avoiding a relegation play-off with Gwangju. Few expected much from Seongnam this season then.

That Seongnam have exceeded everyone’s expectations to battle it out with the big guns in the top half of the table this season has been largely down to one man – Kim Hak-bum. The wily 55-year-old has made Seongnam an incredibly hard team to beat. Their 8 defeats the equal of Champions Jeonbuk and only Pohang can boast a better goals conceded record. With the resources at his disposal that’s a quite incredible achievement from Kim, rightly earning him our Coach of the Year crown.

By John Emanuelson – @emanus7

Good defense can often be under appreciated and, at times, is lamented by the neutral (myself included).  However, it is a critical facet of the game and is often the difference between staying up or going down.  Last year, Incheon was horrific for most of the season and looked like strong relegation candidates until the end of the season.  They finished in 10th place and were knocked out of the FA Cup in the round of 32.  This year, Incheon has been much better as they surprisingly challenged for the Championship Round until the last week of the regular season and made it to the final of the FA Cup.

In the league, Incheon have kept 13 clean sheets and only conceded 32 goals this year (0.84 per game), which is good enough to be tied with Pohang for tops in the league.  The reason for their improvement has obviously been Matej Jonjic.  Moving from Croatia this year, he's had no difficulties fitting in and has been the bulwark in the back.  Strong in the air, having been second in headed clearances during the regular season, he has  been instrumental in marshaling the league's best defense.  It's why Incheon were able to exceed expectations and make so many games close.  If they find a way to fix their anemic offense, it is not inconceivable that Incheon might challenge for an ACL spot next year.

By Paul Neat – @NeatPaul

Carlos Adriano de Sousa Cruz, or simply Adriano to you and I, is the very reason why Daejeon found themselves back in the K League Classic at the first time of asking. His goals alone set Daejeon apart from the rest of the league in 2014. Accordingly, credit must go to whoever was behind the transfer but the manner in which he left still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The 2015 season could not have gone much worse for Daejeon Citizen; popular coach Cho Jin Ho is ousted, 24 goal star man from the Purples’ promotion season Adriano leaves prematurely on a free transfer, and once again Daejeon prop up the table.

Adriano took the step up to FC Seoul, much like he did when making the transition from Challenge to Classic, in his stride and his rich vein of goal scoring form continued and resulted in an FA Cup winner’s medal. Some sections of the Daejeon support may have felt a bit uneasy with Adriano posing for pictures with the FA Cup but, frankly, it is the least he deserved. I, for one, was pleased to see him win the FA Cup and I wish him well as, without Adriano, last season’s success would not have happened. Likewise, with Adriano in FC Seoul’s forward line for the whole of next season, surely the FA Cup winners will be one of the favourites for the title.

By - Korean Lex

At 31 years old, Jeonbuk's backbone of their defense has had an impressive year, leading him to his first national team appearance and his 3rd league title. Jeonbuk Motors veteran Kwoun Sun-tae gets the K-League United Golden Glove Award for the most impressive play between the sticks in 2015. Although his average of 0.94 goals allowed per game is higher than those keepers who trailed behind him, his team plays a riskier style with a stronger offense, leaving him with a heavier work load.

Kwoun Sun-tae comes into the last round of play with 35 games under his belt and a record of 22-7-6. After returning from Sangju Sangmu in 2012 to play behind Choi Eun-seung, his fate with the club was in question as he wasn't on the same form as before. Choi retired midway through the season in 2014 giving all duties to Sun Tae, leaving high expectations of the 2006 Asian Champions League winning goalie. He filled those shoes again winning back to back titles with Jeonbuk, ending all rumors of a trade. See some of his best from 2015 HERE.

By John Emanuelson – @emanus7

Surprisingly, the K-League United's inaugural MVP is Adriano of FC Seoul. I say it's a bit of surprise because he only played for about half the season with FC Seoul after falling out with Daejeon.  Nonetheless, even though the K-League itself will most likely pick a different MVP for the 2015 season, I actually think this is a great choice and he deserves the league MVP as well.

League Record Before Adriano Joined
Before Adriano joined, Seoul's attack was a mess. In 23 games that Seoul played, they only scored 26 goals (1.13 goals a game). Out of a possible 69 points available, Seoul only collected 35, good enough for 51% success rate. There was no zip to the attack and it often looked as though Seoul would not score.  It felt as though that outside of Park Chu-young, no one else would step up and score goals.  Still, even Park had his difficulties, having to adjust to playing football after a four year sabbatical of traveling around the world. Without him, FC Seoul would probably still be struggling for league position in the middle of the pack and may not have even qualified for the championship round.

League Record After Adriano Joined
Since joining, Seoul's attacks has improved dramatically.  They have scored 23 goals in 13 games (1.8 goals per game) and have captured 26 out of 39 points, collecting a much more respectable 67% of what was available. Of course, there are many factors that have contributed to that such as an uptick in Molina's form and set-piece delivery, Takahagi improving, and Seoul's overall play improving.

However, someone has to score goals and Adriano does that. He has 10 goals in 13 games, and he was responsible for scoring the winners in the final 5 minutes against Jeonnam, Seongnam, and the winner in the FA Cup final versus Incheon. In short, his presence has made a difference for Seoul because they now play with a bit more confidence and it has galvanized their end-of-season charge up the table, capture of the FA Cup, and qualification for the ACL.  


  1. I have a feeling Joo Min-Kyu will be a one season wonder. No doubt he is better than what he showed at Goyang but it seems like he was at the right place at the right time. I think an overseas move would be bad (unless he thinks this could be his only time to cash in) and he should make a move into the first division to show it isnt a fluke.

    1. At the very least it'd be nice to see him in Classic next season. Nearly every team could use an upgrade at striker and he's likely to be a desirable target since he doesn't take up an international roster spot. However, if he's decided to leave and there are indeed foreign teams (mainly just China and Qatar) interested, I'm not sure too many K-League teams would win a bidding war. Either way, it'll definitely be interesting to see how he follows up this performance next season.

  2. The thing I like about Joo is that he's a rare commodity in Kleague, a penalty box striker. Give him a chance from ten yards and he will put it away. He doesn't overelaborate. He could definitely do a job for someone like Pohang or Suwon or even Jeonbuk as a LDK replacement.

  3. I thought Lopes might have faired better in the votes. 22 goal contributions in his first season is impressive. Also I thought Wanderson was ST?

  4. From what I understand Wanderson is a defender that Daejeon stuck up front. His scoring record suggests he better be a defender!

  5. 6 goals in 15 games is a bad record? Its very good for a team like Daejeon. I think in Brazil he was a very offensive full-back, but here he played as an offensive player.

  6. Don't understand why Berry is first...

    1. He had a strong season, but he's also quite popular and got a lot of votes from folks on Twitter and Facebook.


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