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2016 Season Preview: Busan IPark

Image via BusanIPark.com

Team overview
It's a brand new world for the club and fans as they embark on their "journey" in the wilderness that is the K League Challenge. The team has gone through an overhaul with an eye on younger, local players.

Last season
11th place (relegated via the playoffs), 5-11-22 (26 points)

What happened?
In a nutshell the team was piss poor and got relegated. A slightly longer explanation is that the attack was unable to convert their chances, and the defense always crumbled at the end of matches. Far too many points were dropped late, and nothing could stop the rot in the end.

Key player
Hard to pick given the huge amount of turnover in the squad, but I'll go with goalkeeper Lee Chang-geun. Of the handful of players the team wanted to keep hold of, Lee Chang-geun was really the only one they managed to keep. The shotstopper has fallen a bit from when he was the starting keeper and captain of the U-20 national team (now third on U23 squad), but he still has the talent to be a solid keeper. With Lee Bum-young off to Japan, Lee Chang-geun will really need to step up and make the starting spot his.

Lee Chang-geun will need to step up and make the starting role his this season. Screenshot via FIFA.com.
Korean national teamer to watch 
With Lee Bum-young, Lee Jeong-hyub, and Joo Se-jong all departing, there really isn't a true national team player in the squad. Lee Chang-geun and Gu Hyun-joon were both part of the U23 squad at the recent AFC U23 Championship, but neither played. Lee Chung-woong also took part with some U23 matches. Kim Jin-kyu is a regular with the U-19 squad. Somewhat ironically, the most likely player to make an appearance with the senior squad is a player on loan with Busan, and that is midfielder Lee Yeong-jae (although he is unlikely to get called anytime soon).

U23 members Lee Yeong-jae, Lee Chang-geun, and Gu Hyun-joon. Screenshot via Busan IPark Facebook page.
Lee Yeong-jae arrives at Busan on loan from Ulsan (with Lee Jeong-hyeob going the other way). The young midfielder has some versatility as he is able to play both more centrally and out wide. Lee also falls a bit more on the attacking side with a nose for goal and the ability to play key passes.

Transfer window
Busan was extremely busy during the offseason as they offloaded a large number of players from last year's nightmare season. The losses of Lee Jeong-hyub (Ulsan, loan), Joo Se-jong (Seoul), and Lee Bum-young (Fukuoka) will be keenly felt, but the rest... not so much. Busan brought in an equally high number of players. Most are relative unknowns or from smaller teams, but there are some notable names.

Lee Won-young returns after a year in Thailand. Screenshot via Busan IPark Facebook page.
Serbian forward Milos Stojanovic (Gyeongnam) and Ko Gyeong-min (Anyang) will be expected to boost the attack and provide the goals. New Brazilian defender Samuel and returning captain Lee Won-young will hope to boost last season's struggling defense. Young midfielders Kim Jin-kyu and Lee Gyu-seong, along with arrivals Lee Yeong-jae and Daigo Watanabe will need to pick up the midfield.

Expectations This Season
Promotion straight back to the Classic is the expectation from the club, and I do worry that if they fail it could be a long time until they make it back. Relatively speaking the club has spent big in order to get back, but the Challenge is a long, difficult slog and it remains to be seen whether the club has what it takes to get back. Personally, I expect the club to at least challenge for promotion and the title with entry to the playoffs a bare minimum. 

Predicted Finish
I'll be optimistic and say that Busan will be 2016 K League Challenge Champions! Certainly it won't be an easy task as both Daegu and Seoul E-Land should pose a significant threat to Busan's hopes, but the team actually did a decent job during the offseason, and the squad should be good enough. Stojanovic and Ko Gyeong-min are both proven Challenge-level goalscorers. Lee Yeong-jae is a quality addition to the midfield. Lee Won-young, while on the decline, should bring solid leadership to the back.  

Will Busan be able to add a silver star next season? Screenshot via ModernSeoul.org

How will Busan do in their first season in the K League Challenge? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Get all the Busan and K League news by following Jaehyeok Lee on Twitter: @ArmchairRegista  

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