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2016 Season Preview: FC Seoul

Team Overview

Perennial finishers in the top four, FC Seoul are the team that love to raise your hopes and then rip them to shreds.  In the last six years, Seoul have won two league titles.  They have finished in the top four and qualified for the AFC Champion's League every year since 2012.  Coached by Choi Yong-soo, FC Seoul are notorious for starting slow, picking it up in the summer months, and then struggling again in the fall.   

Last Season

4th Place  17/11/10  GF- 52  GA-44  Pts.- 62

44 (1.16)62 (54%)
What Happened?

By virtue of winning the FA Cup over Incheon, FC Seoul were able to qualify for the AFC Champion's league even though they finished in fourth place.  Seoul were equal parts frustrating and scintillating with large swaths of mediocrity.  They started out terribly, with the nadir being a 5-1 loss to Suwon, but somehow managed to tread water until the summer window. 

From there, fortuitously, they acquired Adriano from Daejeon on a free transfer (best transfer of the year in my opinion) and went on a nice run.  The highlights of the season were Seoul's 3-0 retribution against Suwon at the Chicken Coop and a last minute header to beat Seongnam 2-1.  Adriano was instrumental in both of those wins, scoring magnificent goals and he also netted the winner against Incheon in the FA Cup.  However, even though they finished well and there was a general air of excitement that has been missing ever since the departures of Dejan and Ha Dae-sung, Seoul still had many problems last year.

Defensively, they leaked goals as their best defender Kim Ju-young went to China, Kim Jin-kyu suddenly aged 75 years, and the partnership of Lee Woong-hee and Cha Du-ri on the right side regularly induced heart attacks any time opposing wingers ran at them. Offensively, Seoul's attack was static, predictable, and could be best summarized by Kevin Costner/Jim Garrison's narration of the Zapruder film- "back and to left" (2:28) repeated ad nauseum.   Midfielders refused to shoot from distance and there was very little movement from the forwards.

Individually, Yun Il-lok stood out as one of the most woeful.  He only scored only one goal and was generally poor for most of the season, but it did not help that he sat for long periods of time and was played out of position as a striker rather than winger.  That being said, he did score seven goals as a striker in 2014, so it must be down to something else.  I am still amazed that Porto put in a bid for him, but maybe their scouting department knows something that the coaching staff of FC Seoul does not.

Luckily for Seoul, there were no stand out teams and their issues did not affect them enough that they missed out on an AFC Champions League spot for 2016.  Unfortunately, these issues did cause them to fall into such a hole in the beginning of the season that they were out of title contention before May ended and led to them being eviscerated by Japanese side Gamba Osaka in the last 16 of the Champion's League last year.

Key Player

Seoul's key player will be their most important player, Osmar.  He is the glue that held the side together last year and, in my opinion, was their most important player.  His ability to shift between playing as a defensive midfielder and center back adds an element of versatility to the team and allows for Park Yong-woo to be fielded as well.  Osmar was the first foreign player to play every minute of the season and was the metronome for Seoul's passing game.

Korean National Teamer to Watch

FC Seoul does not have any players on the national team currently.  Yun Il-lok has played for the national team in five friendlies in 2013 and in the Asian Games in 2014, but did not feature at all in 2015.  If Park Chu-young is able to bounce back from the problems his knee has been giving him, I think he has the best shot at being called up.  He last played for the national team in 2014 but sadly, is probably still one of the best forwards in Korea.

Transfer Window

FC Seoul had quite a bit of activity going on this transfer window.  One legend, Molina, departed for Independiente Medellin in Columbia while another legend, Dejan, returned from his stint with Bejing Guoan.  Seoul also signed Ju se-jong from Busan, which really excites me, and as compensation let Kim Hyun-sung move the other way.

Defensively, Seoul have signed center backs Jung In-hwan from Chinese team Henan Jianye and Sim Woo-yeon from Seongnam.  Both, ostensibly, have been drafted in to take the place of Lee Woong-hee.  Lee Woong-hee was probably Seoul's best defender last year, but this year he will play for Sangju Sangmu so as to satisfy the terms of his military duty.

Yoo Hyun, Incheon's former keeper, acquires the number one shirt, which means that Yu Sang-hun will most likely be back on the bench.  Both had similar numbers with regards to saves, but Yoo Hyun offers a significant upgrade over Yu Sang-hun with his kicking.  This means that Kim Yong-dae's time with Seoul is up and he has transferred to Ulsan to take the place of Kim Seung-gyu since he moved to Japanese team Kobe.

Finally, the team signed Cho Chan-ho and Shin Jin-ho from Pohang to fill out the ranks.  Cho was quite good in 2013, scoring nine goals to help Pohang win the title, but since then has not played very much as injuries have plagued him (I assume).  A loan move to Suwon Samsung did not work out well for him last year either, but hopefully Choi Yong-soo can help him recover some his past form.

Shin Jin-ho is another player who has question marks about him, as he is a good player but a bit of a journey man.  He moved to the Middle East in 2014 and has played in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates before returning to Pohang last year.  Shin played in 17 games last year, the majority of them from July to November, which coincided with Pohang's best stretch.  As with Cho, hopefully Choi can somehow get the best out of Shin as well.

Departures that have received less attention have been Jung Jo-gook, Kim Min-hyeok, Park Hee-seong, and Kim Jin-kyu.  Jung and Kim both transferred to Gwangju this year in hopes of playing since neither featured much for Seoul last year and would be even less likely to see playing time this year.  Park Hee-seong joins Lee Woong-hee on Sangju Sangmu but regardless of military service, would most likely have departed anyways since Seoul have an excess of capable strikers right now.  Kim Jin-kyu, per Twitter, has been released by the club.

Pre-Season Performance

Here are Seoul's pre-season results:

vs. FC Tokyo 1-3 (L)
vs. FC Tokyo 1-0 (W)
vs. Honda Lock SC 3-1 (W)
vs. Jubilo Iwata 1-1 (D)
vs. Kyoto Sanga 2-0 (W)
vs. Gamba Osaka 1-1 (D)
vs. Gamba Osaka 1-0 (W)
vs. Yanbian FC 2-2 (D)

Expectations This Season

Quite high.  With the additions of Dejan and Adriano, Seoul should be able to generate some offense this season.  Ju Se-jong adds steel and poise to the midfield, but he has big shoes to fill with the departure of Molina.  In fact, I think  Molina's presence will be appreciated when Seoul take set pieces this year.  I expect that they will struggle to score as many goals as they did last year from free kicks and corners, but hopefully they will make up the difference in open play.

Seoul should not have any difficulty with qualifying for the AFC Champions League again and really, they should finish in second since it will most likely be a two-team horse race between them and Jeonbuk.  Both Pohang and Suwon have been significantly weakened, but will most likely challenge anyways.  Before they sold Kim Shin-wook to Jeonbuk, I had Ulsan as being the third best team but that is no longer the case.  However, I do expect that Seongnam will build on last season's success and finish in third.

Speaking of Jeonbuk, who everybody seem ready to name champions before the season start,  had quite an off-season.  As I said before, I was not impressed with Jeonbuk last year and I think they are the weakest champion of the last five years.  If Suwon had not continually choked at inopportune moment or sold Jong Tae-se mid-season, I think they would have won the title.  Therefore, it is easy to see why Jeonbuk was so active this off-season.

Hopefully though, it will take some time for the players to get used to each other.  Often times, what seems great on paper (ex: the Galacticos of Real Madrid) and would work really well in any FIFA or PES/Winning 11 game does not translate in real life.  Jeonbuk have significantly strengthened on offense, but did not do much defensively and have let their best defender Kim Kee-hee go to China.  I am hoping that this will come back to bite them in the ass.

Also, I am hoping that with the momentum from last year, Seoul will come out of the gate quickly, but I expect that they will struggle in the beginning.  Once summer comes, as soon as Seoul have integrated everybody and Park Chu-young has returned from his knee injury, then they will catch fire and move up the table.  As long as they do not fall too far behind in the beginning of the season, Seoul should be alright by the time the split happens.

As far as the FA Cup, I do not expect them to repeat.  They will probably be knocked out in the quarter finals.  Likewise, I think Seoul can win their group in the AFC Champions League, or at least finish second.  Unfortunately, they will be knocked out of the competition by whatever Chinese team they face in the last 16.

Predicted Finish

First, if everything breaks their way.


  1. I like the video game references. Really in depth preview too. Will use this as a guide for my weekly multi bet in the early parts of the season. Cheers!

    1. If I couldn't win, I always chose Real Madrid w/Ronaldo and Bale. They were just unstoppable. What is your weekly multi bet?


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