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Post-Mortem: FC Seoul 1-3 Pohang Steelers

(Congrats to Pohang on winning the league, no wait, it's just one game-  from SPOTV via youtube.com)
In my preview, I predicted that Seoul would win and I listed several reasons: depleted squad, new coach, horrendous form of late.  I guessed the score correctly, but got the result wrong again.  Seoul are a different team now than they were three weeks ago against Suwon FC.


Two weeks ago, Seoul were flying high with a five point lead over Jeonbuk.  Now, they are tied with the men in green on points, but lead only by the virtue of having scored two more goals than Jeonbuk after yesterday's loss.  Expected to win against a very weak Pohang team, instead Seoul were outclassed and spanked.  Here are the stats from yesterday's game.

(Fromkleague.com

Seoul absolutely dominated the possession, with 64% of the ball yesterday, which is the most in the league I am pretty sure.  They also almost twice as many shots as the Steelers, yet still lost.  Four things stood out for me.

(Goal scorer Sim Dong-woo- from SPOTV via youtube.com)
1.  Pohang Go Straight at Seoul in the First Half

From the opening kick off, Pohang went straight at Seoul.  From the kickoff, most K-League teams will play the ball back to their midfield, defense, or keeper.  However, rather than going backwards, which allows Seoul to establish their press, Pohang chose to send a long ball toward Seoul's goal for one of their front three to get a hold of.  It was easily collected by Yu Sang-hun, but this should have been a warning for Seoul that Pohang were not going to be timid nor wait to be slaughtered like previous teams that have come to World Cup Stadium.

Afterwards, Pohang continued to be the aggressor with Seoul appearing as though they had just awoken.  In the 13th minute, Pohang won a penalty on a comical challenge by Park Yong-woo.  Some Seoul fans, including myself at the time, felt aggrieved that a PK was awarded since Go Yo-han was knocked over in the same manner last week.  Nonetheless, it was a foul because, let's be honest, Park absolutely knocked the shit out of Park Seon-ju.

What stands out more than the foul though is the ease with which the two Pohang players Park Seon-ju (27) and Sim Dong-woon (11) sliced up the defense.  Pohang played another long ball out to bypass the press, Park got the ball, passed it to Sim who returned it to Park, and he was in the box.  It only took three passes to overcome a slumbering Seoul defense, with both Go Yo-han and Kim Dong-woo missing tackles, for Pohang to get into a great scoring position.

Lucky for Seoul that Yang Dong-hyun submitted his entry for World's Worst Penalty as he stroked it softly after 180 seconds of trying to psyche out goalie Yu Sang-hun.  It would have been cute if Yang was six years old, trying to hit as hard as he could past his dad.  Unfortunately for Seoul, Yang would was much more clinical for Pohang, scoring in the 20th minute and giving the Steelers a deserved lead.

This time it was on the left side of Seoul's defense.  That side is usually manned by Osmar, but he was not playing since he had to sit the match out because of three yellow cards, and the team absolutely missed him yesterday.  His replacement Kim Nam-chun was turned too easily by Yang for the goal, but again, the Seoul defense were undone too easily by one-touch stuff.  Here is an image of the build-up.

(From SPOTV via youtube.com)
The back line is straight and seems alright. Ju Se-jong (1) is running with the ball carrier and it seems as though Seoul have Pohang's attack fairly well covered.  Then, as the next image shows, all hell breaks lose.

(From SPOTV via youtube.com)
In this picture, I count seven Seoul players in the area of the ball.  Three Seoul players (Ju Se-jong (1), 2, 3) were bypassed as the ball carrier has passed to Lee Gwang-hyeok (A), who sent a through ball for Yang Dong-hyun to run onto.  The through ball really should have been cleared by the defense, as it hits Park Yong-woo's foot and rolls into Yang's path.  A bit lucky, but Seoul still should have been able to contain Yang with two defenders, but he turns Kim Nam Chun too easily and to give credit where credit is due, finishes it off nicely with a low shot to the far post.  It was a good goal, but absolutely shitty defense.

Seoul's lethargy continued as they could not manufacture any offense and the defense was being shredded way too easily.  From a throw-in, both Go Yo-han and Kim Dong-woo (each was quite poor defensively in the first half), allowed Park Jun-hee to send cutback pass across the box for Lee Gwang-hyeok to shoot unmolested.  Ju Se-jong, ever slothful, could even be bothered to stick a foot out to maybe knock the pass off course or get an interception.  Great job guys!

Pohang's second goal came off a counter attack as Seoul were beginning to show a bit of life.  It was a classic, route one goal from a ball over the top Yang Dong-hyun, which allowed for Sim Dong-woon to run onto.  Here is an image.

(From SPOTV via youtube.com)
Adriano (1) goes to press Yang Dong-hyun (A) after Seoul lose the ball.  Takahagi (2), who was fairly anonymous the whole game, goes to help, but Yang is able to easily dribble his way out of trouble.  Yang was able to easily evade Seoul players in the first half with his silky dribbling skills.  In the image below, you can see how after using his dribbling skills to avoid the press, he is able to by pass the Seoul's high defensive line with a ball over the top.

(From SPOTV via youtube.com)
Park Yong-woo (1) should have done better, but he made Sim (B) look as though he was Pac-Man and Park was subsequently gobbled up.  Yu Sang-hun really should have done better stopping the shot as well since the angle was tight and Sim only had the option to shoot.

(Shin Hwa-young- from  SPOTV via youtube.com)

2.  The Importance of a Good Keeper

From there, Pohang shut up shot and opted to play defensively in a low block with nine to ten players behind the ball.  They rode their luck as Seoul came at them in waves, but besides a Dejan free-kick, Pohang successfully defended their lead and were able to wrap up the game in the 89th minute as Lazar scored on a successful counter attack.  Some of this was down to the profligacy of Seoul's finishing, but I would rather give credit to Pohang's keeper Shin Hwa-young as being the difference.

Here are not one, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, and  eight good chances for Seoul to have pulled a goal back.  Shin saved five out of those.  Granted, some shots were straight at him, but he also made good saves on Dejan's effort and Adriano's point blank (8) shot that would have been disallowed as the linesman flagged Adriano off sides.  Besides Dejan's free kick, which was a hell of a goal, nothing got past Shin.

Before Dejan struck the ball, I was not expecting him to do so.  In the seven or eight years of watching Seoul, I have never seen him take a set piece.  It was just straight balls for him to step u and wack into the top of the net.  Not many players could walk off the field with their head held high, but Seoul's captain for the day could.

I feel as though Shin's performance demonstrates the importance of having a good keeper.  It seems as though the majority of the teams have question marks at this position and unfortunately, Seoul is one of them.  Yu Sang-hun has his moments, such as the PK save and his throw out to start a break, but his kicking is woeful and Shin would have saved at least one of the three goals that Pohang scored.  Yoo Hyun has fallen off a cliff, in both form and confidence, and I cannot see him getting either back any time soon.

Jeonbuk, on the other hand, probably have the league's best goalie.  Their keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae continues to be their best player probably, stringing together a number of important saves week in and week out to keep Jeonbuk in the thick of it.  This is why why Seoul will prob not win the league this year.  Their defense continues to make mistakes, but Seoul do not have a keeper that can bail them out like Jeonbuk do.

Pohang's final goal demonstrates this, as a Seoul player (Kim Won-sik I think) misses yet another tackle and Pohang have numbers on the break.  Lazar puts it between Yu's legs and Pohang cap off a great week with two wins in the K-League and a credible draw on the road against Urawa Reds.

(Kim Sung-ho gives Park Yong-woo a yellow-  from  SPOTV via youtube.com)

3.  Teams are Starting to Figure out how to Play Seoul

Last week, quite a few Seoul fans, including myself took offense with how the referee Kim Sang-woo called the game.  Suwon's defense played quite well, but if a call or two that had went against Seoul were reversed, maybe the result would have been different.  In the first half of the Pohang, many Seoul fans in the stadium were displeased as well with Kim Sung-ho's calls.  It feels as though the world, and the referees, are against Seoul.

However, Seoul needs to quit worrying about the refs.  To continue to blame the referees is an indication of a pathos that is not healthy for a team in first place and expected to challenge for the league and in the ACL.  Teams understand that the best way to play against Seoul is to be physical with their players, not back down, and go straight at them.

When I was in university, I took a class called the Sociology of Work.  It was interesting enough, but the one thing I remember was a theory called Working Within the Law.  I can't find anything via Google quickly, so you will have to just take my word, but it basically states that that it is impossible for every single rule to be enforced.  If all rules were enforced, then the work place would cease to function.  There were two examples given.
  • The police cannot punish every violation or else jails would be overcrowded and they would be bogged down tackling minor offenses (ex: jaywalking).  
  • When rail workers in England were negotiating with management, they would follow every single rule, resulting in a extreme slow down or stoppage of train service.  
In any sport, this is true as well.  In American Football, there is always holding between lineman.  In basketball, there are probably five to ten fouls per possession (a slight exaggeration) in the paint.  Hell, Michael Jordan practically got away with murder at times.  My point is that it is impossible for the referee to call every infraction of the rules or the game would come to a standstill.  There is nothing the team can do about the refs and in the end, that stuff usually evens out according to some bizarre cosmic law of karma.

Instead, Seoul have to accept that they were second best yesterday.  Pohang were the more aggressive team in the first half, going much harder for the 50-50 balls.  Seoul's tackling was lazy and half-assed, with a player sticking a foot out or taking a swipe at the ball.  Whether it is fatigue or indifference, this is an area that Seoul need to work on over the coming weeks.  If Pohang can rip them apart so easily, I cannot imagine how they will fare against Seongnam.

(They missed their captain Osmar- from youtube.com)
4.  Lineup Choices

As a humble blogger, far be it for me to call out Seoul's manager on his lineup choices, but I feel as though they have become suspect lately.  Two weeks ago, he went with Yoo Hyun over Yu Sang-hun, and it almost cost them.  Yesterday, I think some of his choices did harm Seoul.

First of all, I think it was a mistake to start Park Yong-woo as the sweeper.  He committed a comical foul that led to a PK, maybe could have done more to prevent Pohang's first goal, but was definitely at fault for the second.  Park did not have the speed to keep up with Sim Dong-woon, but he did catch up and somehow, Sim was able to get his shot off.  Obviously, Choi was not happy with how Park played and yanked him after the first 45 minutes were finished. Unfortunately, whenever Park is on the pitch, it feels as though Seoul are susceptible to one-touch football.

Next, starting Kim Nam-chun on the left did not work out.  When Osmar does not play, I really appreciate what he brings to the team so much.  I really do feel as though he is Seoul's most important player.  He locks down the left side of the pitch and gets forward frequently to add another body and support the attacks.  Kim tried, but it is evident that he is not as good as Osmar.  Kim was pimped out by Yang Dong-hyun on the first goal, turned inside-out too easily when really, there was little danger.

Last year, Kim Dong-woo played on the left side where Osmar is now.  Originally, I was suggesting that Kim Dong-woo should take up that position again, but he was pretty shit as well yesterday.  In this instance, there is not much that Choi could do about the defense, but I feel as though Park Yong-woo should have been on the bench and Kim Won-sik the starter.

Finally, after playing a full 90 chasing the ACL record, Adriano started again.  I think Seoul would have been better served with him coming off the bench and Park Chu-young getting a start.  Adriano was not poor and was dangerous throughout, but he might have been more effective with his speed in the second half when Seoul were dominating.  Again, it is always easy to second guess the manager when a team loses.

That being said, players such as Takahagi and Ju Se-jong have played quite a bit this year and maybe fatigue is creeping into their game.  They missing tackles and seem to be less energetic than in the past.  Maybe it is time for them to get a bit more time off.  Either need to play more of their midfielders such as Cho Chan-ho, or sign some during the summer transfer window.

For whatever reason, Seoul are missing Shin Jin-ho right now.  They miss his energy, set piece delivery, and the work he did for the team on defense, especially pressing.  I thought they would be alright after his departure, but that has not seemed to be the case over the last two weeks.  His replacement Lee Seok-hyun, whom I like, was awful yesterday.  He did play a full 90 against Sanfrecce Hiroshima Wednesday night and he must have been feeling the effects.  He was ineffective offensively and anonymous defensively.   I was quite happy when Choi gave him the hook for Yun Ju-tae.

(From rundocott.com)

Conclusion

Seoul continue along with their marathon slog.  They will have played nine games in 30 days, which is quite a lot of soccer.  With six games still left, I am not sure where the team will get its strength.  They have not played well since Shin Jin-ho's last game, back in mid-April, and after yesterday's abject display I am not optimistic they are going to play well very soon either.

This was the worst Pohang team in five years, struggling before yesterday's game to create shots.  Yesterday, a tired Seoul defense made Yang Dong-hyun and Sim Dong-woon look world class.  That is just not going to cut when they travel to Seongnam next week.  I sort of hope that, like last year, Seoul are able to postpone that game in the interest of being able to compete effectively in the ACL against Urawa Reds in a week and a half.  If not, with a tough FA Cup game coming up against Daegu FC, a league games versus Seongnam and a resurgent Jeju United side that scored five this weekend, plus two ACL games, the month of May might prove to be terrible time for Seoul.

Highlights here.

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