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Walking on Sunshine: Seongnam FC 2-3 FC Seoul

(Ju Se-jong scores Seoul's first- from SPOTV via youtube.com)
What a difference a week makes!  After a demoralizing loss to the weakest Pohang team in the last five years followed by a fortuitous win over a team one division lower, Seoul finally put together their best game in over a month on just three days rest against quality opposition.  The neutrals, haters, critics, and any one else who is not a Seoul fan will probably disagree with me, but Seoul were the better team for most of the afternoon and deserved to take all three points.
After a bright start there were moments, especially in the first half, when it felt like Seongnam were going to absolutely overrun Seoul.  However, trailing 2-1 at the half, the team made a tactical tweak by switching Osmar and Park Yong-woo's position while subbing in Park Chu-young for Dejan and it seemed to work as Seoul scored two second half goals to win the game.  Here are the statistics for the game.

(From www.kleague.com)
As always, rather than giving a blow-by-blow account of the game, I will just highlight three things that stood out for me.

(Seongnam's first-  from SPOTV via youtube.com)
1.  Yoo Howler

Yoo Hyun's nightmare continues and the game really could have ended in a Yoo Hyuntastropy if not for the good work of Adriano and Ju Se-jong.  His descent into madness seems to have started in Ulsan, but after this game, it looks as though it is not going to let up any time soon.  I do not know what is going on inside Yoo's head, but I feel as though he is completely devoid of confidence and that is what is showing up in the results.  In my opinion, I believe that he is thinking too much rather than just reacting to what is happening on the field.

In Ulsan, a couple of failed punches led to him getting an early hook, so it was a bit cruel that Seongnam's first goal was a result of Yoo attempting to catch the free kick, clattering into Park Yong-woo, and then dropping the ball for Kim Tae-youn to slam into the net.  Heads dropped and Seongnam had an elaborate celebration with a banner, a cake, a ticker tape parade, and a 21 gun salute for scoring a goal (great job guys, now get back to the game).

Seongnam got their second goal from a couple of Yoo gaffes.  First, his kick from the box was low and went straight to the Seongnam player letting them recycle possession and attack again.  Tiago ran around a couple of Seoul defenders to the right side of Seoul's box and depending on one's point of view, shot or attempted to cross the ball.  Yoo just stood there, rooted to the spot, failing to move.  The first goal was unlucky, but the second is just a player freezing up.  Besides allowing two howlers, his kicking has gone to shit.

Last year, I was often critical off Yu Sang-hun's distribution as being wasteful and I thought it was an aspect of his game that he needed to work on if he was going to be the team's number one.  I was surprised that Seoul signed Yoo Hyun, but I thought the competition might push Yu Sang-hun and failing that, then Yoo Hyun would be an upgrade.  Looking at the statistics from last season, they were quite similar but Yoo Hyun was slightly better.  Here is a comparison.

Yoo Hyun
Yu Sang-hun
71 (7th)
Shots saved (%)
74.7% (4th)
76% (3rd)
GK Kick Attempts/Completion (%)
169/70.4% (1st)
112/55.2% (5th)
GK Catch and Throw Attempts/Completion (%)
138/64.2% (2nd)

Other than percentage of shots saved, Yoo Hyun outperformed Yu Sang-hun, especially with regards to distribution metrics.  Therefore, why he had so many wayward free kicks Saturday is a mystery.  This is a guy who did really well last year and should help improve Seoul's attack, but for whatever reason, he is making mistakes on both ends and it is going to cost Seoul as the year progresses.

I feel bad for the Yoo Hyun and my point is not to berate him.  I just worry that he is going to cost Seoul their title.  The team's situation is reminiscent of when Arsenal had Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski as their top choice keepers, with both failing to shine and often making critical mistakes.  Kwon Sun-tae is the best keeper in the league, but unfortunately, he plays for Jeonbuk.

I am sure Yoo is a nice guy- he calls his mother after every game, insists on picking up the check after team dinners, etc.  He has bounced around the leagues for a long time, but this is the first time he has played for an elite team (one expected to do well), and maybe the pressure is getting to him.  On a positive note, he did make this save at the end to help Seoul preserve their win.

(Seoul's spacing throughout the afternoon was great.  Park Chu-young (circle) sends an ball over the top to Adriano (straight line), who is surrounded by three defenders.  From SPOTV via youtube.com)
2.  FC Seoul's Goals

In my preview, I stated that Seongnam were a solid team defensively and that Seoul would have to start strong, switch the play, counter quickly, and attack wide.  The team did start strong, scoring a goal after three minutes and it involved switching play from out wide.  In the GIF, Osmar passes it to Ju Se-jong, who unleashes in his inner Steven Gerrard and lets go a screamer from outside the box.

What is missing is how Seoul sent the ball into the box and Ko Kwang-min or Takahagi (I can't remember) got to it first and passed it back to Osmar.  Seoul were moving the ball around quickly and I think that is why Ju had so much space and time to uncork his shot.  It was either very intelligent play by Seoul or sloppy defense by Seongnam and Seoul continued to try and utilize the space out wide, especially attacking down the left channel in the first half.

Trailing 2-1 at the half, Choi moved Osmar forward and brought on Park Chu-young for Dejan.  Both moves brought about immediate dividends as Seoul were able to equalize six minutes after the second half whistle blew.  Again, the move started from the outside as Park Chu-young sent a wonderful ball over the top and Adriano timed his run perfectly.

From there, Seoul were ascendant as they went for the win.  I thought both Go Yo-han and Park Chu-young were great in the second half, combining quite well at times.  Park's vision made the difference (he created the second goal) and as the deep-lying forward, he was perfect in this role, dispensing some great long balls.  Go Yo-han really did deserve a goal on Saturday for all of his hard work and he would have gotten one if he was not incorrectly whistled for being offside (what footwork he has).

The breakthrough for Seoul came in the 71st minute and it was from Man of the Match Ju Se-jong, but created by Adriano.  Park Yong-woo, in his position as the sweeper, played the ball forward to Adriano, who via a sublime touch, was able to evade the defender's tackle and cut it back for Ju Se-jong to finish coolly.  Just like last year, Adriano's intelligence was the difference, but this time he was the provider rather than the scorer.

With 7 league goals (21 in all competitions) and 4 assists, Adriano is proving to be indispensable week in and week out.  Dejan has the best song (Let's Go Dejan), but if Adriano keeps this sort of play up, Adriano's tune will soon become my second favorite to caterwaul off-key.

(Manager Choi Yong-soo, from youtube.com)
3.  Maybe it is Time to Give Choi Yong-soo Some Love 

Last year, I was often critical of Seoul's manager since he seemed wedded to a formation that produced a dire spectacle and a possession based ethos that the team seemed incapable of carrying out.  As the season wore on, the results began to improve with Seoul winning the FA Cup and destroying the Suwon Bluewings in the last two Super Matches.  There was some promise, but I felt as though Choi often held the team back by being too conservative and cautious, although that was probably down to the lack of overall quality in the team.

This year, that has not been the case.  Seoul always go for the win rather than just playing for a draw.  He has played the same starting 11 consistently, which has allowed the team to gain confidence and a familiarity with one another that until recently, eluded Jeonbuk.  After last week's loss to Pohang, I was quite down on the team and I thought that Choi had burned them out.  I was surprised that he started a strong team against Daegu for a midweek FA Cup game.  It almost backfired on him, but luckily Adriano bailed out the gaffer and Seoul are still in the competition.  Besides bringing on Adriano, he moved Osmar up into the midfield and introduced Sim Woo-yeon to act as a battering ram.  All of these moves paid off as Seoul were able to come back and win the game.  

After having Takahagi and Ju Se-jong run the whole contest on Wednesday, I expected him to sit both for the Wednesday's match against Urawa Reds.  Instead, each player started on Saturday and played well.  Ju Se-jong scored twice and was the M.O.M. while Takahagi was quiet offensively he put in a good shift.

I would say that this is a testament to Choi's skills as a motivator.  In what has been one of the toughest stretches, the team did not give up and have come back to win their last two fixtures.  They have played hard and shown a determination that I felt has been lacking in the past.  Choi's decisions to move Osmar into the midfield and sub off Dejan for Park Chu-young helped turn the game in their favor.

Going to Japan, Seoul have a bit of momentum on their side.  Hopefully, Yoo Hyun rediscovers his confidence and the team can keep playing this way.  Choi's record against Japanese sides is pretty good, so as long as Seoul do not lose by more than a goal, I think they will be in good shape for the return fixture on the 25th of May.  That being said, I do not expect Seoul to lose this Wednesday and I think Choi will have them fired up for this game.

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