FA Cup Preview: FC Seoul vs. Ansan Mugnunghwa
On Wednesday, FC Seoul continue their defense of the FA Cup when they face K-League Challenge club Ansan Mugnunghwa at 7:30 in World Cup Stadium. Currently in first place, Ansan are not to be taken lightly and will push FC Seoul to the limit. Ansan Mungunghwa columnist Kyle Gobler and FC Seoul columnist John Emanuelson discuss the form of the respective clubs and the likelihood each has of moving on to the FA Cup next round.
John Emanuelson asks, Kyle Gobler answers
John Emanuelson: Looking at the table, Ansan are in first place in the K-League Challenge, which I think is a bit surprising. Why are they doing so well this season?
Kyle Gobler: Plain and simple, newcomers. The incoming players this season make up the majority of Ansan’s playmakers. In 2015 Ansan rarely found the net and didn’t play a pretty brand of football, this season they have been fun to watch and really press forward with confidence.
JE: How does having to rely on having so many loaned in players affect the stability of the squad for Ansan? Even though they are leading the league right now, do you think they have a chance to win promotion?
KG: Having a roster that changes frequently, it is hard to build chemistry. The current squad looks solid and has provided some veteran players (average age is 27). We will see what happens in the summer as far as departures and arrivals. I definitely believe Ansan will be favored to be promoted. Every year is kind of a one-off for the club. It’s a strong team and come 2017 nobody knows who will be around. It’s all in for the 2016 season.
JE: Who have been Ansan's best players so far this season?
KG: Gong Min-Hyun has come in and hit the net 7 times (6 league, 1 cup). He has been a massive pain to opposing defenses. Goalkeeper Lee Jin-Hyung has been a lifesaver for the past season-and-a-half, unfortunately we will lose him before the season ends. Jung Hyuk has anchored the mid-field and Cho Sung-Jin has blocked countless shots and crosses as well as started many counters from the back line.
KG: As much as I want to see Ansan win this one, I have to pick the home team. I think The Police pull one goal back. Seoul wins 2-1.
Kyle Gobler Asks, John Emanuelson Answers
Kyle Gobler: Coming off of a massive rivalry against Suwon Bluewings, how will this game versus Ansan be looked at by the Seoul faithful? The same for the cup in general?
John Emanuelson: For the faithful, I think it will be viewed with a lot of importance because it leaves the team's fate in their hands when trying to qualify for the AFC Champions League (ACL), which is a must for a club of Seoul's stature. Last year, based on their fourth place finish, they would not have qualified for the ACL if they had not won the FA Cup. Even though Seoul are in second place and only a point behind Jeonbuk, nothing is a given as the game two weeks against Jeju United demonstrated. The league is so much stronger this year and I would say that three teams, Jeonbuk, Seoul, and Jeju have a good chance of winning the championship while the Seongnam and Ulsan, have more than enough talent to steal one of the top three positions. It is a big game and I am sure the manager will treat it as such, but unfortunately because it is played during the week, I expect that attendance will be sparse at best.
KG: Adriano and Dejan are scary. Haha. Do you think we will see either start this game? How strong of a team is expected?
As I mentioned, this game is of vital importance since winning the cup is one of the easiest ways of qualifying for the ACL. Therefore, I expect that Choi Yong-soo will name a very strong line-up, just as he did when Seoul played Daegu in the last round of FA Cup fixtures. I do not think Adriano and Dejan will both start and if I had to put my money on one player coming off the bench it would be Adriano. He has played the full 90 on Saturday and most of the game against Gwangju on Wednesday, so I think Choi will choose to rest him for Saturday's game against Pohang.
However, if Park Chu-young gets the start, it is not that significant of a downgrade. Park is quietly having a good season so far with five goals in the league, which is good considering he has only started three games this year. In other words, having played an average of 37 minutes in the 12 League games he has featured, Park has played his role of super sub quite well. Also, Yun Ju-tae is capable of good things and I would like to see him get the start in place of Dejan or Adriano as well, but for whatever reason, Choi does not seem to rate him this year.
KG: Winning 2 of their last 5 and an exhausting Asian Champions League series with Urawa Red Diamonds allowed Jeonbuk to jump Seoul in the league. What do you see in the league and ACL from here?
It is hard to say as far as the league goes. After the stomach punch that was the 4-3 loss to Jeju United, I speculated that Seoul might have trouble finishing in the top three let alone first. They had a big win over Gwangju at home last Wednesday, but let a golden opportunity slip in failing to secure all three points against Suwon in the Super Match. However, as I have mentioned, Seoul usually have done quite well in July and August under Choi Yong-soo, so I think they can still finish in first if Jeonbuk ever slip up.
In the ACL, Seoul should absolutely beat Shandong Luneng in the quarter finals. Shandong are in absolute disarray, sitting in 14th place right now in the Chinese Super League and are looking like strong relegation candidates. From there, it depends on who Seoul meet in the semifinals. I hope we avoid Jeonbuk and instead face Shanghai SIPG since the men in green seem to be Adriano's kryptonite. As of now, I see Seoul winning the whole damn thing.
Seoul hardly ever make things easy these days and I see this being another tough game. I think just like the last FA Cup match against Daegu, this one will come down to the wire and that it will take extra time to settle the difference. In the end though, Seoul win 3-2.