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Jeonnam Dragons vs Pohang Steelers Preview

(image via dragons.co.kr)
The second POSCO Derby sees both teams in similar form and in the bottom half of the table. Sunday night's match in Gwangyang serves as a vital opportunity for both teams to pick up three points and attempt to find some footing for the slew of summer games heading their way this month. The Steelers have a propensity to score late, and the Dragons have tendency to concede during the same time frame. Is that how it'll play out this weekend? 

Jeonnam DragonsPohang Steelers

Competition:K League Classic

Date:Jun 12, 2016
Game Week:13
Venue:Gwangyang Stadium

This Sunday the Dragons will host their first night game and happily invite the only team they've beaten this year, the Pohang Steelers. Both teams come into the match having earned a measly 5 points out of a possible 15 in their previous five matches, and pressure is starting to mount for both clubs. Similarly, both teams also head into Sunday's match coming off a somewhat surprising draw. The Dragons benefited form an Osmar own goal to get an amazingly rare road point in Seoul World Cup Stadium, and the Steelers' Kim Gwang-seok's 92nd minute tally vs the Bluewings helped his side earn a fleeting point at home. On top of all that, both POSCO teams are also facing down an amazingly hectic June schedule that will undoubtedly shape the rest of their season. For an early June match up, the stakes are oddly high for two teams in such similar places.

For Jeonnam, this is the first of four home games in all competitions this month and it's vital for them to start picking up wins at home if they're to have any hope of avoiding relegation. Pohang, Ulsan, Yongin City (KFA Cup), and Incheon will all visit Gwangyang Stadium in the next two weeks and only one of those teams (Ulsan) is in the top half of the K-League Classic standings. Now is the perfect time for a struggling Dragons side to start a summer push to get them beyond the drop zone. However, this is going to be quite difficult for a relatively shallow squad with six games in the final three weeks of June. To pile on, the Summer Transfer Window doesn't open until June 30th and it may well be too late for reinforcements after this gauntlet of games. For better or worse, Jeonnam are going to have to rely on the players they currently have on their roster.

After months of unease, it would seem manager Noh Sang-rae has finally settled on a core defense that he's hoping can get him through the trying weeks ahead. After a lengthy rotation of keepers, Lee Ho-seung appears to have secured the starting spot having earned two starts in a row vs Jeonbuk and Seoul. Though he allowed three goals in those two games to earn a loss and a draw, those are the top two teams in the league and the late winner for Jeonbuk had more to do with the entire team collapsing in front of him than with any actual goalkeeping abilities. In front of him the defense of Lee Ji-nam, Lee Ji-min, Go Tae-won, and Yang Juna has also started two games in a row against the best the league has to offer and has looked OK. Choi Hyo-jin's absence from the back line continues to baffle, but hopefully a return home after a long layoff will see the veteran captain return to the backline to provide some stability on the right side and an additional crossing option going forward.

In the midfield Kim Pyung-rae and Kim Young-wook will likely start and continue to sit behind Vedran Jugović and Lee Seul-chan in an attempt to shield the defense from any pressure Pohang creates. While those four have done some decent work this season, it's an unfortunate lineup choice since Mislav Oršić does his best work running at defenses from the midfield as opposed to having the ball lobbed to him from an already advanced position. However, given the complete lack of firepower on the Dragons roster, they've had no choice but to put him up top and hope for the best. Unfortunately I just don't see that going well as it's a misuse of his skill set to attempt to have him fill the void left by Stevo... but it's unlikely to change this weekend.

When it comes to the attacking options, I'm most excited to see what Cho Suk-jae can do with the opportunities that surely will be afforded to him this month. He finally earned a start vs Seoul a few weeks ago and did well with every aspect other than finishing, which was to be expected for someone with such little game time under his belt. However, with so many games in the weeks ahead and seemingly weak opponents, we could see a similar run of form from Cho that Oršić put together last summer that cemented his place in the starting 11. His natural poaching instinct and strength on the ball should continue to earn him chances, and it'll just be a matter of converting opportunities he creates for himself. Said opportunities will assuredly be there Sunday as Pohang have only held two clean sheets this season, but they'll likely be far and few between. Though the Steelers defense has rarely put zeroes on the board, 75% of Pohang's games had under 2.5 goals in total, so this won't exactly be a shootout. The likely Cho and Oršić pairing up top lacks height, so the bulk of the offensive work will need to be more direct and often pulling Jugović into the mix to poke holes in the rather stingy Steelers back line. They may not score a lot, but if they play it right, they'll definitely get their chances.

Should the attackers find some joy with that strategy, this may still be a "one goal has to do the trick" situation similar to the win Jeonnam picked up in Pohang earlier this season. In order for a similar game plan to come to fruition, the Dragons will need to do something they've done only once at home this season: hold an opponent scoreless. In fact, Jeonnam have conceded at least one goal in 80% of their home games, and unsurprisingly have lost 80% of their home games. Additionally they've lost their last 4 home games and have yet to pick up a win at home this season. Pohang knows this all too well and will be looking to combine Jeonnam's poor home showing with the away form that inspired Pohang to a fantastic performance and shocking 3-1 win away to Seoul.

The man that scored the eventual game winner in that one, Sim Dong-woon, is also who the Dragons will need to keep their eye on this weekend. The former Jeonnam striker is having a career year and has already matched his best goal output with 5 through 12 matches. It may not sound like a lot, but the last time he scored 5 was with the Dragons in 2013 and it took him 29 games to do so... so clearly something's clicking a little better for him these days. His hat trick vs Ha Noi T&T in the AFC Champions League put him on a lot of radars in the early stages of the season, but it's done little to slow him down so far; he's consistently scored important goals this year. The first was the 90th minute equalizer in the insane 3-3 draw with Gwangju in March. Shortly after that an 89th minute equalizer vs Jeonbuk. He's not scoring in patches in the way his unanticipated flurry against Ha Noi T&T would suggest, but has spread his goals out over the course of the season and seems to be there in the most dire of moments. Given Jeonnam's propensity for allowing back-breaking late goals (to Seoul in the 93rd min, Gwangju in the 83rd min, Sangju in the 96th min, and Jeonbuk in the 92nd min), they may want to quadruple team Pohang's 26-year-old striker in the final 10 minutes.

It feels like I say this a lot, but the Dragons best chance in this one is going to be to come out early and try to score before Pohang gets a chance to settle in. The Steelers have yet to score within the first 15 minutes of a match this season, so they're not exactly sprinting out the gate. Conversely, the Dragons have scored 2 of their paltry 11 goals within the same time frame and would be served quite well to come out shooting in this one. An early goal will set the visitors back on their heels and allow the Dragons to focus on their defensive strategy and control the tempo of the game instead of desperately attempting long ball after long ball as an offensive "strategy." They could then sit back, absorb pressure, and hit on the counter with a speedy and young lineup seemingly built to counter attack. However, even if that does happen, I just don't have the confidence that Jeonnam will keep the ball out of their own net in the dying minutes of the game. Look for the Steelers to make one successful final push and improve their already impressive mark of 46% of their goals coming in the 75-90th minute.

Prediction: Jeonnam Dragons 1-1 Pohang Steelers


  1. I bet the shit dragons lose.... most likely in the 85th minute or stoppage time. Gosh they are terrible and have no spine or heart. Makes me sick

  2. I agree with anonymous. The dragons habitually conceding losers in the waning minutes of games has made me sick to my stomach and reconsider whether I should support them. The whole lot of them need to grow a sack starting with their coach.

  3. Both of you are morons, the dragons have been competitive in every game they played they've just been on the Unlucky side of the bounce. They're about to start a four-game winning streak. Both of you pansies hiding behind Anonymous should put your name to those tough words you wimps.

  4. A real good one talking crap about using Anonymous with anonymous. Anonymous number 3 you have no idea what you're talking about the dragons stink and have stunk in every game.

  5. Anonymous #1, #2 & #3... You're all moronic. The dragons couldn't hit a barnyard door. Like watching a Sunday league team after a heavy night on the piss.

  6. I bleed yellow and black, and purple when they are on the road. All of you and nonymous I really mean and a bunch of jerks. They are a professional soccer team in one of the top leagues in the world. I bet all of you couldn't kick a beach ball on a calm day. They tried so hard day in and day out you don't know how much effort they put into their craft. And for you to sit here and be little them makes me sad and angry.... shame on you

    1. You just embarrassed yourself with this drivel.

    2. Anonymous 5 (maybe 5, I dont know) Careful when using a phone to post a replay. Double read EVERYTHING, three times. Not doing so might lead your post to make little sense and be branded drivel by some Anonymous poster ;)

      (I learn this the hard way at least once a week, every week.)

  7. Shut up Meyer u dweeb

    1. Respect anonymous.... I made one post

  8. 너네들 다 죽었으면 좋겠다 !!!!!!

  9. Get a life, Owain.

  10. Get a life Aodan

  11. Does an anonymous mean anything to anybody anymore?!?

  12. Does an anonymous mean anything to anybody anymore?!?

  13. Well... that escalated quickly. See all y'all Anonymous' at the game Sunday then, yeah?


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