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Preview: Incheon United vs. FC Seoul

(Adriano looks bored with the football equivalent of desk warming- from FCSeoul.com)
This Sunday Incheon's Sangui Arena Park will host a free-style rap battle between mega-crews Cutting Losses (FC Seoul) and Cellar Boyz (Incheon United).  Representing the Losses will be Biggie Krush (Dejan Damjanovic) and X-cessive Wizard (Park Chu-young) versus Boyz spitters Ke Vin (Kevin) and Lil Song Slab (Song Si-woo).  Each crew will question the other's masculinity, socioeconomic status, and insinuate a lack of chastity with regards to mother/significant other.  Afterwards, if time permits, a game of soccer will be played to commemorate the event.  This is a preview of that game.  


The second iteration of the Gyeongin Derby is kicking off.  Last time these two team played, FC Seoul strolled to what has to be the easiest 3-1 win I have ever witnessed.  Seoul were in control on both ends of the pitch and absolutely deserved to walk away with all three points.  The only downside to the game was when Kim Won-sik and Park Yong-woo switched off and allowed for Incheon to score at the end of the game.  That was a damn good day out and sadly, Seoul have struggled to reach those heights since then, which I have bitched about incessantly these last 3 months.

Incheon, until recently, have been absolutely woeful.  They did not win get a win until the 12th game, but since then, have only lost once and beaten Seongnam, Suwon FC, Sangju Sangmu, and Jeju Utd along the way.  In other words, they are starting to peak and Sungui Arena Park has become a difficult place to play at, which means this is the worst time for a struggling side to travel west to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of South Korea.  What should be an easy three points could most likely be a disappointing four to six hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Because there have been so many games recently, I have been slacking with the recaps.  Rather than give full-blown write-ups with detailed analysis, instead I will provide some half-ass summaries of what has happened for Seoul recently.

Recap: FC Seoul 0-0 Ulsan Hyundai

It has been a rough patch for Seoul.  They have not won since June 15th and have looked just terrible these last four weeks.  Both Ulsan and FC Seoul are tied on points, but Seoul sit in second place because they have scored more goals.  Therefore, because this match had quite a bit of significance for each team, that meant chances would be few and far between as both sides looked to minimize mistakes.

Ulsan's strength is utilizing the skills of their wide players, Kovacec on the left and Kim Tae-hwan on the right, to go at the opposition's full back/wing-backs and either get in a good position to shoot or cross.  So when the lineups were announced, I was in disbelief that Hwang reverted to a 3-back system after playing with a 4-back one against Sangju Sangmu the prior week.  Seoul have been having problems with playing a high line and the space behind them being exploited in recent weeks as they have been ripped to shreds by teams on the counter.  Naturally, I was worried that this theme would be prevalent again.

In the first half Seoul were absolutely woeful as they only created one or two half-chances while being dominated by Ulsan in the first 25 minutes.  Kovacec was a bit quiet as Seoul did well to keep an eye on him, but Kim Tae-hwan ran riot down the right side against Ko Kwang-min and Osmar.  I really felt like Seoul were living on the knife's edge and ready to concede at any moment as the team could not win a second ball after clearing the first.  It was obviously a dull half because the camera kept panning into the stands and showing us images of Adriano chilling such as the one below.

The second half began and Hwang Sun-hong removed Takahagi and brought on Kim Chi-woo.  I had ripped him previously for switching out Kim Chi-woo and bringing on Sim Sang-min against Sangju since it cost the team the game as they were poor throughout the second half and Sim conceded a late penalty.  With this substitution, I began to wonder if Hwang had lost the plot and was in over his head, but it actually helped improve Seoul.  Ko Kwang-min switched to the right flank and Kim Tae-hwan had a quiet second half.  Outside of a marking mix-up between him and Osmar, Kim Chi-woo played well and was involved in Seoul's best effort of the day.  Seoul were quite lucky not to concede at the end as Kovacec's header went straight to Yu Sang-hun as the defense failed to pick up his late run into the box.  This has been an ongoing problem that the defense has yet to fix.  The game finished 0-0, but I was happy that Seoul were able to keep a clean sheet and not lose.  These are two things they can build on.

FA Cup Recap: FC Seoul 0-0 Jeonnam Dragons (Seoul win via p.k.s 4-2)

I had to work, so I missed all of the first half, but from what my friend told me there were not many chances.  As with the Ulsan game, this contest had significance, so it would be expected that both sides would want to play it safe in an effort to minimize errors that could be punished.  I tuned into the second half and watched Jeonnam spurn three good chances to score.  Seoul looked on the ropes, but then Hwang subbed in Dejan, and the tables turned.  Dejan was involved in two of Seoul's best moment, playing a sublime FIFA-esque/Pro Evo through ball for Yun Ju-tae to run on to and sweetly strike.  However, the keeper was able to tip that shot over and even got a hand on Dejan's header to keep the score tied.

In what is starting to become a recurring theme of late, Hwang made yet another perplexing substitution.  He removed Adriano and brought on Park Chu-young, which is not bad in and of itself, except that Adriano has not played since June 29th and will not play until mid-August due to suspension.  Was he fatigued?  Why would he take out his most dangerous forward to bring on Park Chu-young, who is quite skillful, but not in the same goal scoring class as Adriano?  There is no need to preserve Adriano since he is not playing for quite a bit, so why remove him.

(Yu Sang-hun was Seoul's hero on Wednesday- from www.sportschosun.com)
On the plus side though, Yu sang-hun was magnificent and made one of the saves of the year to deny Jeonnam  magnificent saves.  I cannot find any video unfortunately, but Yu dug deep and low to keep out what was a sure fire goal.  Also, he did well to save Jeonnam's final penalty and ensure that Seoul move onto the next round.

One perplexing thing, and I will let Ryan comment on it, is Noh Sang-rae's decision to remove his goalie at the end of time and bring on another goalie.  Ever since Louis van Gaal switched Tim Krul for Jasper Cillesen for the p.k.s against Costa Rica, other coaches have tried this with little success.  Therefore, as a public service announcement, I would just like to say following: "Stop!  Stop doing this.  It is a lame tactic that almost never work.  Use your final substitution to bring on an outfield player and try to win the damn thing before penalties."

(The turning point for Incheon's season- from modernseoul.org)
Incheon 2016

Incheon United have been the league's traditional whipping boys and this year is no different.  Whereas last year, they had an outside chance of finishing in the top six and made it to the cup final, neither likelihood of that has a chance in hell of happening this year.  For the men in black and blue, survival is all they are after and for quite a long time, that did not even seem to be a faint possibility.  Let's look at the first eleven weeks of the season.  Here is a chart below.

Incheon United: Offense vs. Defense
Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal

Poss.
Shots
On Goal
1
49.2
20
7

50.8
16
5
2
48.46
5
3

51.54
11
9
3
44.59
5
2

55.41
16
8
4
54.82
10
6

45.18
5
4
5
45.94
9
3

54.06
14
6
6
49.03
11
5

50.97
13
5
7
49.37
6
5

50.63
17
5
8
56.7
10
9

43.3
5
4
9
58.94
9
5

41.06
3
1
10
45.4
6
3

54.6
13
9
11
42.53
4
2

57.47
9
3
Avg.
49.54
8.64
4.55

50.46
11.09
5.36

With only four points from a possible thirty-three, Incheon were the definition of atrocious.   The team only scored eight goals (0.73 per game) while conceding 19 (1.73 per game), hence their record.  The gaffer, Kim Do-hoon, was damn lucky not to be fired AND that Jeonnam and Suwon FC have been abysmal as well.

Incheon United: Offense vs. Defense
Week
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
Poss.
Shots
On Goal
12
44.34
12
5
55.66
15
9
13
39.07
7
3
60.93
19
8
14
40.5
15
8
59.5
10
6
15
44.66
11
8
55.34
13
7
16
44.58
14
5
55.42
13
3
17
43.76
17
9
56.24
8
3
18
52.86
15
12
47.14
7
4
19
53.45
7
6
46.55
6
3
Avg.
45.40
12.25
7.00
54.60
11.38
5.38

Since losing their 11th game 1-0 in the 91st minute to Gwangju FC at home, Incheon United have been on a bit of a tear.  They have won four, drawn three, and lost one while scoring 10 goals (1.25 per game) and only conceding six (0.75 per game).  Even though their goals for average is still very low at 1.25 per game, there has been an improvement in scoring of 71% from the prior eleven games, which represents a significant jump in my opinion.

I believe this improvement has come about as Incheon have been able to manufacture more shots.  In the first eleven games, Incheon averaged under 10 shots a game, but in the last eight, they have averaged over 12 shots a game, which is an increase of 42%.  More importantly, the average number of shots on target has risen by 54%, a substantial increase that is most likely the reason why the team has been scoring more goals as of late.

Defensively, not much has changed as Incheon still allow slightly over 11 shots a game and a bit over 5 on target, but there must be some sort of improvement for Incheon's attack to have improved so much these last eight games.  Nonetheless, even if the defense is still allowing a similar amount of shots, the amount of goals conceded has decreased 57%.  Obviously, these upward trends demonstrate a remarkable improvement and it is why Incheon, even though they collected only four points in their first eleven games, are now in 10th place and no longer in one of the two relegation spots.  However, what jumps out to me most is the number of late goals that Incheon have scored as shown in the chart below.

Minutes
Goals
0-15
1
16-30
1
31-45
2
46-60
1
61-75
5
76-90
4
90+
4

Looking at when Incheon score goals, two points of view jump out at me.  The first notes that Incheon are just a piss-poor team that has difficulty scoring, especially early, and that the team's offensive strategy is predicated on somnambulism.  By being so terrible and ineffectual in attack, they lull their opponent into a false sense of security, and this allows for them to surprise said opponent later on.  If that is Kim Do-hoon's strategy, then I cannot decide if he is an idiot or a diabolical genius.


The second point of view acknowledges Incheon's difficulty scoring goals, particularly in the first 60 minutes, but appreciates how the team never gives up and comes up with timely goals late.  Goals in the 90th minute (Jeonbuk), 96th minute (Suwon Bluewings), and 80th minute (Gwangju FC)  have seen Incheon come back from losing positions to gain a much needed point.  Goals in the 79th minute (Seongnam FC), 89th minute, and 93rd minute (both against Jeju United) have seen them record timely wins as well.  Unlike Jeonnam, who have allowed late goals against FC Seoul, Gwangju FC, Sangju Sangmu, and Jeonbuk to lose, Incheon have done things the opposite way and I think this is what will make the difference in the relegation battle.

Prediction

Most likely, this will be a battle of the three-back systems, but Hwang has shown some flexibility, so maybe Seoul will play a different formation than the 3-5-2 one the team favors.  I am fairly certain that Incheon will line up in defensive 5-3-2 formation and look to take advantage of the space behind Seoul's back line via route one tactics.  If Kevin starts, I expect many long balls hit forward to him, and from the subsequent knockdowns Incheon players such as Song Si-woo can run on and hit shots as a means to generate an attack.

I think for Seoul, the game plan will be quite simple defensively.  Try to mark Kevin tightly and not lose too many aerial battles and keep an eye on Song Si-woo since he has had a knack for scoring Incheon's late goals.  Offensively, I think Seoul will struggle to score goals and will miss Adriano's movement.  Hwang will go with Dejan and Park Chu-young again, but neither is the speediest, so I think Seoul will struggle to create chances in the first half as there will be relatively little service. Takahagi is a good player, but he is no Paul Pogba, and with Ju Se-jong's injury Seoul's midfield has become steaming pile of shit where attacking moves go to die  faltered somewhat.

I think the key for Seoul, if he plays, will be Yun Il-lok and whether or not he has any space to operate in.  In the last Super Match, Suwon squeezed the space against him and he was ineffective for large parts of the match.  Maybe if Hwang utilizes Yun out wide, this give him some room to operate.  Yun's best games this year were against Suwon FC and Gwangju at home when he had time and space to run at the defense.  If he has the space and time to work, then I can see Seoul winning this fixture.

However, the longer Seoul go without a goal- it has now been 210 minutes but who is counting, the more Incheon will gain in confidence.  If it is tied at the end, I could see Incheon getting a late goal and stealing all three points.  That being said, I am going to be optimistic and see this as a chance for Seoul to turn their season around.  They have not won in their last five games and the season is beginning to slip away.  After surviving the lottery of penalties against Jeonnam on Wednesday, hopefully Seoul will be galvanized to run through a wall against Incheon United on Sunday.  An early goal to calm the nerves will certainly help.

Final Score: Seoul 3-1 Incheon United

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