2016 Season Review: Busan IPark
|The players thank the fans after falling to Gangwon in the playoffs. Photo via BusanIPark.com|
What Went Well
Hmm... a simple question that actually is rather tricky to answer. Busan really didn't excel in any one area. Their home record was solid (9-5-6, 32 points, T6 overall). Their away record was decent too (10-2-8, 32 points, T3 overall). They scored 52 goals (5th overall) and conceded 40 (also 5th overall).
I suppose the best answer then is that the last 18 matches of the season went well. During that period the team went an impressive 13-2-3. Scoring 27 goals and conceding just 10 while picking up 41 points from 54 possible. It's always a little misleading to do these 'if the season lasted just this time period' kind of things, but let's do one anyway. If the season consisted of just the last 18 matches, Busan would have finished well and truly at the top of the table.
Table (last 18 matches only)
What Didn't Go Well
Well, if the last 18 matches went well, the first 22 matches certainly did not. I won't run the full table like before, but suffice it to say the team (after 22 matches) was on a record of 6-5-11 with 25 goals scored and 29 goals conceded and just 23 points. At that point the team was hovering around 8th-9th in the table and promotion looked like a faint and faraway dream.
I suppose it would have to be Popp. The Brazilian forward notched 18 goals in his first season with Busan, continuing Busan's run of relative success with Brazilian attackers recently following the likes of Fagner and Weslley. Popp's goals were vital down the stretch and particularly considering the lack of output from the other forwards brought in during the offseason.
|Popp looks to go past Gyeongnam's defense. Photo via BusanIPark.com|
I will also make a note, as a kind of runner-up MVP/co-MVP, for Jung Seok-hwa. The 25 year-old midfielder put together his best season for Busan since joining a few years back. If Popp was the finisher, it was often Jung who was the creator, notching 4 goals and 10 assists this year.
|Jung Seok-hwa put together his best season to date. Photo via BusanIPark.com|
Many to be honest as a chunk of the 'bigger' name signings from the offseason failed to produce the goods. Milo Stojanovic, Ko Kyung-min, Choi Seung-in, Lee Yeong-jae, Lee Won-young, and Lee Chang-geun all flitted in and out of the side.
Lee Won-young was named captain on his return and expected to bring stability and leadership to a weak backline, but ultimately got injured and never returned to the side. The defense improved after his dropping and the return of Nilson Junior to that position.
Lee Chang-geun was supposed to be Busan's long-term keeper following the departure of Lee Bum-young to the J League. Chang-geun showed his typical nervy displays early on, got dropped and never recovered before being sold to Classic side Suwon FC (how does that make sense) and then subsequently getting relegated again.
Milo Stojanovic was a veteran K League scorer at both the Classic and Challenge level. But his starts were infrequent and his output non-existent. Eventually he completely dropped from the matchday squad lists entirely.
Choi Seung-in and Lee Yeong-jae were young players expected to bring some spark and energy to the side. Lee Yeong-jae started decently enough, but he faded badly and eventually was only appearing for the R League team. Choi Seung-in got a few starts here and there, but he never looked like a forward capable of starting regularly.
Ko Kyung-min's inclusion may be a little harsh considering he did chip in 7 goals (second only behind Popp), but considering the expectations and hope for his arrival, his performances disappointed.
Most Important Decision of the OffseasonThis has actually already happened - the decision on what to do with Choi Young-joon. As illustrated in the above 'things that went well' and 'things that didn't go well' sections, Choi's Busan had very different looks to them. The first part of the season was dominated by mediocre play and constant chopping and changing. The second part was characterized by defensive solidity and team cohesiveness. A case could be made for both retaining his services (the second part) or parting ways (the first part/not getting promoted). In the end Choi left the club following the loss to Gangwon in the playoffs.
|Cho Jin-ho will take the reigns next season as Busan seeks promotion. Photo via BusanIPark.com|
The next big thing is to clean out the dead wood in the squad as well as retain the services of key players to ensure the team avoids the terrible start of the past year.