2016 Season Review – Seoul E-Land
In their two seasons in existence, Seoul E-Land has firmly established a pattern of being consistently inconsistent. Despite the luxury of their corporate backing yet again they were shown the way by citizen teams and missed out on promotion to the big league, this time failing to make even the play-off spots despite a late rally. E-Land correspondent Stephen Waddell reflects on another disappointing season and the prospect of one more year in the Challenge.
What Went Well
October. After an otherwise unremarkable season E-Land finally managed to knuckle down and put together a run of form right at the death. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to grab a play-off place that probably wouldn’t have been deserved but it does at least show that there is potential in the squad to put together the kind of results needed to get out of the division. The challenge for the management is getting the team to perform on a consistent basis week in week out.
What Didn't Go Well
All the other months. Whether it was going out of the FA Cup to a university side, losing a manager mid-season, getting rid of some of our best players or just turning in some rank rotten performances throughout the year it wasn’t the best of seasons to be following E-Land. Probably the most annoying thing was the number of points dropped to the league whipping boys Chungju and Goyang. 4 wins 3 draws and 1 defeat in eight matches against those sides might not seem like a terrible record but even one more point picked up in those matches would have been enough to get into the play-offs and its small margins like that which make a difference in such a tight league.
It’s hard to pick a player who put in a really solid performance throughout the whole year. Joo Min-kyu seemed to take the first half of the season off but fired back to form in the latter stages to bag 14 goals for the season. His strike partner Tarabai seemed to do the opposite, making a fairly strong start to the year then going quiet for a spell. In terms of young players, Ahn Tae-hyun looked like he might have what it takes to make the grade and added some excitement with his direct running though he probably needs to add a few more goals to his game.
Overall though I think the strongest candidate is probably centre-half Carlyle Mitchell who put in some dominating performances at the back despite numerous changes to personnel alongside him throughout the season. He earned himself a recall to the Trinidad and Tobago national side (see, Uli, some international sides do pick K-League players) and even bagged his first international goal in a 3-1 defeat to Honduras in November.
In theory there should be a long list of contenders for this position although the wholesale changes made by the new boss make it slightly harder to identify a consistently poor performer across the season. A number of the signings made in the window made little impact and Seo Jung-jin would be near the top of my list of disappointments. Given his CV features Jeonbuk, Suwon Bluewings and Ulsan he really should have been more of a standout in the lower league but in the end he failed to trouble the scorers during 2016. Other shot-shy strikers include the largely pointless signing Chico and Cho Woo-jin.
The title of team goat probably goes to Jonatas Belusso however. I expected big things from him given his excellent season at Gangwon in 2015 but he never really managed to find his feet in the team and the triple threat of Joo, Tarabai and Belusso never quite hit it off. Add in a dodgy Syrian passport and a free transfer in January and his signing seems to have been more bother than it was worth.
Most Important Decision of the Off Season
There are going to be one hell of a lot of important decisions to be made over the close season. 2017 looks to be the toughest Challenge season yet with Seongnam and Suwon FC back in the league alongside Daejeon, Busan and Gyeongnam. The police team and the new Ansan side will also be threats.
Perhaps the biggest decision to be made will be in the E-Land boardroom and we will see if they if are still committed to funding the team and pushing for promotion or whether a third season in the Challenge sees their interest waning. The squad looks as if it could do with yet another overhaul and some of the bigger names such as Cho Won-hee and Kim Jae-sung have already been allowed to leave. Whether guys like Kim Young-kwang or Kim Dong-cheol fancy another season in the lower division probably remains to be seen.
There are already some major holes in the squad that will need to be plugged. Joo Min-kyu will start his army stint next year and his goals are going to be hard to replace. Tarabai’s status for next season is as yet undecided with his loan stint coming to an end. Finding a goal scorer for 2017 is therefore a top priority as there seems to be nobody else in the squad who can provide that currently.
At the back the experience of Kim Dong-jin will be missed as he has already announced that he will be heading to Hong Kong for 2017. His leadership will no doubt be a notable absence in a squad that is starting to look a touch on the inexperienced side and makes holding on to some of the other key men in the squad all the more important.
Park Kun-ha has a lot of work to do in the close season and it remains to be seen if he is up to the task.