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The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [FA Cup Final 16 Preview]

K League Challenge 2017 - The Incheon united Challenge - FA Cup Final Preview

Incheon United met media expectations for the season, finishing ninth in the league and comfortably above the drop. What no one could have expected is their appearance in an FA Cup final for the second year running. After a heroic performance in the semi-final against rivals and league champions Suwon Bluewings, can Matthew Binns’ men draw strength again for these final two legs and overcome relegated Suwon FC to lift the club’s first piece of silverware and qualify for the AFC Champions League.

The Challenge:
Citizens Unite! Stand up to the Korean Chaebols by leading a citizen club to title glory.

Previous Instalments: Pre-season '16 [Part 1], Pre-season '16 [Part 2], March '16, April '16, May '16, June '16, July '16, August '16, September '16, Post-Split '16

Having overcome the difficult task that was Suwon Bluewings, the board, backroom staff, players and fans all seem to think we are about to fill out the IKEA trophy cabinet bought back in 2005. Back then, as they constantly remind me, the club finished runners up in the league, a feat so impressive they made an emotional documentary movie about it called Flight which I decide to watch one Saturday night for tactical ideas (although initial searches did result in me watching half of a 2009 romantic movie with the same name starring Kim Bum, hoping that it would somehow lead to a football match. It did not.). Maybe if we can come away with a victory here, they will make another.

I’m also drunkenly and tearfully regaled with the story of last year’s FA Cup failure by our chairman over our league closing dinner. Incheon cruelly fell to FC Seoul in the 87th minute when Kwon Wan-kyu failed to mark Adriano in the box to make it 2-1. Incheon would go on to concede once more and their chances at glory would be dashed again. No pressure then.

For its 20th anniversary, the KFA have decided to change the rules of their domestic cup competition to once again feature two legs. This is of particular concern to the team and me because, despite being emphatically relegated, Suwon FC was one of many teams we were unable to defeat over the course of the season, chalking up three draws and a loss. Not only will we need to find a way to beat them, we are going to have to do it twice over a short four day period.

In addition to this, we head into this tie as strong favourites and, as such, most will be rooting for an upset. The humiliation if I lose to a team who has only claimed 10 points in their last nineteen games will be unbearable.

That said, Suwon did face a much tougher task than us in reaching this final, yet conceded no goals in the process. After defeating Cheongju 4-0 in round 4, they’d go on to stun Jeonbuk 1-0 and Jeju 2-0 before eventually overcoming Daejeon on penalties in a goalless semi-final. It would seem they have certainly prioritized the cup over staying in the Classic.

Furthermore, Suwon registered their first league win since the 29th June on the last day of the season, defeating Sangju Sangmu by four goals to two. Goals from Bruce Djite (2), Hwang Jae-goon and Kim Byung-oh ensured they ended their season on a somewhat positive note, no doubt hoping it will lift their morale ahead of this final.

Suwon opted for their preferred formation in a 4-1-2-3 DM, centrally focusing the attacks. My scout has suggested we consider a 3-4-3 as they seem vulnerable to it, but seeing as we haven’t experimented with such a formation, I am somewhat reluctant to start chopping and changing now.  The man of the match was central midfielder and goal scorer Hang Jae-hoon, but it was the other central midfielder Kim Jong-gook who was responsible for the most key passes in this game.

A few days after the season ends, I receive devastating news. Kim Byung-ji has had my goalkeepers doing sprints in training and now Lee Tae-hee, my young keeper who forced himself into first team contention through a number of "super saves", has pulled up with a groin strain and will be out for 6 weeks. I will be forced to recall Cho Su-hyuk who admittedly boasts similar stats but it a little bit on the eccentric side. Lee will be forced to watch from the sidelines alongside our injured striker Kevin Oris, and suspended Ju Min-kyu.

I receive the final scout report pretty much reaffirming what was said in their previous opponent report. Bruce is both the top scorer and highest rated player in their side whereas Spaniard Jamie Gavilan on the left wing, a man who began his career at Valencia before a long spell at Getafe, is the man to watch with the most assists. I'm told to focus on attacking movement yet I opt for the defensive option. I just have a bad feeling about this one.

With a couple of days to go, Kim Tae-su wanders into my office and is concerned that I have stopped playing him, requesting more game time. I might not actually want to give him any time given I am still undecided on who I will select, but I say I will feature him more in a bid to keep him quiet until the off-season. Besides, if I do start him, he may have something to prove and I can consider it good man management.

As the pre-match press conference looms, I realise I still haven't fully decided on formation or team selection. Making up as I get ready to leave in the morning, I resort to social media to advise me on my formation.
Kim Byung-ji holds the door open for me. I smile and give him a nod. I should really ask the board to fund his coaching badges after this final. I hear the click of camera shutters awaiting me and in I walk.

You can see what happens in the FA Cup Final here.

The FA Cup Final legs will be broadcast live (hopefully) on the K League United Facebook page, next Tuesday (24th January 2017). Kick off time to be confirmed soon. Stay tuned to our Twitter for more details.

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