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Preview: Jeonnam Dragons vs Sangju Sangmu

Two teams who had surprise finishes in the top six last season look to get 2017 on track after opening day losses. The Dragons are back at their home ground Gwangyang Stadium after finishing last season winless at Suncheon's Palma Stadium. Will the return to Gwangyang bring its usual luck along with it?
(image via dragons.co.kr)

Overview

(soccerway.com)


The New Guy

It's one match and one goal for the new man up top, Róbert Feczesin. It may not have been exactly how they drew it up, but they all count the same and seeing his name on the scoresheet early in the season will certainly help his confidence. Along with the goal, Feczesin had a rocket of a shot destined for the top corner stopped by new Jeonbuk #1, Hong Jeong-nam. Being in the right place at the right time to head home the goal, and the speed, power, and accuracy with which he got off the near goal all show why Jeonnam paid to bring him in this winter. On a match day that ended poorly, there were a number of good takeaways, perhaps none higher than Feczesin getting comfortable in a Dragons shirt.

Love of the Long Ball

Jeonnam started the season in the 3-4-3 that brought them so much success last year, but neglected to play to its strengths. Instead the team fell back in love with the long ball and constantly hoofed it up to wingers Heo Yong-jun and Ahn Yong-woo. The wingers did ok with the ball when it actually got to them, but it rarely did. Not only do the Dragons not have anyone capable of true hold up play in the attacking line, but they have talent in the midfield that's being completely bypassed with this tactic. Talented youngster Han Chan-hee was essentially eliminated from the match beyond defensive responsibilities due to this baffling tactic. I have no idea how long it will take for manager Roh Sang-rae to finally admit the long ball is crap, but apparently we have a few more weeks of it before he relents.

Reinforcements

Oddly missing from the game day roster last weekend were regulars Vedran Jugović, Jair, and goalkeeper Lee Ho-seung. Though it's possible, I highly doubt all of them were injured after featuring in preseason matches, and it's odd they wouldn't have made the short trip up to Jeonju to open the season. Whatever the reasoning, I would expect all three to be in the starting lineup this weekend regardless of the fact most of their replacements did well. 20-year-old goalkeeper Park Dae-han stood out the most with an extremely strong performance between the sticks that kept the Dragons in the match. Neither of Jeonbuk's goals were the young keeper's fault and there are few in the league that could've stopped either. Had it not been for Park's lightning reflexes late in the game, it very well could have been 3 or 4 to Jeonbuk. However, even though Park did well in his trial by fire, having Lee Ho-seung back organizing the defense can only help improve the backline. Jugović's return should help solidify the midfield defensively and hopefully will allow Roh Sang-rae to trust the midfield enough to keep the ball on the ground more and allow Jugo and Kim Young-wook to dictate the pace. Lastly, Jair will undoubtedly add an ability to hang onto the ball Heo just doesn't have, and I'm truly looking forward to how the Brazilian pairs with Feczesin up top.

The Adversary

The departure of last season's K-League United Manager of the Year, Cho Jin-ho, leaves the military team searching for a new identity. New head man Kim Tae-wan has his work cut out for him with 4 of the 5 top scorers from last year moving on after finishing their military service. Only Cho Young-cheol, who scored three for Sangju last season, remains on the squad. The lack of a true goal scorer was on display last weekend when, much like the Dragons, Sangju scored only once and conceded a late goal to lose their opener 2-1. They'll be looking to get their season back on track and may do so by rotating the squad a bit while maintaining their 4-3-3 shape from Round 1.

Who To Watch

26-year-old striker Joo Min-kyu had to join the military to make his Classic debut, but he's here at last. After bursting onto the scene scoring 23 goals for Seoul E-Land in their inaugural season, Min-kyu had a rough start to 2016, but came on late and bagged 14 before season's end. After four years in Challenge (two years each with Goyang and E-Land), Min-kyu is in the top flight and will be looking at Sangju as a resume builder to sign with a Classic club once his service is finished. He was subbed on in the 74th for Park Hee-seong last week, but will likely factor into the Jeonnam match more given Sangju's lack of options up top. If Min-kyu is able to find the back of the net in whatever amount of time he gets this Sunday, he could soon be pushing his way into the starting XI and up the scoring chart.

Prediction

Gwangyang Stadium is something of a fortress for the Dragons and they'll be pleased to be back home. If they can stay strong at the back and actually use the midfield this week, then Feczesin and Jair should be able to find the net a few times.

Jeonnam Dragons 2-1 Sangju Sangmu


What are your thoughts and opinions on the match? Think Feczesin will find the back of the net again? Will Joo Min-kyu score his first Classic goal? Feel free to leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter.

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