The #KLeagueFM17 Challenges: Citizens Unite! [March '17]
The 2017 K League Classic finally gets underway and to say Incheon United are weakened would be an understatement. With the loss of so many key players, can manager Matthew Binns get off to a good start in the new season?
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, FA Cup Final '16 [Preview], FA Cup Final '16, Pre-Season '17 [Part 1], Pre-Season '17 [Part 2]
And so the death knell tolls. A pre-season that has seen my team forcibly stripped of most of its assets in the name of club solvency has led me up to probable public humiliation in front of my own supporters. What makes it worse is that it will be at the hands of Jeonbuk, a team that has gone about its business in the most vile and underhand manner, turning the heads of my most promising players and causing disharmony within my own dressing room. I preferred it when they were just bribing bastards.
My scout filed his report a couple days prior but it did not bring up anything I wasn't already expecting. The visitors will likely play a 4-2-3-1, boast a strong midfield and I should probably keep an eye out for Hwang Ui-jo and Lee Jae-sung. Might be wise to watch out for the snake that is Kim Chan-hee as well but, upon reading the team sheets, I see that he has been omitted. I would like to be more surprised, given the fuss he made in engineering his move, but I decide to take it as reassurance that I was right in thinking he would be better off staying here at Incheon. He will learn his lesson the hard way eventually and come crawling back, begging for my forgiveness. They all will!
I set my team out in the familiar 4-2-3-1 that saw us through most of last season. With the unanticipated loss of Bae Seung-jin coming so late on, I have had little time to engineer a replacement so will not be opting for my three centre-back option as originally intended. It is probably wise to do so against a Jeonbuk team tipped for high things this season.
As the full time whistle is blown, I am left to scan over the wreckage and broken souls bowing in shame in front of the supporters, their integrity shredded in a way similar to how the defence was cut to pieces by a far superior attack. I look at my players in sheer disbelief at what I have just witnessed. We won. We won convincingly. We won by three goals to nil.
Krste Velkoski naturally took all the post match plaudits with his two opening goals. His first was a tap in from a low Jin Seong-wook cross and his second saw him close down and force an error from the Jeonbuk defence to double the lead. He really is trying his best to sell himself to interested clubs it seems, not that I mind as long as we continue to benefit. Krste even turned creator for the third, running half the length of the pitch down the right wing to cross into Lee Jin-wook who had to only to tap in to make it three before half time.
I opted not to change anything for the second half, less it ruin the chemistry I have somehow stumbled upon. I spent most of the second half motionless on the sidelines as if having just found a signal on my old kitchen TV and wish to keep the picture until the adverts. We held strong though and the feeling as the final whistle blew was a mixture of joy and relief. We only need to go through this thirty-seven more times this season.
Next up is a Seongnam side who apparently like to alter their formation a lot, with the scout pointing this little fact out as both the opposition's strength and weakness. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the match, I get preoccupied in a war of words between myself and their manger Koo Sang-bum. As it crescendos to its peak, I decide to then declare him as a good friend in a bid to wrong foot him with my superior mind games. He should be filled with emotions of anger, guilt and affection going into this game, which should ensure we come out with three points and a friendship bracelet.
I make changes early on in the second half, handing Kim Jin-ouk and Kim Hyung-il their first appearances for Jin Seong-wook and Ahn Jae-joon respectively. It allows me to push Song Si-woo out to the right and employ my 3-4-3 experiment from pre-season. With it holding steady for 15 minutes, I then introduce Kevin Oris for a Velkoski who is far from performing to the standard he set in the first round. Four minutes later and Seongnam have their third, with a cleared ball landing at the feet of Troisi who scores unchallenged. The final nail in an already securely closed coffin comes a minute later as Lee Seung-woo picks out Seong Bong-jae to make it four. Ju Min-kyu did manage to pull one back, but it was far too late to have any influence on the proceeding. We have been royally humbled here.
Bizarrely, the game has been scheduled during an international break, once again demonstrating the sheer incompetence of the league's governing body. This means that my defensive midfielder Luong Xuan Truong and also striker Krste Velkoski will not be available for selection. The former may not be much of a problem, but the latter is one of my main goal threats. To worsen matters, our keeper Lee Tae-hee pulls up injured in training with a groin strain, damning him to the sick bed for the next three weeks.
As transfer deadline day arrives, Jeonbuk have decided to make a last minute bid for Jin Seong-wook. With the finances looking less bleaker, and it being the final day of the window, I reject the bid and the player revolts. I politely tell him to sod off as there's no time to get anyone else in. He gathers the team and they storm into my office. I decide to go strong, assertively telling them that I am the boss and that I make the decisions. They seem to back down, but morale looks as if it will be damaged.
Transfer deadline day also sees a loan bit for Luong. A fairly innocuos bid I think which I accept as it will be great to give him more game time. Little did I know that this transfer would scupper my team selection plans in a way I could not have anticipated.
Unfortunately we do not even make it that far before we concede, with Seoul's Takahagi losing the youngster to help create Joo Hyung-jun's opening goal. I decide to remove him immediately, probably irrevocably destroying his confidence, and replace him with Kim Hyung-il. Shortly after, Seoul double their lead through Ko Yo-han, before my left winger, Lee Jin-wook decides to stupidly back pass to the keeper instead of pushing forward, allowing Joo Hyung-hoon to make it three before thirty minutes.
We held on to just the three goal deficit until half-time. I do my best to summon my "angry" voice, kicking (and missing) a shin pad by my feet in the process. The lads certainly don't appear to be inspired, but perhaps the comedy relief pays off as we score almost straight from the restart. An exquisite ball through by Kainz falls into the path of Jin Seong-wook who converts with ease. Unfortunately, the margin returns to three eight minutes later when Adriano taps in to make it four. We keep going though and reply with another Jin Seong-wook goal shortly after. We even get a third thanks to Song Si-woo but it is too late to pull back level and the derby finished 4-3 to the visitors.
It has not been the best of starts on paper, but having taken on three of the strongest teams in the league with a weakened squad so early on in the new campaign was always going to be a difficult ask. That said, Jeonbuk have lost all three of their fixtures in March so perhaps I should not get too carried away with that opening result. I feel there are definitely positives however, and we seem to know where the goal is. Our defence just seems so insecure though and will likely prove to be our undoing (again).
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