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Writers' Chat: FC Seoul vs Incheon United

Incheon United will be looking for their first win of 2017 when they head to the capital Saturday in what will be FC Seoul's fourth of six games in three weeks. Does Seoul have the depth to hold United or will the 11th place team shock the hosts and claim their first three points? Incheon columnist Jun Kim and I discuss. 

Jun Asks, Ryan Answers

Jun Kim: Seoul are 4th right now after 2 wins, 3 draws and a single loss. Are you happy with this start?

Ryan Walters: I wouldn't exactly say happy, but I certainly wouldn't say upset. It's early going in the season and sitting in the top half of the table just five points behind the leaders is fine for now. It certainly could be better, but on paper things are relatively good for Seoul. As you mentioned they only have one loss this year and that came on the road to the league leaders, Jeonbuk. However, watching the games has me feeling a bit more discouraged. The question heading into the season rears its head nearly every single match: who's going to score goals for this team? The options up top are so bleak that veteran defender Sim Woo-yeon started at striker Wednesday night vs Anyang in the FA Cup. He's 196cm, so I get the target man option... but dude's 32 years old, hasn't played over 1,000 minutes since 2012 and hasn't scored a goal since 2011. Surely there are other options on the bench? If not, things will go down hill quickly with another two ACL matches, FA Cup, and K League taking its toll on this roster.

JK: Osmar broke his nose during the KFA Cup match against Anyang and he will definitely miss the game against Incheon United. Who will step into the big Spaniard's shoes this weekend?

RW: This is where there's a bit of good news. Kwak Tae-hwi was subbed on for Osmar when he came out with the busted nose Wednesday night. I'd expect the captain to slot directly into Osmar's spot on the left side of a three man back line next to Hwang Hyun-soo.

JK: Seoul have scored only 5 goals in the league so far; what do you think is the problem with Seoul's attack this season?

RW: Lack of options and not playing to the team's strengths. There are only six true attacking players on Seoul's roster and only Dejan and Park Chu-young are strikers of that lot. The rest are capable of finding the back of the net occasionally, but will never be mistaken as true goal scorers. Even as well as former Jeonnam Dragon Maurinho's been playing lately, he shouldn't be counted on to get goals. It's just not in his makeup, nor should it be. He, much like the bulk of the attacking core, is a winger that should help with pace of play and setting things up. Which leaves Dejan and Park with the lion's share of the work to be done up top, but Hwang has rarely played them together to see what the two most potent options can come up with. K League managers in general seem to be in love with the 3-4-3 this year regardless of their roster and Hwang's no different. Yes, the team has a glut of wingers, but that doesn't mean Seoul has to play with three up top. Especially when the formation isn't producing goals. Instead, the wingers should be pushed back a bit and allow Dejan and Park to control the final third. That's rarely happened this season and unsurprisingly the goals haven't come. That said... there simply isn't enough attacking talent on this team right now. Those two need help and if the club wants to compete this year, then they need to make a summer signing.

JK: It's still early but do you think Seoul have what it takes to defend the title?

RW: Of the three teams ahead of them, Pohang's the only one I can see falling off their current pace. Jeju's been on the verge of competing for the title for a few seasons now and has a balanced enough roster to finally do it this year. And Jeonbuk... well... they're Jeonbuk aren't they? So if Seoul can figure out how to actually score goals, then yes, I definitely see them in the conversation to defend their title. If they don't, then I can't see how they catch Jeju and Jeonbuk.

JK: If you could sign any K-League player for Seoul in the upcoming transfer window, who would you sign?

RW: After all that talk about attackers, I think Seongnam's keeper, Kim Dong-jun, would be an ideal signing for Seoul. Yoo Hyun is a time bomb waiting to go off every match and is clearly past his prime. Dong-jun, on the other hand, has proven capable of taking on a full season's workload, and is still only 22 years old. Even if he were a field player he'd be a solid long term signing, but as a keeper, he could potentially be the man Seoul builds their backline around for years to come. Seongnam currently sit at the bottom of the Challenge table and don't seem to be budging from that spot. An influx of cash and/or a few depth players that could use some minutes in the second division would likely be tempting enough for the Magpies to part ways with their talented young keeper.

JK: Your prediction for the game?

RW: Even though Seoul's likely tired after yet another double game week, they should still have enough in the tank to put a few by the team that's allowed the second most goals this season.

FC Seoul 2-0 Incheon United

Ryan Asks, Jun Answers

Ryan Walters: With only six rounds in the books it’s still early going, but Incheon haven’t exactly looked encouraging. As the only remaining winless team in the league this year, how much longer do you think manager Lee Ki-hyung has before he’s on the hot seat?

Jun Kim: He is already under pressure in my opinion; he stepped in last September as caretaker manager and helped to guide Incheon to win 6 from the final 10 games as Incheon United miraculously avoided the drop. Incheon fans called him 이기는 형 (brother that wins), which is a play on his name. Then the club management eventually rewarded Lee with a 2-year deal as permanent manager. Lee himself said in a recent interview that his team needs to pick up a win in the league soon otherwise people will start calling him 이기지 못하는 형 (brother that can't win). For a gaffer who picked up 21 points in just 10 games last season, this slow start (3 draws and 3 losses) isn't good enough.

RW: Gwangju, Suwon, and even 4th place Seoul have all scored less than Incheon thus far this season, but sit above them in the table. What’s gone so wrong at the back for United and who do you think is the key to turning it around?

JK: You are absolutely correct about Incheon's defensive frailty this season. It is partly due to Lee Ki-hyung's offensive approach, in my opinion. Incheon have created many chances and scored decent number of goals so far this season; many of those have come from utilising wide players. Incheon's fullbacks advance high up the pitch to provide attacking cover for their diagonal-running wingers. Unfortunately, this strategy was exposed against Jeonnam Dragons last weekend. Incheon's right-back Park Jong-jin had a horrid time handling Jeonnam's Jair; the Brazilian was able to get behind Park and created chances for Lee Seul-chan and Choi Jae-hyun. Leaving so much gap in the defensive third cost Incheon dearly; they were definitely shaky against breakaway plays from Jeonnam. Incheon definitely need to bring back Bunoza in the starting lineup; he was on the bench against Jeonnam and I believe he is very mobile and is able to cover that space behind Incheon fullbacks.

RW: Seoul have absolutely dominated this rivalry in recent years having only lost twice since 2013. However, they are a team currently stuck in second gear and with the additional grind of FA Cup and ACL wearing on them could be primed for an upset.  Do you see Incheon throwing caution to the wind and trying to pick up their first win in dramatic fashion or do you think they’ll play it safe and secure the road point?

JK: I think Lee Ki-hyung will go for more defensive approach against Seoul. Although they'd like to pick up all 3 points, Incheon just cannot risk dropping more points; one point away to Seoul will be a huge morale booster for Incheon.

RW: Prediction?

JK: Unfortunately, I just don't see Incheon winning this game. I'm going to go with 1-0 win for Seoul.

What are your thoughts and opinions on the match? Think Seoul find a new attacking option? Will Incheon pull off the upset and get their season going? Feel free to leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter.

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