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Preview: FC Seoul vs Jeonnam Dragons

The red hot Jeonnam Dragons head to Seoul World Cup Stadium for a midweek holiday clash to face a struggling Seoul side still in search of goals. Failing to score from the run of play and calamitous defending did Seoul in yet again and is a continually worrying trend. Can the team sort out their issues on both sides of the pitch in time to defend their home turf, or will the Dragons make it four in a row and potentially move into the top half of the table?
(image via FCSeoul.com)

Overview



Wha Happened?

Seoul losing 2-1 at Daegu should in and of itself be alarming, but the way they did it is what makes it worrisome. Daegu, having previously only won once this year, nearly had free reign in the Seoul end and were honestly a bit unlucky not to score even more. In his usual unsteady performance, goalkeeper Yoo Hyun nearly handed Daegu the lead in the 34th when he stormed out to take the ball from an attacker in the box, but failed to even make a play. The striker got around Yoo, but couldn't manage to get his shot off. Seoul wouldn't be so lucky a few minutes later when defender Hwang Hyun-soo was effortlessly muscled off the ball by all 73 kg of Daegu's Jun Woo-jae, who then moved in on goal and crossed the ball to a wide open Evandro who had an entire net to aim for. The lack of strength or awareness that physicality was coming from Hwang is bad enough, but the lack of confidence the team has in Yoo became all the more clear on this play with Kwak's shift to cover Jung. Instead of allowing Jung a truly poor angled shot, Kwak felt he needed to shift over from the middle and provide cover for Yoo. In turn this left Kwak's man, Evandro, wide open for the nearly empty net goal. Kwak's not exactly faultless here as he never even turned his head to see the Brazilian striker behind him, but the fact that his instinct was to close down the shot, even at that poor of an angle, instead of holding his position shows how doubtful the Seoul backline is of Yoo's ability to stop a shot.

Down just one, Seoul then settled for shooting from way outside. Kim Chi-woo and Ju Se-jong both put in efforts from well outside their range that unsurprisingly sailed over the bar. The start of the second half was a bit better and Lee Seok-hyun had a glorious chance in the 51st, but hit it directly at the keeper. The lack of finishing came back to haunt Seoul quickly enough when defender Jung In-hwan perfectly illustrated how not to defend on a corner. He never anywhere near enough to Evandro to begin with, and instead of shifting back to actually mark his man, he instead leapt forward and further out of position and left Evandro wide open for a free header. How a professional defender got his positioning, marking, and reading that wrong is beyond me.

A cheekily chipped PK from Park Chu-young brought Seoul back into the match late, but they never looked truly threatening. The lone goal marked the 6th time this year Seoul has scored just once or been held scoreless, and the defense showed why 1-0 wins aren't going to be something to depend on. Failing to score more than once for the big names on this team should in and of itself be alarming. Failing to score a goal from the run of play against Daegu must serve as a wake up call to management to get another attacking option.

The Returned

One of Seoul's attacking options that's shown more signs of life than expected this season is the Brazilian Maurinho who will be facing his former side for the first time Wednesday. Continually played out of position by Noh Sang-rae last season in Jeonnam, it was hard to assess where Maurinho would fit into Seoul's system and what he would be able to produce. However, his strong showing in the otherwise entirely dull 0-0 vs Jeju earned him a start vs Western Sydney Wanderers in ACL and he was all over the place. He played extremely tough both ways on the wing tracking back and tackling with more efficiency than Yun Il-lok or Lee Sang-ho and forced the pace of play onto the opposition instead of sitting back and waiting for the ball to come to him. As a result, Maurniho was directly involved in all three of Seoul's goals that helped them break the curse against WSW on Australian soil. While he hasn't remained that hot in the games since, he's certainly done enough to get significant minutes when his old team, and the manager who rarely played him, come to town.

From The Dragon's Mouth

Jeonnam columnist Alex Meyer chatted with Dragons midfielder Vedran Jugović after their 2-1 win vs Gangwon about the victory and the change in the locker room. Unsurprisingly the 27-year-old Croatian was delighted.

"You can imagine how happy we are, but still with two feet on the ground. We know there is much more to do in the next games, but today we showed that we are a good team. Because good teams also win when they don't play perfect. It was a hard game, but luckily we won and I think we deserved the luck because we were really fighting for every ball." 

Defender Tomislav Mrčela added "[the defense] is good with four at the back, and the team is playing together defensively. We just needed one good result and now we are showing good things one the field."

The Adversary

As the Dragon's quotes may indicate, this team is on a hot streak and absolutely feeling it. Finally relenting on his three man backline, manager Noh Sang-rae started lining the team up with four at the back and the results have followed. Not only has the shift in formation lessened the burden on those at the back, but it's allowed young dynamos Lee Seul-chan and Han Chan-hee to settle into their roles and show the quality they have to offer when played in their positions. More to the point, the shift to four at the back has allowed the midfield to focus on pace of play and creating chances as opposed to having to cover so many gaps defensively. The result of all of this has been four wins on the trot in all competitions and 14, yes 14, goals scored during the stretch. Even taking out the four the Dragons scored vs Jeonju City in the FA Cup, it's still an impressive feat.

Who To Watch


Just like last summer, Brazilian winger Jair is on a hot streak and the wins are piling up as a result. He leads the team with four goals and just like last year is scoring them any way he can. Jair has the ability for flashy goals, and will occasionally hit a curler from the outside of the box, but his willingness to get into the fray and shifty off the ball movement to get open is what's more impressive. Equally important for Seoul defenders to consider is his growing ability to set up other players, like this delightful back heel. Given their lack of positioning and shifting abilities with three at the back again last week vs Daegu, Seoul will surely have their hands full trying to contain Jeonnam's pacy winger.

Prediction

The Dragons backline has been much better of late, but still only boasts one clean sheet in league play. Seoul should manage to get on the board, but given their recent performances I'm not convinced it'll be more than once. Combine that with the truly calamitous defending on display and Jeonnam's red hot offense and it could be a long afternoon at the park for the red and black.

FC Seoul 1-2 Jeonnam Dragons

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