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2017 K League Challenge Mid-Season Grades

With Korea's second division just over the half way point it's time for our Challenge writers to hand out grades on their team's performance thus far. 
(image via facebook.com/GyeongnamFC)

Gyeongnam FC: A

18 games unbeaten before finally being beaten by Suwon says it all.  Top of the league by 7 points and we have our swagger back.
- James Edrupt  (@james_edrupt)

Bucheon 1995: B+

Given the upheaval over the winter with a new manager and the departure of the entire defence and the top scorer, this season has been a pleasant surprise. Were it not for a shocking run of form in the second half of May which saw them go out of the Cup and lose three in a row in the league, the grade would be higher. That said things look back on the up with a couple of recent spankings of nearby rivals Anyang especially satisfying. There's little between 3rd and 6th so anything can happen but to miss out on the playoffs from here would be very disappointing. Finally, it's been said before but worth saying again, Kim Shin should be in the Classic.
- Alastair Middleton  (@korearacing)

Busan IPark: B+

Busan is well in the picture for the playoff spot, and still has a shot at the title and automatic promotion. Promotion is, of course, the only real goal that matters this season, so since it is still possible, Busan gets a passing grade. However, I can't give them an 'A' since the team rarely dominates and controls games like they probably should. The team's decision not to strengthen the central area of midfield last winter was a massively poor decision that hopefully is straightened out this summer.
- Jaehyeok Lee  (@ArmchairRegista)

Ansan Greeners: B-

The Greeners era began with a bang as Ansan saw off Daejon on the opening day and claimed a memorable Line 4 derby win a few weeks later. Close thought defeats showed green shoots for the new team culminating in an epic 3-3 in the city derby against Suwon. However Ansan then went on an awful run, scoring just 4 goals in 9 outings and picking up only 5 points in the same period. Just 1 defeat in their last seven, albeit with just a single win as well, has seen the new franchise find some stability, and with Uruguayan Raul Terragona netting 7 goals so far this season, it has not been a satisfactory beginning to Ansan 3.0.
- Mike Brandon  (@ansanfsc)

Seongnam FC: B-

Unbeaten in their last thirteen, still in the FA Cup and in contention for a play off berth, not to mention some smart summer business as well. If it were not for that dreadful run at the start of the season that did not see them pick up a win in their first eight, Seongnam may even be challenging for the title. Whilst defensively sound, goals have proven somewhat harder to come by, which has led to a few stale performances. With the recent acquisition of last year’s Challenge MVP Kim Dong-chan though, it seems the only way is up for Korea’s most decorated club.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Asan Mugunghwa: C+

Asan Mugunghwa are in the playoff places but have suffered somewhat of late. For a team who have the pick of the Challenge players who are embarking on mandatory military service, Asan perhaps ought to be doing a little bit better than they are. They have the lowest number of wins in the top four (8) and are in danger of dropping out of the playoffs given the form of Seongnam FC and Suwon FC. It's a "C+".
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

Suwon FC: C+

Suwon FC's aim was to get into those much-coveted playoff places and, despite a sticky spell during spring, are well on course to achieve that goal. Three wins on the spin has propelled Suwon into 5th and just a point away. For that, Suwon can be fairly pleased with a C+ for their endeavours in 2017.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

FC Anyang: C

Very little was expected of Anyang considering the increased competition in the Challenge this year and so to be only a few points off the play-offs at this stage of the season should really be commended. Their highlight no doubt was finally facing off against bitter rivals FC Seoul in the cup, although the result would not have been desirable. If they want to exact revenge, they will need to muster up a decent run to stand any chance of promotion, something that still seems highly improbable given the quality and form of sides above them.
- Matthew Binns (@Matt_Binns)

Daejeon Citizen: F

With the squad that manager Lee Youngik has at his disposal, propping up the second tier can only be considered as an absolute disaster. The 2017 season is a complete write-off and so Lee can be consider himself lucky to still be in a job. Citizen have the league's second-top goalscorer but can't keep cleansheets. It's an "F" from me.
- Paul Neat (@neatpaul)

Seoul E-Land: F

F for feeble. F for failing. F for f’ing atrocious. This season was hailed as E-Land 2.0 after the squad was completely transformed in the summer with a huge number of new signings.
Unfortunately it has been transformed from underperforming play-off contenders to a team sinking faster than my heart on the day they announced Sistar were disbanding.
It’s fair to say that Kim Byung-soo has an almost impossible task given E-Land’s apparent lack of financial backing, but the first rule of fighting with one arm tied behind your back is probably not to use the other one to punch yourself repeatedly in the nuts.
His decisions are often bizarre, not least of all his insistence on signing and picking Lovinho, 2017’s runaway winner of the Hygor Award for Most Incompetent Brazilian. Everything about the club now screams ‘we’ve given up’ and the fact that Kim remains in charge only seems to reinforce the idea that nobody at E-Land HQ could care less anymore.
- Stephen Waddell  (@the48clubkorea)

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