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2018 Season Preview: Suwon FC

Suwon FC 2018 K League 2 Season Preview

After spending a year back in the second tier vying for an ultimately pointless mid-table position, Suwon FC have splashed the cash during the winter and look set to make a real go of a return to the top flight. Can all their off-season investment produce the performances required of them on the pitch?
(Image via: SuwonFC.com)

Last Season

W11-D12-L13, 6th Place in the K League Challenge

What Happened?

After suffering automatic relegation from the K League Classic in 2016, the hangover continued for Suwon FC last season with the side finishing well outside of the playoff spots meaning another year of second tier football would be on the cards for 2018. Initial signs had been promising, with the team keeping hold of all four of their foreigners from their top flight campaign, yet the abilities of manager Cho Duk-je continued to wane with Cho opting to resign late into the season after it seemed he would be unable to arrest a mid season slump that saw them fall increasingly further behind their promotion target. High school coach and former Bluewings player Kim Dae-eui was eventually given the reigns late on to start the rebuilding process for this season. Having managed to persuade the likes of their established Australian centre-back Adrian Leijer to stick it out for another year, as well as bringing in some eye-catching talent elsewhere throughout the squad, Suwon FC will be hoping to make another charge towards Korea’s top tier.

Notable Moves

Alex Lima: Making the rarely trodden path from America's MLS to the K League is former Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamos midfielder Alex Lima. The player comes on a free transfer after opting not renew his contract with the Houston side, despite having been an important player for the team, and also their MVP back in 2016. As discussed in our interview with Dynamo Theory's Alicia Taylor, the player is mostly a box-to-box midfielder, best at breaking up plays and getting the ball to the forwards, and will likely feature in a similar role for his new club.

Kim Dong-chan: After spending last season at both Thai League side Police Tero and fellow K League 2 side Seongnam, 2016’s second division MVP and top scorer has arrived at Suwon FC for another stab at earning promotion to the top flight after leaving Jeonbuk three years ago. The striker is an established goalscorer in this league and Suwon FC will certainly be hoping his experience can lead them towards the top of the table.

Matheus Alves: Unlike his compatriot Adrian Leijer, Australian striker Bruce Djite decided to call it time on his stint at the Suwon Sports Complex at the end of 2017. In his place, the club have brought in Brazilian Matheus Alves from Malaysian Super League club Pahang (on loan from parent club Fluminese), where he scored 18 goals across 21 league appearances. The player also has K League experience as well, featuring as a regular in the Gangwon FC side that won secured passage to the top flight in 2016, scoring twelve goals in that campaign.


Suwon's season last year was perfectly reflected in the table; average. They scored more and conceded less than the four sides that finished below them, but were still eight points away from the playoffs which was certainly not good enough given the players they had managed to retain coming into the season. A look at the top goalscorers however reveals an underwhelming lack of firepower, with no player in the side breaking double digits. There was also a considerable lack of consistency, with a winless stint in the summer seeing the manager's position become untenable, only for the squad to benefit performance wise after his departure. If Suwon can address both of these issues, something it looks as if they have tried to do, then a promotion push should be well within the realms of possibility.

Key Player

Lee Seung-hyun

Midfielder Lee Seung-hyun was the second highest goalscorer at the club last season, albeit with just seven goals. Whilst strikers have been recruited to help address this issue up front, he still boasts the most experience in the squad, having won both the top flight with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors three times, and also the Korean second tier with Sangju Sangmu in 2013. Lee has also featured in a Champions League final, and holds a runners up medal despite his last minute heroics in the 2011 final taking the tie to penalties. With Suwon looking to blood-in their revamped squad and fresh-faced manager, they may look to the experience already on offer to keep a steady ship, and this is where Lee Seung-hyun could prove most valuable.

Biggest Question

Is manager Kim Dae-eui capable of meeting Suwon’s promotion objective?

After the disappointing campaign last year, supporters will be itching to get back to the upper echelon of the K League, and the sizeable investment in the squad would suggest the club’s aim is promotion at all costs. Whilst the signings look promising, question marks hover over the manager purely due to how unknown he is. The board supposedly did their due diligence with his appointment though, reportedly looking at over 60 applicants, and have backed him financially during the transfer window. The commitment to stay by some of the club’s bigger names also bodes well. Suwon will be hoping he will bring a fresh approach to revitalise the club’s fortunes, but a strong start will still be required to keep the doubters at bay whilst his methods take effect.

Reasons to Watch

As mentioned, this is a team that looks to have been backed with the purpose of promotion solely in mind. With the K League 2 shaping up to be quite the challenge once more, the hope for neutrals is that the city’s less intimidating club will at least prove entertaining. With one of the cheapest season tickets across both professional divisions (60,000 for all league, cup and play-off games), if you are still looking for a team to get behind this season, and if you live in Suwon or to the south of Seoul, Suwon FC should be high on your list.

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