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FA Cup Writers' Chat: Ulsan Hyundai vs Suwon FC

FA Cup 4th Round Preview: Ulsan Hyundai vs Suwon FC

Last season's FA Cup winners Ulsan Hyundai begin their title defence by hosting K League 2 strugglers Suwon FC on Wednesday night. And with Ulsan manager Kim Do-hoon looking certain to rest many of his first-choice XI, the visitors may fancy themselves to get a result. Here, Suwon FC fan Joe Quinn discusses the chances of a giant-killing with Ulsan columnist Dan Croydon.
(image courtesy of K League)

Dan Croydon Asks, Joe Quinn Answers

Dan: Many people tipped Suwon for promotion to K League 1 back in March, but they are currently just three points off the bottom of the table. What has gone wrong?

Joe:  It has been an extremely disappointing season so far.  In truth, it has been difficult to see exactly what Kim Dae-eui is setting the team out to do at times.  The most glaring issue is our inability to score goals.  14 goals from 20 league matches tells its own story.  Even more damning is the fact that in most matches we’ve struggled to create many good clear-cut chances.  Matheus Alves was brought in and was expected to do well but after a return of just two goals before the break he has gone on loan to Chonburi in Thailand.

Defensively, we’ve conceded 27 goals in our 20 games but almost half (13) were conceded in thre games – home to Seongnam (4) and away to Gwangju (5) and Bucheon (4).  Six of our seven victories have been by a goal to nil.  We’ve tended to beat those below us but struggle with those above us.  K League 2 is very tight so while we are only three points off bottom place, I’m looking at it as we’re still only six points off the final playoff place!

DC: Suwon have been pretty busy in the summer transfer window so far. Have any of these new players managed to impress the fans yet?

JQ: With two players returning from military service with Asan and seven new players at the club we have indeed been very busy.  So far 37-year-old defender Jo Byeong-guk has had the greatest impact having had to step into Adrian Leijer’s role as the defensive organizer after Leijer’s unlucky injury in the 1-0 win over E-land on June 30th.  He seems a good organizer but his lack of pace is a concern.  Given his age, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rested midweek. Lee Jae-an (back from Asan and playing the Matheus role) got a goal against Daejeon, but has struggled against Gwangju and Asan since then.  Hwang Do-yeon (on loan from Jeju) looks a competent defender but we’ve yet to see any real impact from the attacking players brought in, two of whom, Han Sang-woon and Jang Sung-jae, came from Ulsan.

Veteran defender Jo Byeong-guk (Image: K League)

DC: What are Suwon's priorities for the rest of the season? I should imagine the FA Cup is pretty low on that list.

JQ: While the gap remains considerable, the priority is to find a goalscorer and a way to make the playoffs.  As I said earlier, the league is ridiculously tight and fans of every team will be thinking the same way.  11 points currently separate Busan in 3rd from bottom-placed E-Land.  Seongnam and Asan are way ahead and clearly fighting it out for the automatic promotion spot but if any team can get on a run of four or five wins they’ll find themselves in a great position.  I imagine our focus for this midweek’s match will be to get more game time into the new/returning players in the hope they can build up match fitness and understanding to take into the rest of the league campaign.  While the pre-break friction between manager and fans seems to have subsided, Kim must send out a team that fights and gives the fans a sense of pride.

DC:  If any player could upset the odds and grab a winner for Suwon on Wednesday night, who would it be?

JQ: Having discussed our goal scoring issues earlier, it’s hard to pick an attacking player who could be the difference.  The Brazilians Alex and Bruno have looked better since the break but I’m not convinced either will start on Wednesday.  I’ll go way out on a limb and suggest Kim Dong-chan could be the game winner.  Since scoring the winner in the season opener v E-Land his season has been blighted by injury and he has hardly played, but I think Kim Dae-eui will need to get minutes into him and I’m hoping one goes in off his sizable arse and the promotion/cup double dream lives on.

Joe Quinn Asks, Dan Croydon Answers

JQ: With three of your next four league games against Jeju, Bluewings and Gyeongnam (all above you in the table), do you expect Kim Do-hoon to field a weakened team against Suwon FC?  How would you like to see him approach the game?

DC: I do expect wholesale changes to the team for Wednesday night because, as you say, we have some crucial league games coming up. We will need positive results against the other ACL chasers if we are to have a chance of catching them after the league splits.  Having said that I'm not sure it will be a particularly weak team on paper. They should still be capable of getting the job done. The defense and midfield will probably remain relatively strong with the likes of Diskerud, Windbichler and U23s call-up Kim Geon-woong all likely to start. But without our main goal threats, Junior Negrao or Lee Keun-ho on the field, I'm not expecting a rout - mind you, I would never expect that with Kim Do-hoon at the helm.

Korea U23 midfielder Kim Geon-woong may get a rare start (Image: K League)

JQ: How do you view the relatively high profile signings of Lee Keun-ho and Mix Diskerud in regard to Ulsan's ambitions for this season and beyond?  What are you expecting from the season? 

DC: The signings you mention are very pleasing.  They show that the manager understands the frustrations of the fans and is trying to address the problems we can all see.  Diskerud will hopefully help us dictate the pace of the game better and stop us from being overrun in midfield by the better teams. Lee Keun-ho is a fantastic signing for the fans as seeing him in Ulsan colours brings back some great memories.  But, of course, he is still an excellent player, and a genuinely dangerous whether he starts the game or comes off the bench.  So, yes, the signings are a step in the right direction.  We just have to hope that Kim Do-hoon can set up a system to make the most of their talents.

JQ:  On the back of a disappointing 2nd leg against the Bluewings in the ACL, would you expect a Kim Do-hoon to come under pressure if there was a cup upset on Wednesday?  

DC: I have long predicted Kim Do-hoon's demise, yet he continues to do just enough to keep the support of the boardroom. The team's form towards the end of last season was woeful, but qualification for the Asian Champions League through the FA Cup was enough to keep him in a job.  The ACL loss to Suwon Bluewings was embarrassing, but the club have yet again backed their man and brought in some fresh talent in the transfer window. So, I'm not sure a loss on Wednesday would put Kim under any more immediate pressure - I mean in the short term. But it would be one less path to the Champions League.  If we don't finish in the top four again this year, or retain the cup, I think Kim's time will finally be up.

JQ: What fears, if any, do you have facing a struggling K-League 2 team at this stage of the FA Cup?   Are there any obvious weaknesses I should make Kim Dae-eui aware of?

DC: The fear is always the same for Horangi fans. Ulsan are rarely able to put teams to the sword.  We tend to control things for long periods but seldom get those decisive second and third goals.  So if I were advising Suwon, I would tell them not to let their heads drop even if they go behind early, because Ulsan will give you chances to get back into the game.  If you can take one of them, anything is possible - that's the magic of the cup!

We'd once again like to extend our thanks to Joe Quinn for taking part in this joint preview. Joe is a writer for the 48 Shades of Football blog, offering up 'The Alternative View' in his regular column, and can often be found in the stands of Suwon Sports Complex cheering on his side.

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