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2019 Season Preview: Seoul E-Land

2019 K League 2 Season Preview: Seoul E-Land
The idea that the 2018 season could be anything as bad as the season prior was unthinkable for many Seoul E-Land fans. Yet, with a season full of heavy defeats and questionable tactics, the Leopards sunk to their worst ever finish, since their inception. It is safe to say that they may still not be out of hot water as they begin their new campaign. With issues coming from both on and off the pitch, 2019 sees several old faces leave and questions surrounding where they will play most of their home games this season going unanswered. However, Seoul E-Land have made themselves known in the transfer market and new boss Kim Hyun-soo will attempt to right the wrongs of the last campaign. This year could truly be the making or breaking of the club.

Last Season

10 W 7 D 19 L 10th place

What Happened?

Seoul E-Land set out to correct their poor 2017 with new manager In Chang-soo at the wheel. Their first issue came early on when the boss brought in Venezuelan striker Daniel Febles into the side. The striker played only five games before terminating his contract with the club and leaving Korea. The second foreign signing of the season, Diego Bielkiewicz made more appearances (18) but was also out for three months due to an eye injury. Throughout the campaign, the frontman also only managed three goals, inadequate for a team on the rebound. It looked as if E-Land had poor luck when it came to signings from overseas.

Another issue was the confusing formation and tactical choices from the boss, formations would turn on the dime. They were more bothered about hoofing the ball forward, than slowing down the play and assessing the situation, making it easy for teams to read their game.

Moving players into positions they were uncomfortable with was also the theme of the year, as we saw centre back Ivan Herceg in midfield, even though it was stressed his aerial presence was much better on the back line. We also saw defender Jeon Min-gwang in the striking position towards the end of the year, a cherry on the top of a stale cake for the side.

A team that played with no confidence and no guidance in going forward, the fans having a two-game win streak was probably the highlight of their season, or the 2-1 win away against Seongnam.

My 2018 season review can be found here

Notable Moves

The list is long on both sides for Seoul E-Land in the 2019 calendar. Notable departures came in, wonder boy Cho Jae-wan, with a move to Gangwon FC. The young Korean was a highlight in a long, miserable year with the side, and his move was effectively complete before the curtains were drawn in 2018.

Also big losses in Jeon Min-gwang and Choi Oh-back, who made moves to Pohang Steelers and Seongnam FC respectively. Two players who spent many years at the club shows the magnitude on how poor the season was, for them to pull the plug on the operation down at Jamsil.

Although a lot of big-name players left the side this year, Seoul has done good business so far in the window. Most notably, bringing back Wesley Alex from FC Anyang, who was a leopard back in the 2017 season. A forward who understands the team would singlehandedly save Seoul; if he can recreate his 15 goals in 28 games he managed for Anyang last year.

Seoul also went back into the K League 2 market, signing up Róbson Carlos Duarte from Gwangju FC. The Leopards have also brought in two players from the J.League, as they bring in Korean defender Byeon Jun-byum from Ventforet Kofu and Japanese midfielder Chikashi Masuda from Shimizu S-Pulse. Masuda is a player already known to K League fans after previously spending three years at Ulsan Hyundai.

Key Player

Wesley Alex

Wesley Alex could be sensational signing for the side if his return to Seoul can produce the same results as at FC Anyang last year. The Brazilian scored half of what the entire E-Land team managed to score last year (30).

Pictured playing for Seoul E-Land in 2017, Brazilian forward Wesley Alex returns for this season. The forward scored seven goals in fourteen appearances for E-Land before moving back to FC Anyang. (Imave via K League)

A player with the majority of his goals coming late in the game, Alex could be the one to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and claim three points for the capital side. With a fellow Brazilian at his side in Carlos Duarte, E-Land fans may have something to get excited about.

Young Player to Watch

This season may pave the way for Choi Han-sol to make his big impact in the league. Still only 21, the Korean midfielder made nine appearances last year, with a goal against Bucheon 1995 for his efforts.

He was a player who fell out of favour with In Chang-soo, probably due to his disciplinary record of four yellows and one red in the nine games. If he can cool his temper and play more respectable football, then we may see more of his presence in the team sheet throughout the year.

Biggest Question

Could it really get any worse?

From start to finish in 2018, Seoul E-Land got close to everything wrong in running and maintaining a football club, with poor results, a dwindling fan base, and a lack of leadership in the dressing room.

A cloud over the club's head is that this was initially a project for the E-Land group. The ambitions of the team were to have them playing in the AFC Champions League by 2018. In reality, they are sat last in the second division. If it continues for Seoul to fail to meet the goals set at their inception, could the backing company pull the plug and save any face it has left?

Another major issue concerning Seoul E-Land is the lack of having a stable home venue for the season. Where other teams have already released their season tickets for next year, Seoul Still hasn't secured a venue for the 2019 season. They will play their opening two games, four in August and one in November in Jamsil, but the other fixtures are still undecided.

The Seoul Olympic Stadium has been home to Seoul E-Land since their inception in 2015. However, due to renovations this year, they will need to find a new home for the 2019 season, which is still to be announced. (Image via K League)

A question many are asking though is, "How can a club draw in more fans if they don't know themselves where they are even playing?" A team with the worst attendance in the league are further denting their growth as there is only a small number of fans who will travel for Seoul, both home and away.

Seoul looks more stable now than they did for the entirety of last year, but the other nine teams have improved also. Could it be too little too late and E-Land become the regimental whipping boys of the league? Or can Seoul show character and progress when many believe otherwise?

Reason to Watch

As previously stated in this preview, it's do or die for the side now. Seoul are going into their fifth season as a club, and if suspenseful football is to be played, it will have to be this season, or not at all.

Other reasons to watch is that they did manage to win some thrilling games throughout last year. They are a side which does okay against big teams with a habit of frustrating sides pushing for promotion.

The fanbase are also very welcoming to newcomers and will be more than happy to give you information on the club, and news about the current state of the team. They are a passionate fan base, which are driven to improve the fan support and just watch the game as it was intended, with fun and pride.

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