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FA Cup Preview: Daejeon Korail vs. Ulsan Hyundai

Ulsan Hyundai begin their FA Cup journey with a midweek trip to third-tier club Daejeon Korail.  Kim Do-hoon's men have been first class so far this season and will be favourites to book their tickets for the next round. But their National League hosts will be doing everything they can to knock them off track. Are Ulsan destined for a cupset? Daniel Croydon previews this brief encounter for us.  

Last Time Out

Incheon United 0-3 Ulsan Hyundai

The Horangi registered back-to-back away wins for the first time since July 2017 with victory at bottom-of-the-table Incheon United. The visitors took an early lead thanks to the left-boot of Junior.  The Brazilian showed why he is one of the favourites for the Golden Boot with an unerring finish after being played through by the excellent Mix Diskerud.

Both teams had players sent off in a bad-tempered spell midway through the first half - first Shin Jin-ho received a straight red for following through on a slide tackle, catching Incheon's Yang Ju-na on the calf. Then Nam Jun-jae earned himself two yellows in the space of five minutes to make it ten versus ten. Both dismissals looked somewhat harsh, with the referee seemingly intent on taking the limelight away from the football and putting it on himself.

The second half passed with little incident until Kim In-sung made the points safe with a brace in the last ten minutes, allowing Ulsan to reclaim top-spot from overnight leaders Jeonbuk, one point clear of FC Seoul in second.

Highlights here

Previous Meetings

Ulsan have played Daejeon Korail twice before in the FA Cup, in 2008 and 2016. Both games came in the fourth round and both times the Horangi progressed without conceding a goal. Ulsan would go on to lose at the semi-final stage in both those seasons though, so that may well be an omen of what is to come this year. In 2008, Ulsan beat the Korail team, then based in Incheon, 3-0; then more recently, newly appointed Muangthong United manager Yoon Jung-hwan's Ulsan side won 2-0 against the Railwaymen thanks to goals from Lee Chang-yong and Lee Jae-sung, currently of Seongnam and Incheon respectively.

Team News

It is likely to be all change for Ulsan's lineup this Wednesday as they continue to roll through this busy run of fixtures. The midweek break may be just the ticket for Kim Do-hoon as he can rest key players ahead of another round of ACL games. If he gets the manager's signal, box-to-box midfielder Shin Jin-ho is bound to exert his influence on the game, due to his outstanding engine. Mix Diskerud has been poetry in locomotion in recent weeks, but will most likely be rested, while Kim Tae-hwan's top-level crossing should see him start on the right.

Many journalists not based on the Orient expressed surprise when Dave Bulthuis moved to Korea, but the Dutchman really has been flying since joining the Horangi. Having played every minute of every game so far though, it may finally be time for Bulthuis to take a rest. Expect him and Yun Young-sun to be uncoupled to make way for a new-look back four.

The Adversary

Korail manager Kim Seung-Hee is a real stalwart of the club. Having started out there as a player in the 1990s, he has since gone on to coach and manage them, even staying onboard through their relocation from Incheon to Daejeon in 2013. Kim's biggest success as manager came one year prior to that move when he coached the Railwaymen to the National League title. Since then though, the club has been chugging along in obscurity towards the bottom of Korean football's third tier, briefly garnering attention for a surprise FA Cup win over K2's Gwangju this time last year. They ended up finishing second-bottom of the league though, one place above fellow mass-transit outfit Busan Transport Corporation. This year though things seem to be back on track, as, like Ulsan, Korail are unbeaten so far with two wins and three draws from their five games.

Daejeon Korail biggest FA Cup win came last year when they beat Gwangju FC 3-1 on the Hanbat Stadium practice pitch (image courtesy of n-league.net)
As for Wednesday night's match, Kim Seung-hee should be careful to mind the gap in form between these two clubs. Ulsan have not been knocked out at this stage of the cup since 2009, whereas Korail have departed in this round three years in a row. That being said, Korail do have an experienced platform on which to build their backline, conducted by the only remaining player from that 2012 National League title-winning team, Kim Tae-eun. Korail will need all his savvy (KT's ex-clubs include Seoul E-Land and Incheon United) if they are to stop the likes of Joo Min-kyu and Kim In-sung.

Prediction

Despite the wholesale changes Kim Do-hoon is likely to make to his starting XI, his side have built up a real head of steam this season, meaning it is likely the Horangi will just plough straight through Daejeon Korail and into the next round. I expect this to be over as a contest by the time the halftime drinks trolley makes its way down the aisles.

Dan's Prediction: Daejeon Korail 0-3 Ulsan Hyundai

FA Cup 4th Round Preview: here

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