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Jeju Super Rookie Key to Second Half Revival

It is no secret that this season has not gone according to plan for Jeju United.  They are just two points off the bottom of the table, and face some very stiff tests in the near future as they travel away to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors next, and then have back to back home fixtures against Ulsan Hyundai and Sangju Sangmu.  Three very difficult tests before they have to head to Incheon in late August for a match which could be telling in the relegation race, unless the islanders are able to pick up points in their next three outings.  Currently on a three match unbeaten run, one of the players who has been a pleasant surprise is rookie and Jeju Island native Seo Jin-su.  How can the rising young star help his hometown club climb away from the depths of the drop?  KLU's Branko Belan has a closer look.
(Image courtesy of Jeju United)

The 2019 campaign was meant to be a turning point for Jeju United following a near disastrous season in which they just only managed to make the top split at the end of the year.  A stretch through the summer and into the fall saw them go winless over a span of fifteen matches, and, how it didn't cost Cho Sung-hwan his job then is anyone's guess.

Part of the reason for last year's failure was a lack of resources in player personnel, as Jeju simply didn't do enough to improve the squad following their runners-up finish in 2017.  While some of the additions through the winter transfer window have finally started to pan out, results were hard to come by in the first half of the year, but it now seems, at least for the moment that things are finally beginning to head in a positive direction.

In particular, the Jeju Youth program has produced some fine talents, as defender Lee Kyu-hyuk was part of this year's crop to join the senior squad.  While he hasn't seen a lot of match action in the league, he did go on to represent Korea at the U-20 World Cup in Poland this year, where the Taeguk Warriors achieved the best ever result for a men's team going all the way to the final.

Others such as defender Kim Seung-woo and forward Lee Dong-ryul have seen the pitch, and they have potential to do well as they grow with the club.

There is, however, one player in particular who was talked about at some length before the season began, and that is midfielder Seo Jin-su.  He was regarded as the pick of the crop to come out of the academy this year, and he is now finally getting his chance to shine with the senior team.

He began to garner attention in the youth ranks as early as last year, when he led all scorers in the National High School Championship in Gimcheon with nine goals.  In the R League, he went on to record eleven appearances and scored once.

He got his first taste of K League action against Seongnam FC on June 21st, when he replaced Choi Hyun-tae and was put into an attacking role in midfield as Jeju looked to pull back a one goal deficit.  He almost found his name on the score sheet in his debut, but his equalizer was called back for offside.

What can be seen from his play thus far however, is that he has a great touch on the ball, is not afraid to shoot, has good close control and good sense to play through balls to create opportunities for the teammates around him.

His brief cameo against Seongnam was enough for him to earn his first start against Daegu FC the following week, where the islanders were resigned to only a point after Cesinha leveled the match in second half injury time.

While a few matches may not be much to go by, his performance against FC Seoul definitely gives an indication of his talent and just how good he can grow to be.  He assisted three times in the 4-2 win, helping Yun Il-lok to his first hat-trick in a Jeju shirt.  He has the essentials to be a great attacking player.  He won a foul which resulted in a second yellow and sending off for Jeong Hyeon-cheol with just over twenty minutes to play.  His turn off a defender to create space for the through pass which led to Jeju's fourth goal.

He still has leaps and bounds to go in terms of his development, but it should be remembered that he is only eighteen years old.  At 183 centimeters and 71 kilograms, he has a good build for a striker who primarily scores with his feet.  He was also clocked once at a speed of 33.18 kilometers per hour, something which Jeju can use to their advantage to open up opposing defences when he plays in an attacking role in midfield, or to break away from defenders when he plays up top as he did in his first start against Daegu alongside Magno.

With players the likes of Yun Il-lok, Elias Aguilar, Kwon Soon-hyung, Nam Jun-jae, Jung Woo-jae and Magno to learn from, his development is already on a fast track.  He seems to have earned the trust of Choi Yun-kyum at this early stage in his career, and the hope is that the good performances will continue and that he will become a valuable contributor to wins for the club in the near future.  Jeju has a lot of work to do to stay in the top flight for next season, and Seo Jin-su will have an important role to play in achieving that task.

Choi Yun-kyum said "I needed change in the team and I wanted to give opportunities to players who were preparing and training hard.  Jin-su is an example of that, and he is a good young talent who can stimulate the main players in the squad and also motivate the other backup players."

Seo is self-confident but has a very simple vision for himself and how to help the club.

"I would like to hear that a terrifying rookie has come to Jeju.  I will do my best to strive for it.  I want to contribute to the team in any way I can, whether it be by scoring goals or assisting for my teammates," he said.

There is surely much to look forward to as his career is only in its infancy at this point.  The most important thing for him now is to stay healthy and continue to learn.  The goals will come.  The wins will follow.  Right now, he is happy just to be playing for his hometown club.

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