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2019 Season Review: Ansan Greeners

2019 Season Review: Ansan Greeners
It was the best of seasons, it was the worst of seasons; 2019 will likely be remembered to Green Wolves fans as one of profound disappointment. With three games remaining of the season, Ansan Greeners sat third going into an away match at Line 4 Derby rivals FC Anyang, and would ultimately need just one point to finish in the play-off spots but after a defeat and with two further defeats, missed out on the playoffs. That said, 2019 was an unqualified success, bettered only by 2014’s fourth placed finish and 2016’s K League 2 title win during the Police/Mugunghwa period, for an Ansan side.

What Went Well


Big Victories

Despite the horrible stuttering at the end of the campaign, there were many memorable days for Ansan fans this season. Highlights include the 3-2 away win at Suwon in August, which saw Ansan surrender a two-goal lead before a Park Jin-sub winner sealed the points. A 2-1 home win over Gwangju in September with an injury time winner from Masatoshi was another memorable moment, and the high point of Ansan’s season, given the downward trajectory of results that would follow. Bang Chang-jun’s injury time winner against Jeonnam in July was another moment that will live long in the memories of Ansan fans.

Discipline and Hearts & Minds

One stand out success this season was young Brazilian import, Gustavo Vintecinco, at the heart of so much good, and much controversy this season. Post-game, and to his credit, both he and his counterpart Fauver, were class acts in their fan engagement. Known as ‘Big Vin’ amongst the Ansan Foreign Supports Club (AFSC) fans, the Brazilian was a big draw for autographs and photos after every game, regardless of result, and was particularly popular with young wolves.


His nine goals and three assists were a decent return given he was dismissed three times during the course of the season, with 10 yellow cards and two straight reds to his name. His participation in more than a quarter of all Ansan’s goals, means that he is an asset to the team in terms of both community and on the pitch.

Masa' on a Mission

Nine league goals and an assist put Japanese forward Masatoshi Ishida on par with Vintecinco for Ansan's season’s top scorer of the season. He was little known after being mostly anonymous in the early part of the season, but returned to the side in style during the season run-in, scoring nine goals during the final 12 games of the season, to average a goal every 145 minutes across the campaign. Standing at 1.78m to Vintecinco 1.93, the two imports are a contrast in both stature and style of play, but between them made up almost half of all Ansan’s goals during 2019 despite both being absent for large parts. Ansan fans will be happy to see the pair in next season’s starting line-up.

Rotating Keepers

Over the 36 matches with two goalkeepers vying for the number one spot, how to deal with the situation? By splitting appearances near evenly of course! Hwang In-jae and Lee Hee-seong both made 18 and 19 appearances for the Green Wolves this season, a near perfect starting split. They even missed being on the bench to third choice keeper Ha Jun-ho twice each. Hwang edges it though with seven clean sheets to Lee’s four, although Hwang did play in the disastrous FA Cup game at Hwaseong, and managed an own goal against Asan that levelled the game late on.

Leaving it Late

Never leave the ground early when Ansan are involved. Across the campaign, Ansan scored 11 goals after the 90 minute mark, and crucially, also conceded eight in that injury time period. It ain’t over until the fat wolf howls.

What Didn't Go Well

VAR

One cannot analyse Ansan’s season without looking at some very controversial VAR decisions over the course of the season. The opening day 2-1 defeat to Daejeon saw VAR overturn two Ansan goals, and result in a red card for Vintecinco on his Wa Stadium debut. All decisions were difficult to understand, and the post-match protests would leave the club with a hefty fine. Incidents continued throughout the season, being book-ended with Masa’s disallowed goal in the final home game of the season for fouling a Suwon FC defender while he was in possession of the ball. VAR has proven a major talking point wherever it has been deployed, and despite being in the K League for a while now, it still has an incredibly negative effect on the match day experience, not to mention having fans scratching their heads as to some of the decisions. While Ansan would benefit from VAR decisions too, one wonders what the point is when celebrating a goal has been so tempered by the technology.

That Penalty

It is the penultimate game of the season, you need to win to secure a place in the promotion playoffs. You win a penalty, and up to you step; do you bury it and begin daydreaming about trips to Jeonbuk, Seoul and Suwon World Cup stadiums, or do you try pulling off what Pires and Henry famously could not? Of course, Jang Hyeok-jin and Vintecinco tried the spectacular. Jang ran up and then rolled the ball forward with his foot, for Vintecinco to run on and bury it. The referee saw it straight away - encroachment. A bizarre and ridiculous routine made all the worse by Vintecinco’s eventual sending off in that game and Suwon scoring twice in injury time.



Hwaseong

There is something not quite right with an FA Cup game being scheduled for a 14:00 KO on a Wednesday afternoon. Even worse, having parked up five minutes before Kick-off, the small AFSC contingent found that the game in Hwaseong had already kicked off before schedule! The 168 strong crowd witnessed the nadir of Lim Wanseop’s early term in charge of Ansan, as the manager simply ignored his players in the post-game dressing down on the pitch. It was perhaps the lesson that would eventually spur so much success for the Green Wolves, but at the time, seeing the K League 2 side dumped out by a fourth tier side after a lethargic performance left the travelling contingent in despair. Hwaseong’s run to the cup semi-final was an admirable feat, but further rubbed salt in the lupine wounds wondering what might have been.

Young Player of the Year


World Cup Hero: Hwang Tae-hyeon


Ansan found its first ever international hero during the 2019 campaign after the young player, who had signed from Chungang University, had shown sparks of promise in a few cameos in the 2018 campaign. Captaining the Korean U20 side to the World Cup Final in Poland, he was thrust into the national spotlight. He would go onto to become a regular in the second half of the season, grabbing three goals from his right-back position. 2020 will be a big season for the twenty-year-old.


Team MVP

AFSC Player of the Season: Lee In-jae


The defender brought in from Suwon Bluewings proved to be a stalwart for the Greeners, making more appearances than anyone else, and chipping in with two goals. Many of Ansan’s victories came from a solid defence, with Lee In-jae’s willingness to drive forward being at the heart of the Green Wolves' bite. There was also a lot of love in the voting for Jang Hyeok-jin, who scored five goals and made a whopping 12 assists, as well as Masatoshi and Vintecinco.

Most Important Decision of the Off Season

Keeping the band together is key going into the new season, especially given the team's reliance on Jang Hyeokjin, Vinctecinco and Masa for goals. If they can keep all of the key players highlighted in this article, then improving defensive discipline is the main focus for the Green Wolves going into the planning for the 2020 campaign.

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