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2020 Season Preview: Ansan Greeners

Ansan Greeners start their 2020 K League 2 challenge with an away trip to neighbours, FC Anyang following what has been an eventful winter break, which has seen the Green Wolves change their manager, in addition to making wholesale alterations to their first-team roster.

Last Season

Ansan had a season to remember under former head coach, Lim Wan-seop in 2019, ending the Year of the Pig in fifth place, agonizingly missing out on a playoff spot by a single point. The Danwon canines recorded fourteen wins over the duration of the term, and boasted the second-best rearguard in the division, having only conceded on forty-two occasions. The Greeners looked on course for fourth position, pulling off a couple of impressive upsets over newly promoted champions, Gwangju FC and eventual playoff victors, Busan IPark during real purple patches for Lim’s boys, but they ultimately fell short at the final hurdle, ending the gaffer’s reign with three consecutive losses to FC Anyang, Suwon FC and Jeonnam Dragons.

Notable Moves

Jang Hyeok-jin left the Green Wolves in the off-season and will be sorely missed. The crafty playmaker, who registered twelve assists last year, has joined Gyeongnam FC. Gustavo Vintecinco has also exited the club after completing his move to IPark. The six-foot-three-inch striker got on the scoresheet nine times for the Greeners in 2019, but also picked up eleven yellow cards, as well as two reds. However, his general hold-up play and aerial threat was key to Lim’s offensive tactics. New boss, Kim Gil-sik will be hoping that one of his fresh forward recruits can fill the void left by the gargantuan Brazilian.

One of the Green Wolves’ latest additions, Kim Ryun-do is the man tasked with finding the back of the net for the club this year. The 28-year-old has made the switch from Bucheon 1995, where he bagged six goals, on top of an equal number of assists in the Challenge last season. The arrival of Kim Gyeong-joon has also bolstered Ansan’s attacking ranks. The former Daegu FC centre-forward spent the past campaign on loan at Seoul E-Land, scoring four and assisting three for the Leopards during his spell in Jamsil.

Key Player 

Lee In-jae

Lee In-jae was a rock in the heart of Ansan’s backline last season, playing in all thirty-six league games. The no-nonsense centre-half has been at the club since the Greeners’ inception in 2017, and captained the Wa~ outfit with regularity throughout Lim Wan-seop's tenure in Lee Hee-seong’s absence. Lee, who stands at 6'2" tall, is both commanding in the air and strong in the tackle. The former Ulsan Dolphins sweeper's fine form in '19 was the result of a dependable partnership that was forged with fellow defender Kim Yeon-soo, though Kim has since departed the Green Wolves to link up with Lim once again at K League 1 side, Incheon United. Kim Gil-sik will have his fingers crossed that his new centre-back acquisition, Kim Min-ho, who is the same height as Lee, can give his Gyeonggi pack greater defensive solidity in the Year of the Rat.

Young Player to Watch

Kim Jin-rae

Ansan supporters can expect to see more of full-back, Kim Jin-rae this year. At twenty-two years of age, the one-time Anyang player has time on his side. Kim made nineteen appearances in K League 2 in 2019 and was deployed predominantly as a wing-back due to the natural pace that he possesses, and also for his crossing ability. Hwang Tae-hyeon, who captained the Korea Republic national under-20 (U-20) team to the final of the last FIFA U-20 World Cup, has transferred to Daegu, and experienced side-half, Park Jun-hui has moved to Gwangju, which presents Kim with a golden opportunity to establish himself as a mainstay in this new look Greeners side.

Biggest Question 

Who will play in goal this year?

Green Wolves fans will be eager to find out who Kim Gil-sik will opt for as Ansan’s first-choice goalkeeper this year. Club skipper, Lee Hee-seong recently signed a contract extension and will be optimistic about reclaiming the number one spot in between the sticks this season, as his rival goalie throughout '19, Hwang In-jae has joined Classic side, Pohang Steelers. Hwang racked up seven clean sheets and only conceded sixteen goals in seventeen matches last term, in stark contrast, Lee managed just four shutouts and shipped in twenty-six in nineteen fixtures. Lee will also be kept on his toes by the signing of keeper, Kim Sun-woo, who used to ply his trade with Suwon Bluewings.

Reason to Watch 

The Greeners board have seemingly put their faith in youth during the close season. The appointment of former South Korea U-15 manager, Kim Gil-sik, at forty-one years old came out of left field and was a surprise to many within the game. The ex-Bucheon SK man has been given the job on the condition that he can transform the club’s fortunes in front of goal, given that the Green Wolves only found the target on a meagre forty-six occasions in their previous Challenge assault. Kim is seen as an attack-minded and progressive coach, and Ansan followers will be praying that the former winger can hit the ground running with a 'Line 4 derby' success in his first competitive game in charge.

Will it be a case of the folly of youth leading to a disastrous 2020 for Kim and his new signings? Or will he be inspired by Lim Wan-seop’s exploits in the Gojan hot seat to possibly go one better by securing a much coveted playoff spot? Only time will tell.

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