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2020 Season Preview: Bucheon FC 1995

Bucheon FC 1995 had a successful 2019 in which they rose above most peoples expectations to finish in the playoff places. Rather than having the comfort of being able to build on that success, Bucheon FC 1995 have instead had to rebuild their squad after facing multiple departures. While the coaching staff remain the same, it looks set to be a season of experimentation and transition at the club. 

Last Season

14W-9D-13L-49GF-51GA, 4th place (Lost promotion semi-playoff)

What Happened?

Bucheon spent the majority of the season in seventh place, being unable to pick up any consistency with their results for several months. They would be threatening in their attack, but their leaky defence meant that even when they were the favourites a good result was never guaranteed. Coach Song Seon-ho would experiment with the formation regularly, initially alternating between a 5-3-2 and a 4-5-1. Things started to change towards the end of the season, when a switch to playing 3-4-3 proved to be the perfect balance for the players. Positive results began to come in on an increasingly regular basis, culminating in winning all of their final five matches of the season to clinch fourth place on the final day. In the playoffs they fell at the first hurdle to FC Anyang, but only due to K League playoff rules awarding the higher-ranked team the victory if the match ends in a draw after 90 minutes.

Multiple players shone for Bucheon in 2019. Kim Ryun-do was their star at the beginning of the season, scoring a career-high six goals before becoming less prolific as the season went on. Marlon de Jesus stepped up in his place, scoring 10 goals in the second-half of the season to finish as the club's joint top scorer. Joining him at the top of the club scoring charts was Nilson Junior, who played in every match of the season and impressed in both defence and attack to claim the club's Player of the Year award. The final line of defence was goalkeeper Choi Chul-won, producing an astonishing number of saves week after week to ensure that Bucheon kept hold of vital points. This is just a sample and many other players deserve to be highlighted as reaching the playoffs was truly a team effort. 

Notable Moves

Whether Bucheon can recreate the team chemistry that was so beneficial for them in 2019 will be challenge, as they have come out of the winter transfer window with an almost entirely new squad. All of the players previously mentioned have departed: Kim Ryun-do (to Ansan Greeners); Marlon de Jesus (to CD El Nacional in Ecuador); Nilson Junior (to FC Anyang); Choi Chul-won (to Sangju Sangmu). Joining Choi for national service at Sangju Sangju is midfielder Ahn Tae-hyun, who was a Bucheon Player of the Year nominee, while captain Park Gun will be seeing out his national service at K4 League side Paju Citizen. Defensive prodigy and member of South Korea's 2020 AFC U23 Championship-winning side Kim Jae-woo has signed for Daegu FC, and fellow defender and vice-captain Lim Dong-hyuk has joined rivals Jeju United. Bucheon have largely been able to keep hold of their midfield, with only long-serving central midfielder Moon Ki-han departing the club (to K3 League side Gangneung City) after a disappointing year by his standards. These key players are also joined by a large number of fringe players that have either been released or loaned out to the K3 League (such as Kim Ji-ho and Choi Hyun-bin at Cheongju FC, and Jung Taek-hoon at Gyeongju HNP).

Bucheon have acknowledged that their biggest losses have been in defence and attack and they have invested accordingly. Goalkeeper Choi Bong-jin has been brought in on loan from Gwangju to provide competition for Lee Young-chan, who was Bucheon's number two last season. Joining him at the back are permanent defensive signings Yoon Shin-young from Daejeon Hana Citizen, Lee Tae-ho from Gangwon FC, Kim Young-chan from Jeonbuk Motors, and Kwak Hae-sung from Incheon United. 32 year-old centre-back Yoon is the most experienced of the group and his traditional playing style is designed to make the Bucheon defence less sloppy and accident prone. 28 year-old full-back Kwak has been the most successful, having won an FA Cup with Seongnam and Asian Games gold medal with South Korea in 2014. His strengths lie in his passing and crossing ability, which will give Bucheon some extra options in attack should he get the opportunity to come forward.

Among Bucheon's new attacking options, one has been brought in on loan - 25 year-old Seongnam attacker Lee Hyun-il. While his debut K League 1 season in 2019 was a disappointment, he has scored all of his professional goals in K League 2 back in 2017 and 2018, meaning it should not take long for him to adjust at this level. Joining him in attack is permanent signing Suh Myeong-won, who has signed from Gangwon FC. The 24 year-old enjoyed his best seasons in 2014 and 2015 while at Daejeon Citizen, but has struggled to earn playing time at K League 1 clubs Ulsan Hyundai and Gangwon. He is fast and has good ball control, and is best placed as a second striker or on the outside of a front three. Completing the potential forward line alongside Lee and Suh are Bucheon's only foreign players William Barbio and Jefferson Baiano. Barbio has arrived from Brazilian third tier club AD Confiança, and the 27 year-old Brazilian winger has experience in his homeland's Serie A as well as the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, and add's flair to Bucheon with his dribbling and finishing ability. Baiano, meanwhile, has spent the last two seasons playing in Japan in the J2 League, followed by a brief stint in Saudi Arabia. The 24 year-old Brazilian striker will provide a physical presence up front, with good aerial ability and a proven goal scoring record. Alongside all of these first team contenders Bucheon have also signed a large number of young players, who will all be hoping for a chance at first team action.

Key Player 

Cho Beom-seok

With all the upheaval that this club has faced, Bucheon need its remaining players from last season to act as unifying figures. One such player is 30 year-old midfielder Cho Beom-seok. He has been named as vice-captain for this season - behind captain Kim Young-nam - and he has earned this title due to his proven perseverance. After failing to break into several K League 1 clubs, he found himself at Mokpo City in the National League for four years. Bucheon signed him in 2016 and he has always been one of their top performers. While on national service at Asan Mugunghwa in 2018-19 he won the K League 2 title but did not play regularly, though he was immediately able to integrate back into the Bucheon team upon his return last summer. He played 13 times for Bucheon in the second-half of last season, and his reintroduction directly coincided with Bucheon's improved form. As Bucheon have altered their attack and defence the most, the club will need the midfielders to provide stability help forge a new cohesive unit. Cho is one of the player's best placed to do so, and his form could dramatically effect the performances of the team.  

Young Player to Watch

Kim Kang-san

Bucheon have released or loaned out the majority of their young players, and the only one to make an impact last year was Kim Jae-woo, who was sold to Daegu. Many of the players that have been brought in have potential. One in particular is 21 year-old midfielder Kim Kang-san. Kim joins from Daegu University and in 2017 was selected as the second best player in the U-League. In 2019 he was chosen to be part of the South Korea Universities B Team, and at his current trajectory looks set to play in multiple matches this season. Bucheon's strongest area is their midfield, so there will be plenty of competition. However, this will also provide learning opportunities for Kim, as well as more freedom to give him chances as there will be players to cover him. Predicting the youth players that will successful step up is always a gamble, though Kim says like a safe bet. 

Biggest Question 

Can Bucheon recreate last year's spirit?

Bucheon do not have the biggest budget in the league and do not possess the best squad, with multiple teams in the league having stronger attacks and defence. The same was true last year, however, they managed to finish fourth in the league. Of course, some of this was done to luck. However, a lot of points came from simply being a good unit that worked well as a team and never giving up. On multiple occasions they went behind in matches, only to snatch a late win or draw. With so many players leaving and new players joining, it is effectively an entirely different squad, barring a handful of exceptions. The coaching staff has largely remained unchanged, so hopefully they can instil into the players the same spirit as last season. This will also be helped immensely if the new players can integrate well and the team can pick up some good form.

Reason to Watch 

Watching Bucheon is always unpredictable and there is always the likelihood of goals and drama. They can succumb to surprising defeats, but are also able to be anyone in the division on their day. Bucheon participated in only one goalless draw in the entirety of 2019 and around three-quarters of their goals came after the 75th minute. With their stadium having its own stop on Subway Line 7, they are also incredibly accessible for football fans across the Seoul Capital Area, as the city conveniently lies between Incheon and Seoul. 2020 will also be the first time that Bucheon will face Jeju United, the club that was formerly known as Bucheon SK before being moved by their corporate owners. Bucheon fans have had to keep their emotions bottled up for over decade, meaning it should be quite a spectacle when they play this season.

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