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2021 Seoul E-Land Season Preview

The rollercoaster that was the 2020 K League 2 Season has now been written, in the book and out of sight. Seoul E-Land have been given three months to lick the wounds of missing out on a playoff spot in heartbreaking fashion. A lot has changed in the K League 2 over the winter. New teams, new managers, and new players. However, it is apparent Seoul have kept with their much-improved formula from their eventful 2020 season. Michael Redmond previews what to expect from the Leopards in 2021.   


What Happened?

Seoul E-Land had their big transition period at the end of the 2019 season. Bringing in established manager Chung Jung-young and many young, hungry players into the fold. The 2020 Season started with a tough task against Jeju United away. A respectable draw was a sign of things to come for the capital team. 

Seoul took a while to get up and running last year. A few questionable results came, such as losses to Ansan Greeners, FC Anyang, and Chungnam Asan earlier in the year. These were teams that giving their position, they should have claimed all three points. On the contrary, Seoul really turned it on against the teams they were battling with for that all-important playoff spot. Undefeated against Daejeon Hana Citizen, Gyeongnam, and Jeonnam Dragons shown their improvements. Seoul spent a good amount of the season in 3rd and 4th position, yet they had a difficult end to the year.
Seoul E-Land fell at the final hurdle in the 2020 K League 2 season.

After going to the Island to try and beat a Jeju United team who were looking for one more win to claim the K League 2 title. Seoul fell 3-2 with only one game left. On the last game of the 2020 K League 2 season, all they needed was a win against Jeonnam to get a playoff spot. A draw would mean that they needed Daejeon to win or to draw with Gyeongnam. The Changwon side beat Deajeon 1-0 and no matter what Seoul threw at the dragons, they could not get that second goal to win the game. Tears in Jamsil at full time.

With a few months past and time to reflect on 2020. Seoul should be proud of what they achieved in the 2020 K League 2 season. After two long hard seasons prior of darkness and despair. Seoul hit back with flair and passion. They held their own against a K League 2 division that was strong and full of talent. Seoul finishing in 5th place makes them the best of the rest. However, it was a foundation for them to work on for the 2021 campaign, a more difficult and challenging campaign. 

Notable Moves

As quoted in the Seoul E-Land 2020 season review. Seoul's biggest task over the winter was to keep the key players who achieved so much. Many fans felt relief when Leandro came back to Seoul, ready and full of ambition. Seoul also worked well in capturing the signature of Lee Sang-min permanently.  The captain of the Under 23 side missed only one game last season due to his involvement in the Korean national team vs the Olympic team back in October. Seoul also managed to keep hold of Jang Yun-ho and Ko Jae-hyun for one more year. Both key and influential players for the Leopards in 2020.

It wasn't only keeping players which were on Seoul's agenda this season. The Leopards brought in William Barbio from Bucheon 1995. A fast striker who even scored a penalty against Seoul last year. The link-up with fellow Brazilian Leandro will bring increased pace to the side. Barbio only managed three goals last year. However, the striker will have a lot more support and will be fed the ball a lot more at Seoul than he had at Bucheon. 

Seoul also welcomes back Cho Hyang-ki, who spent the last two seasons at Pocheon Citizens. Hyang-ki played the majority of Pocheon games last year and fans will be happy to see him once again in an E-Land shirt. Seoul also acquired Kim Seon-min from Daegu FC. The Korean journeyman did not really feature in the second half of the K League 1 season yet he will give some added support in midfield and the defence. 

Seoul also made a few departures in the off-season. Most noticeably, Won Ki-jong makes the transfer over to promotion rivals Daejeon Hana Citizen. Ki-jong was a firm fan favourite at Seoul, yet did not get nearly enough game time under Chung Jung-yong last year. Sukuta-Pasu also did not join Seoul for another season. Keeper Kang Jeong-mook also departed the capital. Fans were surprised as he was the main man between the sticks when Kim Hyun-geun was injured halfway through the season.


Key Player 

Leandro

Can Leandro be the man to push Seoul E-Land in the 2021 K League 2 season.

Easily the best player in the side last year and the man who helped Seoul dream big. Leandro is a fast and skilful player who brought flare to the capital last year. Seoul always looked like they were going to score when he came on the pitch and his pace often left defenders in the dark. Seoul will look at Leandro to bring the fire into the side once more and bring the goals when needed. Hopefully, his link-up with Barbio will bring a great partnership. 

Leandro is not just a goal scorer, some of the best goals from last year came from a Leandro assist. His vision and crossing ability often gave other E-Land players great goal scoring opportunities. Foreign players are a bit hit and miss in the K League and they normally take a season or two to come to life. This is not the case for Leandro as he hit the ground running last year. Fans are excited to see what he can accomplish with the side this year and hopefully, he can beat his ten-goal tally in 2020. 

Young Player to Watch

Ko Jae-hyeon 

Ko Jae-hyeon scores against Jeonnam Dragons in the 2020 K League 2. 

Ko Jae-hyeon came midway through the 2020 season. He made an instant impact in the midfield and added energy to the side. Jae-hyeon scored memorable goals last year. One being the winner against Gyeongnam in Jamsil. Jae-hyeon loves to get himself into space and give players options to pass to. He is also a good distributor of the ball. A young player with a lot of potential, Jae-hyeon could have a big year at Seoul to really establish himself in the K League. 


Biggest Question 

Can they go one better this year?

Many people had Seoul as their underdog team last year. They saw them creeping up the table and making vast improvements from the seasons before. They held their own and pushed themselves when needed the most. However, due to some questionable defending at times and some poor results against teams they should have beaten, Seoul missed out on a playoff spot. Fans will ask how can they improve on a good season and get to the promised land of the K League 1. 

Last year was a straight promotion from the playoff final where this year, we reintroduce the promotion and relegation with the 11th placed team in the K League 1. Some teams are expected to control the league this year, eyes looking at Busan IPark and Gimcheon Sangu. If Seoul are to reach the top division or at the very least a playoff spot, it will be a lot more challenging this year than last.   

Reason to Watch 

Can Chung Jung-yong lead Seoul E-Land into the K League 1?
They are a fun team. They want to score goals and they play with pace. The manager is not afraid to experiment with new players and uses a lot of wing play in his game. There is never a dull moment at E-Land and if they can keep the philosophy of the manager, then expect goals this year. Also, as I say every season, they play in the Seoul Olympic Stadium. It is a must-see stadium for any sports fan. Be quick however as 2021 will be the last season they will be in Leoul Park (Seoul Olympic Stadium). This is due to renovations being made to the stadium towards the end of the year. Mokdong Stadium will be their home for the 2022 season. Finally, Seoul are a young team who have a lot of potential. They have a fight and desire that has not been seen south of Seoul for a long time. Another big season awaits. 


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