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A Long (Mid) Season- Seoul E-Land FC

We are just over the halfway point of the 2022 K League 2 season and it is time to look at how Seoul E-Land have been performing in the promotion race. It has been all but inspiring for Seoul E-Land so far this season and this is down to many reasons. A season that started with back-to-back wins has returned again to what the Leopards seem to do most, and that is drawing. 

Fans expected so much from the side this season. However, after a run of many games without a win, fans feel like they have been left short-changed. What has been going wrong for Seoul this year and what can they do to get back on track? Michael Redmond looks at what is going on with the capital club here. 

A Comparison From 2021...

It was no rumor that Seoul E-Land dropped the ball last season. A year that started with the side going unbeaten in five games, claiming 11/15 possible points. Dropped all the way down to 9th place, having a wooden spoon battle with Bucheon 1995. Both teams ended level on 37 points and it was only Seoul's eight more goals than Bucheon which kept them away from 10th.

The 2021 K League 2 Season was an unforgettable one for Seoul E-Land 

It was not just the draws and losses that saw Seoul go from top to bottom in the 2021 season, it was the number of goals they could score. Do not be confused with Seoul E-Land's 40-goal season last year, over 1/4 of the goals were scored in the first five games. Seoul went eight games without a goal throughout the summer and it really hurt the morale as well as the table standings. 

The 2022 season has four more games than the year previous, due to the addition of Gimpo Citizen to the league. So let's look at the 2021 Seoul team after 18 games and the 2022 Seoul team after 20 games. Here is how they compare:

As it is apparent. Seoul have not really improved from their poor 2021 season. Yes, they have scored more goals and have three more points. However, the 2022 squad has played two more games. Seoul have actually played three more games after this which have ended in two draws and a loss, putting them once again in 8th place.

The fans' anger comes from the fact that the team have some top-quality talent and a team that has been built up for the last three years now and nothing still has changed. It has become apparent that there is no plan B whatsoever. 

A Silent Summer Window

Seoul over the last two years brought in some top-quality talent in the summer window which really boosted their promotion campaign. in 2020, it was Jang Yun-ho and Ko Jae-hyun who really transformed the season for the Leopards. Two young players earning their stripes and becoming fan favorites.

Last season saw captain Kim In-sung joining the side, scoring in under two minutes of his debut. In-sung showed his talent from the first moment and saved Seoul from complete and utter embarrassment. 

Lee Jung-Mun joined Seoul E-Land from Jeju United

This summer transfer window saw only one player come into the team. Lee Jung-mun came in from Jeju United. The 24-year-old has K League 2 experience, playing the 2019 and 2020 seasons for Daejeon Citizen. It is easy to see why management brought the forward in, given his height. Standing at 194cm he will help Seoul and their habit of launching the ball forward for Cadenazzi or Ashenjo to get a touch of it and bring it down. There has been no real working from the back from the Leopards this year. 

Play to the Whistle

In football, nothing hurts quite like a last-minute goal. Either it be to draw the game or to lose it. However, Seoul must quite enjoy this feeling as it has happened a number of times throughout the season. 

It started in the 3-1 win against Gimpo Citizen. An injury team goal from Kwon Min-jae didn't hurt Seoul, but it was a sign of things to come. The worse one came next when they faced Daejeon Hana Citizen. After 90 minutes of mind games from both teams resulted in 0-0. A double substitution in injury time saw an inexperienced Park Jun-Young and Park Tae-jun come on. A forward and a midfielder. This was when Daejeon were on the attack. A swung-in ball and no other than former Seoul E-Land player Won Ki-jong put it in the back of the net, handing Seoul another loss. 

Seoul just cant seem to hold on to games in injury time this season 

Then there was the equalizer by Ahn Byeong-jun in the 87th minute when Seoul played Busan IPark to make that game 2-2. We also can not forget the last two games which saw Seoul go 1-0 up to 1-1 against Jeonnam due to an injury-time goal and from 2-0 down to 2-2 thanks to a last-minute penalty against Gwangju.  

Last-minute goals happen all the time in football. Especially in a Korean summer when temperatures are over thirty degrees. However, there has to come to a point where the team needs to identify that this is actually a problem.

Time is Running Out

Fans have stuck with the process for two and a half years now and they really now want to see some change. This is really the last shot for Seoul now, they are 12 points off a playoff position with 17 games left. 

It has to be asked that once the season is over, who will actually be wearing the shirt in 2023? Seoul had a long overhaul of talent over the winter and a few key players will maybe be looking to go elsewhere if they can not get to the top of the mountain come October.

If there was to be a complete change in the team over the winter, how will the side fair the next year? Will they once again fade into obscurity as they did in the 2018 and 2019 seasons? Will attendances once again begin to dwindle? This is a club which are still quite new compared to the other teams in the K League. However, that can not be said for long. Next year will see even more teams join in the K League 2 and Seoul really need to prove that they can be up there with the best. They just haven't really done anything remotely like that since their inception. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Seoul have to change their style of play. They are too careless in bringing the ball up the pitch. Big, long balls and aerial balls who get to nobody are a constant issue amongst the team. The ball is too easily intercepted by the opposition and counter-attacked. Seoul can be in total control to being on the back foot within seconds, and this happens multiple times throughout a game. 

It hasn't been plain sailing for Seoul E-Land this season in the 2022 K League 2. 

We did see some promise in the game against Gwangju in the last round. That was actually the best 45 minutes of football played by the team all season. They kept the ball down, they kept it simple. They had Gwangju on the ropes by simply looking like the fitter team and the team who knew where the next pass was going. 

Seoul need another approach if they are going to start picking up some meaningful points in the league. They have become all too predictable to the teams they come up against. 


What Do They Need To Do Off The Pitch?

Seoul need to reconnect with their fans. Seoul have passionate fans who have traveled for years up and down the country to see them play. Fans do not want to see messages of 'Thank you for your support, we will promise to play better next time,' every single week. Seoul need to give back to the fans who were there when no one else was. They need to accept that this season and the last season was not good enough and change has to come. 

Cadenazzi celebrates his goal against Gimpo Citizens in the 2022 K LEague 2.

On my own personal take on the matter. I have followed the team for six seasons now and to be honest, I have never felt so disconnected from the club. There came a time when I would not dream about missing a Seoul E-Land fixture. I would count down the days to when I could purchase the ticket, or get real excitement over looking at train times and hotels. 

Now it comes to a point where I couldn't even tell you when the next time I will venture out to Mokdong, or go to another away game. There are many a fan who will feel the same way. Fans are not asking for much. They just want a team and a club to play for them, show some pride and a little bit of passion, and to be honest, I do not think that is too much to ask.

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