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Chung Jung-yong Bows Out As Seoul E-Land Manager

After three seasons of steering Seoul E-Land, Chung Jung-yong steps down as the manager of the Leopards. Chung Jung-yong's departure means that in 2023, Seoul E-Land will start its campaign with a new manager in the side. A new manager has not been announced yet, so only time will tell who Seoul can bring into the hot seat. 

In a tenure that was masked with highs and lows, Chung Jung-yong produced some quite memorable moments for fans and regardless of the results, he created some memories for the Seoul E-Land faithful.
In this article, Michael Redmond looks at some of the highlights and the lowlights of the boss's time with the side.

The 2020 Vision

Chung Jung-yong came into the side in time for the 2020 season. The boss came with a philosophy to promote Seoul to the K League 1 by any means necessary. Fans were already aware of the manager due to his time as the U-20 Korean national team manager. The side made it all the way to the final of the U-20 Fifa World Cup. Missing out on the prize to Ukraine.

 The manager came in with a fresh new team to Jamsil. Some noticeable names include Lee Sang-min, Go Jae-hyun, and Kim Tae-hyun. He also brought in some foreign expertise in the form of Lazar Arsic, Richard Sukuta-Pasu, and Leandro just to name a few. His first game was a 1-1 draw against Jeju United. A respectable result away from home, given that Jeju were newly relegated and Seoul finished last for the previous two seasons.

His first win came from a 1-0 win against Chungnam Asan away from home. Seoul had a slow start in 2020, however, the late summer brought a flurry of wins and the Leopards saw themselves in 3rd position in the league. This had fans believing. 

It all came to an abrupt halt when Seoul failed to beat Jeonnam Dragons on the last day of the regular season. The draw with Jeonnam put them level on points with Daejeon Hana Citizen. Seoul actually had the better goal difference, but in the K League, the position is based on goals scored, denying Seoul. 
Seoul ended the campaign with eleven wins, six draws, and ten losses. It was one of the best seasons the side has had and really gave the fans hope for the next season.

The 2021 Stall

It wasn't before long and Seoul E-Land found themselves setting up for another season in the K League 2. The boss brought in some reinforcements over the winter. Most noticeably Kim Sun-min, Hwang Tae-hyun, and Kim Kyung-min. It started so well for Seoul E-Land. Their first game saw a 3-0 win over Busan away from home, followed by a 4-0 victory over Gimcheon Sangmu in Jamsil. The side went five games undefeated and only dropped four points out of fifteen. Seoul were sat at the top of the table and this was something never seen before in the capital.

This is when things started to turn sour however and it was an injury-time goal for Chungnam Asan in the next game which really halted the Chung Jung-yong express train. The first loss of the season knocked Seoul's confidence and they only managed to win one in the next thirteen league games after that game. This was also a season which saw them go seven games without a goal. The season really left fans baffled. How could a team that started so well, struggle so soon after a great run?

2021 ended with the arrival of away fans being allowed back into the stadium. This game was marked by a 2-1 defeat to Chungnam Asan. The season ended with Seoul in 9th place. The only thing stopping them from taking the wooden spoon was the eight more goals they scored than Bucheon 1995. Seoul ended the season with eight wins, thirteen draws, and fifteen losses.

The 2022 Rollercoaster

2022 brought the third and final year of Chung Jung-yong's intended contract and it was now or never to impress. This season saw the loss of Lee Sang-min to FC Seoul and even more painfully, Leandro to Daejeon Hana Citizen. Seoul did bring in some more big guns, with Yoon Bo-sang coming in between the sticks. Lee Jae-ik who managed to make his national team debut this year, and Tsubasa who had experience playing in the K League before with Daegu. Seoul also invested in an Argentine duo upfront in Cadenazzi and Asenjo up top.

Things looked good again for Seoul as the season started. An opening match victory against Gyeongnam away from home was then followed by another victory on the road against Ansan Greeners. Then what followed was one win in ten games. The problem with this season was not the losses, it was the draws. In those ten games, five of them were draws. Seoul did not how to finish off a game.

 Another issue which arose was last goals being conceded. Seoul dropped points on multiple occasions due to this. Most noticeably against Gwangju when they went 2-0 to only draw the game due to a 94th-minute penalty. Or the time they were playing out a strategic game against Daejeon. It was 0-0 going into injury time, Daejeon had a corner and the boss brought on Park Jun-young, a striker in his debut season. Daejeon scored from that attack.

Seoul did have a renaissance at to the back end of August when they claimed three points from Daejeon, Gyeongnam, Chungnam Asan and FC Anyang. It was the first time Seoul beat the violets in almost three years. Seoul went on to win four games in a row and six in eight games. It looked as if Seoul could creep into the playoffs once again.

However, a replay of 2020 happened and Seoul dropped the ball once more. Their last three games were all defeats, including a six-pointer against Asan, a 3-0 hammering by Jeonnam Dragons, and an embarrassing 1-0 loss against bottom-of-the-league Busan IPark. The season ended with eleven wins, fifteen draws, and fourteen losses. This was the highest point tally of Chung Jung-yong's reign, however, it is important to note that this season had thirteen more games than in 2020 and four more games than in 2021, due to the arrival of Gimpo Citizens.

The Highs

Bucheon 1995 2-3 Seoul E-Land 

Chung Jung-yong's reign was sprinkled with a lot of memorable moments for the right reasons. The first one came when Seoul made the journey across town to Bucheon. In a game which saw Seoul E-Land go two goals down due to some questionable decisions. Seoul managed to pull the game back to 3-2 and really gave Seoul some much-needed points.

The game was a classic 2-0 down 3-2 up kind of game, but it was something that Seoul fans have never seen before. They were familiar with accepting defeat the moment the other team scored first. Seoul had a history of never being able to turn the game around, however, now they could. 

Climbing to 3rd Place

Seoul E-Land finished last in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. When the boss came in, he promised big things for Seoul. In the first season, fans were just happy that they were not losing every week. Seoul was having an okay season in 2020 in the grand scheme of things, however, towards the end of the season they really turned it on. With only four games left of the season, Seoul climbed to 3rd place and sat in a playoff spot. 

It wasn't to be for Seoul, dropping to 5th on the last day, but it gave the fans hope for a lot more to come in the next couple of years. 

The 2021 Start

The next season arrived a few months later and it took Seoul no time to turn the magic on. Seoul went undefeated in the first five games of the season. This included wins over Busan, Gimcheon, and Bucheon. As well as draws against Jeonnam and Gyeongnam. 

It really gave the fans the idea that Seoul were untouchable and that the playoffs were the least they were going to achieve. More on this later.  

The Seoul Derby Victory

Chung Jung-yong delivered what many Seoul E-Land fans wanted. All fans wanted was bragging rights over the red side of the city. 2021 saw Seoul E-Land draw FC Seoul in the FA Cup. On a chilly April night in the Seoul World Cup stadium, Leandro headed the ball into the back of FC Seoul's net in the 85th minute, giving the Leopards the victory in the first-ever derby between the two outfits. 

For this alone, many Seoul fans feel indebted to Chung Jung-yong and Leandro is still heard to be a legend around the streets of Jamsil.   

The Late 2022 Push

Seoul were not having the best season in 2022 and it all boiled over after a 4-0 defeat to Gwangju in August. Fans were visibly not happy and it looked as if Seoul would sink down the table. Their next game was Daejeon Hana Citizen which looked like a hammering once more. However, it wasn't. Seoul went on to win that game 2-1. After that Seoul then beat Gyeongnam, another team above them. Then followed two more wins against Gimpo and Asan, both ending in 3-0. Something was happening in Seoul. 

What happened there was a 0-0 draw with Ansan and a tight 1-0 loss against Gyeongnam. However, they picked themselves up and beat FC Anyang and Bucheon 1995. The run did come to an abrupt end, but for those few weeks, Seoul fans had hope once more. 

The Lows

Falling at the Final Hurdle in 2020

It might be a bit harsh to include this once, but in 2020 Seoul E-Land missed out on the playoffs by a point. They failed to beat Jeonnam Dragons in Jamsil, a team also looking for a playoff spot. Seoul failed to win and in doing so let Daejeon take the final spot on goals scored. Something that still hurts a lot today as if it was any other league, they might have had a playoff game for the second time in their history. 

The 2021 Slide Down the Table

In a season that started so well, it took a harsh turn for the Leopards after that loss against Asan. Seoul started the season in 1st place and ended up level on points in last place with Bucheon. In that time, Seoul also went seven games in the season without a goal and also went on a stretch of eleven games without a win. 

Seoul fans were told of a 'Plan B' that the boss had to turn Seoul's misfortunes. That might have come in the signing of Kim In-sung, but that still did not change Seoul E-Land's luck and their 2021 ended with a whimper, not a bang. 

Mirroring 2021 in 2022

The manager's final season of his original contract started the same as his 2021 season, going a few games undefeated to start. However once again Seoul could not counter on their good start. In this season, Seoul went eleven games without a win, matching 2021's record. They also dropped too many points in the final moments of the game. A few games where they could have held out here or there and Seoul might still be in contention for the K League 1 at the time of this publishing. 


Final Thoughts

It is the end of a very big chapter in Seoul E-Land. Before Chung Jung-yong, Seoul did not keep their managers longer than a season, with Martin Rennie being the exception. Coming in for the inaugural 2015 season and being let go in June 2016. 

The run makes Chung Jung-yong the longest-serving manager at the club and it would be wrong to say that he did not make any changes in the capital. Some fans asked for him to walk in 2021 after Seoul's tragic finish in the league. They believed that with the talent that Seoul had in their side, it was embarrassing to see them so far down the table. Seoul fans were constantly being informed that the boss had a 'Plan B' when things were not going well. However, the faithful never really saw that. 

2022 saw Seoul have a good start, terrible middle, and an amicable ending. A 7th place finish is respectable giving how bad things were in the summer, but it left fans only wanting more. 

The question now is, where do Seoul go from here? Who could take Seoul and bring them to the heights that they have promised the fans since their inception? Chung Jung-yong had the power to bring in some very good up-and-coming youth players as well as a mix of trusted experienced players. Is the next manager going to be able to have that pulling power? 

Seoul will need to be big in the transfer market this winter, as a loss of a manager normal follows a mass exodus of players from the side. This loss for Seoul today could go either way in the capital. It could be the start of something new and better, or it could be the beginning of Seoul going back to the dark ages. Only time will tell. 

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