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2019 Season Preview: Suwon FC

2019 K League 2 Season Preview: Suwon FC

After a disappointing 2018 that failed to live up to the pre-season hype, Suwon FC have been busy in the transfer window once more with a number of eye-catching winter signings as well as departures to their older guard. With the board having shown continued faith in manager Kim Dae-eui, can this year see them climb out of the K League 2 and into the top division?

Last Season

W13 D3 L20, 7th

What Happened?

Suwon FC went into the 2018 season backed by many to enjoy K League 2 success. However, what transpired was far from it. Initial forecasts were optimistic, with the club making headway in the transfer market by acquiring the likes of proven striking talent Kim Dong-chan, in addition to Matheus Alves, Alex Bruno and Alex Lima who all arrived with encouraging resumes. With the team also holding on to influential key players such as Adrian Leijer, it seemed a promotion push should not have been too far out of the question.

Helmed by recently appointed Kim Dae-eui though, a manager at the early stages of his coaching career, the performances lacked the incisive attacking play to fully utilise the talent signed. Combined with heavy squad rotation as the manager coped with both a sizeable injury list at the same time as trying to find his best team, Suwon struggled to find any rhythm or adventure, often opting to play balls out wide in the final third than move towards the goal and shoot.

Their tactics were reflected in their goal tally, scoring just 29 goals in 38 games and the lowest in the division. Suwon scored more than once in a match five times all season and pulled back a single solitary point from a losing position. Their displays often proved difficult to watch, resulting in disgruntled fans who were only appeased after a meeting between supporters group and the management.

With the manager retaining the backing of the board for a second season and making sweeping changes to the clubs playing personnel, the board will be hoping to see a much-improved outing this time so the memories of last season can quickly be forgotten.

Notable Moves

Chisom Egbuchulum: The signing of Nigerian international Chisom Egbuchulam looks to be quite the coup for Suwon, with the player turning down a contract at his previous club Falkenberg in Sweden to opt for pastures new. The 26-year-old forward scored fourteen goals for Falkenberg last season, helping them to obtain promotion to the Swedish top flight in the process. Suwon will be hoping their new forward, who can also play out on the left or in attacking midfield role, will be able to replace the goals of last season’s top scorer Viana who has moved on from the club.

An Byong-jun: Japanese born North Korean international An Byong-jun makes the short trip across the East Sea from the now relegated J.League 2 club Roasso Kumamoto. The attacker scored ten goals last season for the struggling side which, while hardly a goal tally that will wow supporters, should be appreciated given his team's struggles. An was a regular feature at his club for the last two seasons, with appearances at JEF United and Kawasaki Frontale also on his CV.

Sebastian Velasquez: Colombian midfielder Sebastian Velasquez makes his move to the K League 2 from USL Championship side Real Monarchs. The midfielder spent two seasons with the Utah outfit, a side that acts as a reserve team to MLS club (and his former team) Real Salt Lake, where he scored 16 goals across his 49 league appearances.

Key Player

Baek Sung-dong: With a number of key names moving on, Baek Sung-dong remains as one of the most influential figures at the club, with the captaincy subsequently bestowed upon him for the upcoming season. The winger made 30 appearances last season, yet found the net only five times in comparison to eight the year prior. In a team that badly lacked goals though, this tally was enough to see him come second in the club's scoring charts, partially because he tried more often than his teammates. Baek took 60 shots at goal last season, the most in the side, and had the third-best conversion rate behind the now departed Matheus Alves and Viana. He also chalked up the eighth highest number of key passes in the division in the period after the World Cup as his influence became more pronounced and the team's form began to improve. Granted, these statistics pale in comparison to their league rivals when the season is taken as a whole, and the player still has a lot to improve upon, but in a team that has once again seen somewhat of an overhaul, backing players like Baek with the captaincy and keeping them onside could help galvanise the team behind the manager.

Young Player to Watch

Cho Yu-min: Cho is a 22-year-old defender who not only made 26 appearances for the club last year (in what was his debut season) but also performed well enough to be included in Kim Hak-bum's gold medal-winning Asian Game squad, earning himself military exemption in the process. He is far from the finished product, and featuring in teams that were sometimes on the wrong end of heavy scorelines will not have helped his confidence, yet he made by far the most interceptions in the side (54) and also the most in the league along with the second most tackles at the club (27). He also made 126 clearances throughout the season, 44 more than his nearest teammate and a figure that would see him creep into the top ten for the division. For an inexperienced defender to become a mainstay in a backline that is regularly under fire, and not be subject managerial changes for someone more experienced in a bid to right a sinking ship, shows just how highly valued the player is.

Biggest Question

Can Kim Dae-eui get it right on the second time of asking?

Kim Dae-eui’s appointment towards the end of the 2017 season was somewhat leftfield due to his lack of professional coaching experience. Having held on to key faces in addition to obtaining what looked like strong acquisitions, Kim’s brand of football was unable to match the lofty ambitions onlookers had set for them going into the season. His tenure survived mid-season fan protests after backing from influential players and also a meeting with the Suwon FC supporters group. Results initially picked up after the World Cup and summer transfer window, but the performances eventually returned to their same unadventurous dirge that had blighted the team earlier in the year. The club has opted to back Kim for a second season though, allowing him to clear out players (including many that he had signed) and sign some more promising talent. If the manager cannot find a way to utilise these new signings, however, then the board may come to regret offering him this second chance.

Reasons to Watch

While a lot has been made of the quality football served up last year, it should be noted that Suwon FC did get a lot right off the pitch and it seems they will be continuing on with these initiatives into the new campaign. At ₩60,000 (approximately US$60), Suwon are yet again offering one of the best value season tickets in the division, with plenty going on for families behind the temporary stand before and throughout the match, making good use of the race track that blights so many K League sides by offering attractions for kids, signing tents and food trucks. Their club shop is also worth a look for the discounted offers on last season's merchandise in addition to reasonably priced kits for the current campaign. There is a feeling that if things could click on the pitch, they would have a club capable of even taking from the crowds of their better-known neighbours.

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