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2020 Season Review: Chungnam Asan FC

 Chungnam Asan's first season as a citizen club in K League 2 did not go as planned, but there were a few positives to take from the campaign.  Park Dong-hyuk's men did have a good spell in the summer after getting out of the blocks slowly but seemed to lose momentum towards the end of the season.  For a look back at the Owls maiden run in the league, KLU's Branko Belan has the recap.

What Went Well

Things finally took a turn for the better once the summer rolled around after the club had gone winless in their first nine matches, securing only four points in the process.  They drew 1-1 with Ansan Greeners at the end of June, which was followed by their first-ever win in the division, a 2-1 success against Gyeongnam FC, as Philip Hellquist and Lee Jae-gun got the goals needed for all three points while Baek Sung-dong replied for the Reds.  That was followed by a 1-1 draw with eventual promotion-winners Suwon FC.

Lee Jae-gun scored the winner in Asan's first-ever win as a citizen club against Gyeongnam FC in July.
Late summer into early fall also saw a spell of success for the Owls, a stretch which also saw them go unbeaten in three straight, including the first two clean sheets in club history, 2-0 against Bucheon FC 1995 and 1-0 against Seoul E-Land.  The biggest win of the season came later in the campaign, a 3-2 shocker against Daejeon Hana Citizen, with Bruno netting the winner with just two minutes left in regulation.

What Didn't Go Well

Chungnam Asan opened the season going winless in their first eight matches, which included a 5-0 drubbing at home to Suwon FC, who were eventually promoted to the first division via the playoffs at the end of the season.  They managed to score just five goals while conceding fourteen over that stretch.  They also finished the season winless in their last five matches, failing to score a single goal.

An Byoung-jun scored a brace in Suwon FC's 5-0 win over Asan in May.  He would go on to lead the league in goals and was voted MVP.
In the first half of the season, Asan struggled to find their identity as a team, and it was reflected in their results.  Other factors, such as injuries and a lack of production from key players also played a major role.  However, Asan's form at home was perhaps one of the biggest setbacks for the club, as they won only twice at Yi Sun Shin Stadium in 2020.  On no less than ten occasions, they were held to a clean sheet by their opponents.  

As was the case last season, the roster was made up of several players who came to the club on loan in the winter transfer window, so it was a difficult process to build and maintain chemistry on a consistent basis.  The upcoming window will determine what prospects the team will have ahead of them in 2021, especially with a large number of players returning to their parent clubs.

Young Player of the Year

Bae Su-yong

The 22 year old center back played in 23 of 27 matches for the Owls this season.  Despite his young age, he established himself as an important presence in the back as the season progressed.  Despite some early growing pains, he grew into his position and has the potential to be a solid player in the years to come.  In fact, coming into the season, he had already gained quite a bit of experience playing in Japan's J3 League with Gamba Osaka's U-23 side, Kamatamare Sanuki, and Giravanz Kitakyushu.

How he will fare next year may depend on whether Jang Soon-hyuk is able to find his way back into the squad on a regular basis.  Jang was initially named vice-captain of the team prior to the start of the season, so if he is able to work his way back into Park Dong-hyuk's good graces, Bae will have some competition for a spot in the starting eleven for next season.  The good thing for him is that he is able to play on either side in the middle of a back four, and owing to his performances this season, he will be a strong candidate for the first matchday eleven providing there are no injury concerns and he has a strong training camp.

 Team MVP

Lee Ki-hyun

Lee Ki-hyun recorded the first two clean sheets in club history this season.
Lee played only once in the first seven matches of the season, a 1-1 draw away to Jeonnam Dragons in Gwangyang at the end of May.  Once he did re-establish himself as the number one between the sticks, results started to improve for the team.  All five wins by the club in their first season in K League 2 came with him in goal.  The team also lost quite a few close matches along the way; things could have been much different had the team been able to perform at a higher level up the pitch.

He also recorded the first two clean sheets in club history with a 2-0 win over Bucheon FC 1995 on August 30th and a 1-0 win against Seoul E-Land on September 12th.  While Ham Seok-min started the majority of the matches in the early stages of the season, there should be no question as to who the first choice 'keeper will be next year.

Most Important Decision of the Off-Season

Player personnel will again be a major focus over the winter.  Kim Kang-kook is set to return to Incheon United at the end of the year.  Bruno, who joined the team on loan from Ansan Greeners over the summer, will return to the Green Wolves; Lee Eun-beom will return to newly-promoted K League 2 champions Jeju United and Kim Chan will return to Pohang Steelers.  The former three were valuable contributors for Asan this year, but Kim struggled quite a bit, managing only a goal and an assist in 25 league appearances for the club.

Philip Hellquist, despite a hot patch in the summer which saw him score four goals in five matches, was mostly inconsistent and also missed stretches of time due to injury.  A lot more was expected from him, and if he does decide to stay with the team, those expectations will be much higher in the new season.

Another player of whom a lot was expected is Armin Mujakic.  He did not deliver as promised, scoring only four goals and eventually falling out of favor with the manager, as he was left out of the squad for the final six matches of the season.  Whether he will remain with the Owls is a question mark at best right now, but if he does stay, he will have to work harder and lead by example if he is to return among the manager's good graces.

Armin Mujakic's future with the club may be up in the air after a sub-par season.
Partnership with Cádiz CF

In other news, the club signed a partnership for development with Spanish La Liga side Cádiz CF.  The motivation behind the agreement will have benefits for both sides, as Asan look to strengthen the club internally and Cádiz look to expand their presence to the Asian market.  Other details of the deal reveal that the sides will engage in information and technology sharing, and exchanging methodologies in areas such as personnel, finance, communication, sponsorship and marketing.  As part of the agreement, Asan will produce players who will be loaned out to the Spanish club to gain playing experience over a long term period.  Youth programs will also be an integral part of the process.

Chungnam Asan CEO Lee Un-jong looks forward to future co-operation with the La Liga club.

"It is an honor to sign an MOU with Cádiz CF.  Cádiz CF has a 110 year tradition of management know-how, advanced youth system-related exchanges, and educational support.  We hope that Chungnam Asan FC, a new team, will also become a club that lasts for 100 years.  If there is an opportunity in the future for both clubs to mutually engage in marketing initiatives, I will surely be involved," he said.

The Spanish club's chairman, Manuel Vizcaíno Fernández, also commented on the new pact.

"This agreement is very important to continue the international expansion of our club brand led by La Liga.  This partnership is a starting point for continuing into the future in Korea and in Asian countries," he stressed.

Considering the team will have a definite need for attacking strength up top, the hope is that the new association between the sides will bear fruit in the very near future. 



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