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2020 Season Review: Daegu FC

The year 2020 has been particularly challenging for Daegu FC in many ways. Against all the odds, Lee Byunggeun's side successfully managed to equal their record in K League with an AFC Champions League play-off place in their pocket. Daegu FC columnist Muyeol Jung reflects on their incredible campaign.

What Went Well

Things looked gloomy for Daegu FC ahead of the season. The Sky Blues had to withdraw from China in the middle of pre-season camp because of the outbreak of Covid-19, following the surprise news that former manager Andre Gaspar suddenly announced his departure from Daegu.

Nevertheless, it is quite remarkable that Daegu FC had another impressive run, confounding many football pundits by finishing fifth with a 2021 AFC Champions League play-off ticket in the bag thanks to Sangju Sangmu's ineligibility.

Caretaker Lee Byunggeun is widely hailed for picking up the pieces in the aftermath and steering the club to a record finish in the table. Despite him being given the rein without much time and experience, he showed his potential and ability as a manager when his side were facing the crisis in which things could have panned out differently. His flexibility in decision making and tactics subsequently resulted in his side getting out of the doldrums.

10-man Daegu snatched three point against Suwon Bluewings on the road for the first time since 2003 thanks to Edgar's winner

On match records, the citizen club also set a new memorable record in the biggest League win by thrashing FC Seoul 6-0 at home (the club's biggest win is 8-0 against Yangpyeong FC in the 2018 FA Cup). They have also finally pulled off their first ever win against Suwon away since the club's establishment in 2003 through substitute Edgar's efforts.

What Didn't Go Well

In the global pandemic, the club were particularly hit hard as they were not able to benefit from playing in a compact football specific stadium which would have been almost a full house. Apart from the financial aspect, it's also a huge shame that the club couldn't continue to nurture the growth of football fandom that just started to root in the last year in a baseball-loving city.

The temporary halt of the Reserve League, because of Covid-19 also caused a massive problem to the youngsters' club's blueprint. No youth players managed to break the first team and settle in, while some of them had to leave in search of playing time during the summer transfer window.

Severe injury issues really struck hard for a few key players. The Sky Blues' captain Hong Jungwoon was looking forward to playing for Daegu after returning from an ACL injury that forced him to end his campaign early last season. However, he again ended up with another ACL injury only five games into the season. Also, Edgar da Silva and Hwang Soonmin didn't feature as much as they would have wished because of an Achilles injury and a fatigue fracture and were side-lined most of the time in the second half of the season.

Young Player of the Year

Young defender Jo Jinwoo (right) has been a solid defender in the back three
It was a cheerful discovery that 1999 year-born defender Jo Jinwoo seamlessly stepped in and played solidly in a back three. Actually, no one had paid much attention to the former Matsumoto Yamaga FC defender when he singed a Daegu FC contract after a disappointing two year-spell in Japan and another young defender Kim Jaewoo was higher in the pecking order.

However, the gaffer handed Jo a rare chance when the Sky Blues were struggling with fulfilling the U22 quota and captain Hong Jungwoon's season-ending injury. For the first few games, he looked a bit nervous, though he responded well and continued to start until the end of the season with a total 19 appearances in the league. Next season, he will still be under 22 years-old, which means that he will likely continue to relish his playing time in Daegu as a regular U22 player.

Team MVP

Daegu FC's talisman Cesinha celebrating

It's undoubtedly got to be Daegu's talisman Cesinha for this honourable title again after the Brazilian has another brilliant season in a Sky Blue shirt. Once again (not surprisingly) over pre-season, he was at the centre of rumours that he might leave for overseas, but he has decided to play for his fifth season with the K League side and has been going down an unprecedented path in the club's history as well as K League.

This season saw the Brazilian score 18 goals and provide four assists in the league, which account for half goals the club have scored this season (43 goals). Owing to his massive influence, he was awarded K League's the Player of the Month in June. Later in September, he marked another milestone by becoming the fifth foreign player and 21st K League player to record minimum 40 goals and 40 assists in K League.

The figures are particularly more outstanding as all of his contributions came from Daegu that were relatively underdogs league wide. Of many goals he scored, some memorable goals include the winner that sealed a promotion in 2016, goals that saw Daegu win the FA Cup in 2018 and goals in the AFC Champions League in 2019.

Most Disappointing Player

It would be a bit harsh for a youngster, but my choice is promising fullback Hwang Taehyun who joined us from K League 2 side Ansan Greeners ahead of this season. When the news came out, the fans were very optimistic about the signing based on solid performances the U20 Korean National Team captain showed in the 2019 U20 World Cup where Korea's young lads finished runners-up.

However, things didn't go as smoothly for him as everyone wished for. Initially, the 1999 year-born defender was handed two starts in a row, but he hardly made any impression on the pitch, looking out of his depth. Then, he failed to make the squad until the summer and since then was usually an unused sub on the bench.

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Most Important Decision of the Off-Season

The Sky Blues have already set their first foot step towards 2021 season by having a mini-winter training camp at home from early December.
Manager Lee Byunggeun will look forward to the 2021 season
Recently, they announced the appointment of caretaker Lee Byungkeun as the 11th full time manager for the club. Accordingly, coach Choi Wonkwon got promoted to assistant coach and it is believed that there will be a new addition to his backroom staff sooner than later.

In preparation for the oncoming season, Daegu will have to look back on their maiden appearances in ACL 2019 and reassess how things could have turned out better for their second appearance next year.

On top of that, fixture congestion should be carefully taken into account. With the addition of the continental competition to Daegu's diary, it is going to be really hectic and congested because of 2022 World Cup Qualification and the Olympics football that have been pushed back for obvious reasons.

Lee Byunggeun's side will likely have a few players such the likes of Kim Daewon, Jeong Seungwon, Kim Jaewoo and giant defender Jeong Taewook called up for the international duty and will have to prepare their contingency plan.

The squad has been built on since 2016 and look pretty solid, but there are a lot of areas that need strengthening because of key players getting old. Left wingback, winger and a backup striker are particularly top priority. If summer signing goalkeeper Gu Sungyun is to serve his military service soon next year, then they will have to make another big decision between looking for experienced shot stoppers in the market or going for young Choi Youngeun for goal.

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