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2021 Seongnam FC Season Preview

After narrowly avoiding the drop last year, Seongnam will be facing another uphill struggle to maintain their K League 1 status. Kim Nam-il’s boys finished tenth last season, with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Busan IPark on the final day of the season cementing the Magpie’s top flight position. The Tancheon faithful will be hoping that new signings hit the ground running and can lead to more goals and less existential dread in 2021. Joey Mellows previews what to expect from Seongnam ahead of their Independence Day season opener on March 1st. 

Last Season

7W, 7D, 13L; 10th place, 27 points

What Happened?

Seongnam narrowly avoided a return to K League 2 last season whilst also having to watch Jeonbuk overtake them for most Championships in K League history. The start of the season hinted at encouraging signs for the Magpies as they went undefeated in their first four games, conceding just one goal, before a disastrous June saw them go winless all month. Streakiness continued to plague Seongnam with five wins in seven games, including two in the FA Cup, boosting morale throughout July before only one win in five games across August. 
The hope and despair narrative of Seongnam’s season was perfectly highlighted by the last two months of the season. A 2-0 win over Jeonbuk, the eventual champions, at the start of September, was the last win the team would enjoy before losing six of their next seven, including a 6-0 humbling to fellow strugglers Incheon United at home. A 2-1 victory over Suwon Bluewings in the penultimate game of the season set up a sweat-inducing, relegating dodging, win over Busan IPark, who head to K League 2 instead. Phew. 
Relief was the overriding emotion at the end of the 2020 campaign. Seongnam had avoided slipping back into K League 2, where they spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and had identified key areas for improvement. Their lack of spark in front of goal, scoring just 24 in 27 games was the second worst in the league, behind FC Seoul on 23. To make matters worse, top marksman with 7 goals, Na Sang-ho, returned to the nation’s capital club at the season’s close, after a successful loan period. 
There were some positives. The FA Cup campaign rumbled along pleasantly until a 1-0 semi-final defeat by eventual winners, Jeonbuk, left the Magpies still searching for their first trophy since 2014 - in the same competition. The defence, marshalled by Yeon Je-Woon in the center of a back three, kept 7 clean sheets in the league, ultimately conceding 37 goals - 7th best in the league. Clinching survival against Busan IPark on the final day of the season also pushed them above Incheon United, resulting in a tenth place finish. 

Notable Moves

There have been several changes to the squad over the offseason with 12 new players transferred in for the 2021 campaign in addition to six loanees returning. Three new signings are center forwards as manager Kim Nam-il appears determined to fix Seongnam’s blunt attack. The most exciting new arrival could be 26 year old, Fejsal Mulic. The center forward from Serbia scored 9 goals in 19 games for FK Velez Mostar in the Bosnia & Herzegovina top flight last season but most intriguingly stands one inch taller than Peter Crouch, at 6 feet 8. Expect corner-kick chaos. 
Two other foreign players have joined Seongnam. Austrian defender Richard Windbichler, a dashing 29 year-old, returns to the K League after playing for Ulsan Hyundai in 2017-18, having signed from Melbourne City in Australia’s A-League. He is joined by a former Sheffield Wednesday striker, the Romanian forward Sergiu Buș, who will wear the number 9 jersey and scored two goals in ten appearances last season for Fotbal Club FCSB in the Romanian Liga I. Seongnam fans will be hoping their team parks the Buș in the attacking box of their opposition this year. Apologies. 
The list of players leaving Seongnam after the 2020 season is long. The previously mentioned top scorer, Na Sang-ho, headlines a list that includes defensive midfielder Kim Dong-hyeon moving to Gangwon FC and center back stalwart Yeon Je-woon heading to Gimcheon Sangmu.
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Key Player 

Kim Young-kwang

Kim Young-kwang will be the key man responsible for keeping Seongnam in games this season. With the team predicted to struggle the Magpies will need his leadership, positive mentality and shot-stopping to allow them a chance over their more favoured opponents. The 37 year-old, six-foot tall goalkeeper became only the fifth player in K League history to reach 500 appearances last year and his experience will be much needed as Seongnam aim to maintain their status in Korea’s top flight and build on their tenth place position from 2020.

Young Player to Watch

Park Tae-joon

With a shortage of young starlets to look to, Seongnam will be hoping that 22-year Park Tae-joon continues to develop in the central midfield role he began to take over last season. Fans will be wishing he can add to the 2 league goals he scored in the previous campaign, although regularly completing the ninety minutes needs to be a more immediate aim. 

Biggest Question 

Can Seongnam provide fans with more to cheer for in 2021?

In 2020, Seongnam played an entire season without scoring more than two goals in a game and failed to register in ten of the thirty-one games they played in league and cup. Fans will be desperate for more goalmouth action, at the right end, with the affectionately coined ‘Big Bus’ forward line of new foreign signings Fejsal Mulic and Sergiu Buș providing much hope. The development of young talent and shrewd loan deals will also be seen as a positive step in a season where ensuring survival before the final weeks of the season could be viewed as a success.   

Reason to Watch 

The chic all-black Umbro kits, whilst not to everyone’s tastes, pay a respectful homage (of sorts) to referee kits of yesteryear. Thus there is something oddly reassuring about watching Seongnam at home, particularly for Magpies fans who will need decisions to go their way if they are to surprise stronger opposition this season. Opposing fans may also enjoy watching Seongnam games in the hope of three points while neutral observers may enjoy monitoring the progress of a seasoned goalkeeper entering his age 38 season along with a giant Serb at the other end. Win, lose or draw - the season promises not to be dull for those who tune in to games at Tancheon Stadium. In the words of the Seongnam FC social media tagline, ‘Welcome Black’. 

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