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scouting

2024 Gangwon FC Squad Guide


Ahead of the 2024 K League 1 season, columnist Nathan Sartain takes an in-depth look at the Gangwon FC squad, profiling the first-team. This article will be continuously updated throughout the year to reflect transfer activity. And, if you would like to look at how Gangwon played in 2023, check out the K League technical report here.


Goalkeepers

Lee Gwang-yeon
Lee Gwang-yeon: The 24-year-old cemented himself as Gangwon’s starting goalkeeper last year, and went on to keep eight clean sheets in 21 first-team appearances, with some very strong performances along the way.  After signing a new deal this winter, expect that the 24-year-old Asian Games gold medal winner will remain central to Yoon Jong-hwan’s plans, and feature in the vast majority of matches.

Park Cheong-hyo: Joining Gangwon for the 2024 season is experienced goalkeeper Park Cheong-hyo. The 33-year-old was in fantastic form last year in K League 2, conceding 22 goals in his 34 league appearances for Gimpo FC. Fans of the Bears will remember Park Cheong-hyo’s particularly strong performance in the first leg of the promotion/relegation playoff, where he made four saves, two high claims, and 13 recoveries. With all this in mind, Gangwon appear to have got themselves a very reliable second in command who is bound to get minutes throughout the season.

Defenders

Hwang Mun-ki and Yun Suk-young
Yun Suk-young: With plenty of experience under his belt, Yun Suk-young is a reliable hand in Gangwon’s defence. Able to play at left-back or on the left side of a back three, his versatility came in handy towards the tail-end of last season, where he reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup. Strong at recovering the ball and with a good range of passing, Yun Suk-young will remain a useful player for the Bears to have on their books in 2024.

Lee Ji-sol: A summer signing from Jeju United, centre-back Lee Ji-sol is yet to have secured himself a key role at Gangwon, but has still shown some flashes of real quality. In a home draw against Incheon United, where the 24-year-old scored his first goal for the Bears, the former South Korea U23 international was probably man of the match, owing to his important contributions at both ends of the pitch. This season, the expectation has to be that Lee Ji-sol will turn in more displays of that ilk when called upon.

Marko Tući: One of Gangwon’s star players since arriving in the summer, centre-back Marko Tući revitalised the team’s defence with his standout qualities. A bit of an all-rounder, in part thanks to his strong long-range passing (he averaged 4.77 accurate long balls per game, and boasted an overall pass accuracy of 82.7%), the Montenegrin international will be key again for the Bears in the 2024 season, and should continue his role at the heart of the defence.

Kim Woo-seok: Largely operating as a utility player, Kim Woo-seok found game time limited in 2023, but by the same token looked settled whenever brought into the side. With his height an obvious advantage, the 27-year-old centre-back - who can also deputise on the right side of defence - is a handy player to have at Gangwon, and as such may get a chance to impress this season.

Lee Yu-hyeon: A loan acquisition from Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Lee Yu-hyeon will be expected to take up a role on either defensive flank whenever required. The 27-year-old is fresh off a strong stint with Gimcheon Sangmu - he managed two goals and three assists from 13 starts last year - where per 90 he was one of the side's best performers in some key metrics in both passing and defending.

Jo Hyun-tae
Jo Hyun-tae: A semi-pro, Jo Hyun-tae managed 10 overall appearances for Gangwon last season, though played for a combined 107 minutes. Nevertheless, the centre-back prospect has had a taste of first-team football now, and there’s no reason why he can’t get more of it in 2024.

Ryu Gwang-hyeon: 20-year-old left-back Ryu Gwang-hyeon was perhaps surprisingly trusted with a run of 10 matches in the team at the end of the regular season. There, he showed his rawness, though similarly his qualities in tackling (he averaged 1.51 tackles won per 90, and won 61.1% of his duels), as well as a real keenness to get involved with all phases of play. He may have only featured one more time following his initial flurry of appearances, but Ryu Gwang-hyeon is evidently one for the future, and someone Yoon Jong-hwan views as a prospective important option in defence.

Kim Young-bin: Once again a prominent figure in Gangwon’s defence during the 2023 season, centre-back Kim Young-bin is a player who continues to impress, and sometimes goes under the radar for his consistency. The 32-year-old ranked highest in the side for blocks and clearances per 90 (0.9 and 4.1 respectively), whilst winning an average of 4.35 duels per game. With little sign of slowing down, expect to see Kim Young-bin continue his duties in 2024.

Hwang Mun-ki: Revitalised as a right-back, Hwang Mun-ki found arguably his best form since joining Gangwon when moved into defence during the Bears’ time in Final B last year. In 2023, the 27-year-old averaged (per game) 1.62 chances created, 6.61 duels won, 7.48 recoveries, and 1.62 tackles won. Should Yoon Jong-hwan keep trusting the full-back in his new position, there’s potential for Hwang Mun-ki to really stand out this season.

Midfielders

Han Kook-young
Han Kook-young: Captain Han Kook-young played a more active role last year than he was able to in 2022, and though unable to feature much at the tail-end of the season due to injury concerns, showed some of his evergreen talents when able to. A confident passer, the 33-year-old was an active part in many of Gangwon’s attacks (he managed four assists in 2023, with an overall pass accuracy of 85.1%), while his box-to-box qualities saw him happy to get involved in the defensive third of the pitch too (per 90, he averaged 1.86 tackles won, 5.97 recoveries, and 1.32 interceptions). Hopefully, there’s plenty more to come from Han Kook-young again in 2024.

Kim Kang-gook: Joining from Chungnam Asan, Kim Kang-gook is the Bears’ third central midfield signing of the winter window. In a similar vein to Han Kook-young, the 27-year-old is a box-to-box player, creating 1.27 chances per 90, but ensuring the defence is kept relatively protected with an average of 5.8 recoveries, and 4.27 duels won (also per 90). As such, Kim Kang-gook should be a worthwhile deputy to Gangwon’s captain this year, and can help guarantee that Yoon Jong-hwan’s system won’t need to be tweaked much should any unwanted absences occur.

Yu In-soo: Initially used purely as a wing-back, Yu In-soo found he was better suited to the wing when Yoon Jong-hwan took charge, and now has renewed standing in the squad. Out wide, the 29-year-old was tasked with helping out with defensive duties - sometimes Gangwon would switch to a back five when defending, where he would drop back into his previous wing-back role - as well as link some of the attacking passages of play. Per 90, Yu In-soo averaged 0.98 chances created, 2.02 touches in the opposition box, 6.58 duels won, and 5.34 recoveries.

Lee Seung-won: One of, if not the brightest young prospect at Gangwon, Lee Seung-won is a player worth keeping an eye on in 2024. The 2023 U20 World Cup Bronze Ball winner (and South Korea's U20 captain) broke through into the first-team upon Yoon Jong-hwan’s arrival, and went on to make 14 total appearances, where he was deployed in either the centre of midfield, or as a number ten. Interestingly, given his obvious creativity when playing for South Korea’s U20 side, it was some of the youngster’s defensive actions which stood out during his 500+ minutes of action (per 90, he averaged 1.23 tackles won, 1.41 interceptions, and 4.75 recoveries). Going forward, however, Lee Seung-won will undoubtedly want to show himself to be deserving more responsibility, and prove he can become a focal point of the Bears’ midfield.

Lee Gi-hyuk: A fresh attacking addition from Jeju United, 23-year-old Lee Gi-hyuk joins Gangwon hoping to make his mark in the starting eleven. Last year, he managed one assist from 19 overall appearances - only seven of which were starts - but that doesn't quite tell the full story. After all, Lee Gi-hyuk averaged (per 90) 1.61 chances created, 3.43 successful dribbles, 1.71 possession won in the final third, and 10.48 duels won. This all seems to suggest that the adaptable 23-year-old midfielder/winger is someone willing to get stuck into whatever is asked of him, a trait that should be a big positive going into the season.

Kim Yi-seok
Kim Yi-seok: The brother of centre-back Kim Woo-seok, Kim Yi-seok signed for Gangwon from Gimpo FC this winter, as part of the Bears’ plans to cover the loss of Seo Min-woo while he’s away at Gimcheon. Last year, the central midfielder showed off some of his attacking attributes in K League 2, scoring four times from being given license to step up into an attacking position when required. Thus, Kim Yi-seok could be someone Yoon Jong-hwan favours as a starter in the midfield this season, thanks to his strong abilities all over the pitch.

Lee Sang-heon: Another new signing, Lee Sang-heon arrives after three years with Busan IPark. In 2023, the versatile attacking midfielder spent more of his time playing in K4 than he did in K League 2, but memories won’t have faded from his successful 2022, where he racked up 10 goal contributions (7 goals, 3 assists). As such, focus should be put into getting Lee Sang-heon back to full sharpness, so he can in turn return to his most productive form.

Kim Dae-woo: Despite being appointed as one of Gangwon’s vice-captains when Yoon Jong-hwan was hired as manager, Kim Dae-woo couldn’t nail down a starting position. Instead, the 23-year-old central midfielder - who showed some intriguing versatility early in the year playing as a defensive winger - spent the majority of his time plying his trade for the Bears’ now defunct B team. Quite where Kim Dae-woo will fit into Gangwon’s team in 2024 remains to be seen, but there is definitely talent there.

Kang Ji-hun: Another player who can deputise in either midfield or defence, Kang Ji-hun marked his return from injury last season with 16 overall appearances, but none following the end of the regular season after he’d had a stint on the right side of defence. Perhaps this year, the 27-year-old will get a chance to a play a role similar to Yu In-soo’s, given the right-back spot seems to have been secured (for now, at least) by Hwang Mun-ki.

Yuta Kamiya: A new signing for 2024, Yuta Kamiya joins Gangwon as a free agent following a stint at Shimizu S-Pulse. Capable of playing on the left side of midfield, but more commonly found playing as a number ten, the hope will be that the 26-year-old Japanese midfielder can inject some creativity into Yoon Jong-hwan’s more recently favoured 4-2-3-1 system.

Song Jun-seok: Returning from a loan at Gimpo FC, Song Jun-seok will want to build on his promising performances in K League 2 last season, and carve out a consistent place for himself in Gangwon’s first team. Versatile enough to play in either full-back position, or step into midfield both centrally and out wide, the 22-year-old has enough utility to be an understatedly valuable member of the Bears’ squad, and continue to realise his potential. Impressively, Song Jun-seok last year averaged (per 90) 2.78 tackles won, 6.38 duels won, and 6.71 recoveries.

Attackers

Vitor Gabriel
Vitor Gabriel: In many ways a Gangwon hero given his brace in the second leg of the promotion/relegation playoff spearheaded the Bears to K League 1 safety, now is the time for Vitor Gabriel to solidify his starting spot in the team. The Brazilian striker came into rich form during the Final B portion of the season, where he scored two goals and began to show proficiency as a target-man. Already averaging a per 90 xG of 0.53, and 1.61 chances created, now is the time for Vitor Gabriel to take his game to the next level.

Yago Cariello: Currently on loan until the summer from Portimonense, Yago Cariello managed one goal and one assist across his 11 K League 1 appearances in 2023, before last appearing in the B team back in November. Whether the 24-year-old forward can get a defined role in this upcoming season is up for debate with limited time left on his loan deal, but there’s certainly room for Yago as a squad depth option.

Galego: After a successful loan in 2022, Galego signed permanently with Gangwon ahead of the 2023 season. However, the fast-paced Brazilian struggled to fully find his feet in his first full year with the club, and saw himself used regularly as an impact sub as opposed to a regular starter. Still, Galego did score four times last season, and had enough bright matches - namely against Gimpo in the FA Cup and away to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in round 30 - to show his worth to the team. If some of his inconsistencies can be ironed out, the 26-year-old could well become a regular fixture on the wings this upcoming season.

Park Sang-hyeok
Park Sang-hyeok: 2023 was a breakout year for Park Sang-hyeok. After scoring his first professional goal for Gangwon against FC Seoul in round nine, he would go on to hit the net three more times in K League 1, helping showcase his ongoing development, and making him the team’s joint top-scorer for the year. And, while the striker saw his minutes reduced towards the end of the season, in 2024 it seems near certain he will be granted more first-team opportunities, where he can build on his target-man potential.

Welinton Junior: There’s definitely a quality player in Welinton Junior, but the Brazilian’s summer signing at Gangwon didn’t quite have the impact Yoon Jong-hwan perhaps would have preferred. Two offside goals and one assist was the best of his tangible output, though the 30-year-old versatile forward did show flashes of real creativity, particularly in counter attacking play (he averaged 1.2 chances created per 90, and a non-penalty xG of 0.36). With Kim Dae-won away at Gimcheon, Welinton may get some more consistent game time, and be able to show what he’s capable of more often.

Yang Min-hyuk: Now signed to a semi-pro deal - the same type Jo Hyun-tae had signed last season - it appears there is a pathway to the first-team for 17-year-old Yang Min-hyuk. The winger recently grabbed attention for his performances at the U17 World Cup too, and with no B team this year, may be best suited for sticking in and around the core group of players, which could garner him opportunities (even if just to fulfil the U22 quota).

*Last Updated 16/02/2024 15:06 GMT*



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