Seoul, Suwon hope new coaches bring change
Football can be a cruel game and July was tough for the two biggest rivals in South Korea: FC Seoul and Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The month saw the coaches of both teams depart their jobs.
In the middle of the month, Lee Lim-saeng parted company with Suwon and last week Choi Yongsoo called it quits in the capital. It was not much of a surprise given that Seoul had just lost 5-1 in the FA Cup to Pohang Steelers.
That means there is no chance of silverware for Seoul this season. The 2016 champion could not win the cup and given what has been happening in the league, there is no chance of a title and no chance of even finishing in the top three and qualifying for next year’s Asian Champions League.
It has been a dreadful season for Seoul. Choi led the team to the 2012 title and the final of the Champions League the following year. He left in 2016 to coach in China and returned in 2018 for a second spell in charge.
He seemed to still have some of his old magic and took Seoul to third last season — but this year has been defeat after defeat. In the first 13 league games of the season, the team lost nine and the loss in the FA Cup was one shock too many.
Despite the presence of some big names such as Park Chuyoung, Adriano, Osmar and (now) Ki Sung-yueng, Seoul has struggled. Defensively, the team has been all over the place and conceded 30 goals in the first 14 games, far more than any other. And when only 12 goals have been scored then it is not difficult to understand why Seoul is just one spot off the bottom.
There is some good news. A change of coach often brings an immediate, if short-term, improvement in results and that is what happened on Saturday. Under temporary boss Kim Ho-young, Seoul picked up a valuable 2-1 win over Seongnam.
That didn’t happen for Suwon. The first game following Lee’s departure earlier this month ended in defeat against the same Seongnam team.
Suwon had similar issues to its rival. Defensively it has not been as bad as Seoul but the goals have hardly flowed. A lack of creativity and flexibility when going forward not only made Suwon games boring to watch but turned the Bluewings into an ineffectual attacking unit.
For both teams now, the best they can do is start to think about next season. The terrible form of Incheon United means that relegation is highly unlikely so both Seoul and Suwon should treat what is going to be a shorter season than usual as a way to get their act together for 2021.
If possible, the clubs should confirm the new coaches as soon as possible so they can make the changes they want this season and iron out as many problems as they can ahead of the new season.
The K League needs a strong Seoul and a strong Suwon. Events of July could be a first step towards that happening but there is much to fix — and not just the coaches.
Former FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo speaks during press conference before the AFC Champions League match against Melbourne Victory at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, Feb. 17.