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2023 Preview: How will Cheonan City adjust to life in K League 2?



It’s a season of many firsts for Cheonan, as they look to make the step up from the semi-professional K3 League and Korean National League, to the crazy party that is K League 2. Yet, this isn’t a side that gained promotion to the second flight on the merit of finishing as champions. No, instead this is a team who applied to join the second division of Korean football and met the requirements set by the KFA to become a professional outfit. So with that in mind, just how will Cheonan City fare in K League 2?

New Look, New Ambitions

Ahead of the start of K League 2 getting underway, Cheonan City has undergone a rebrand of the club's image. Perhaps a requirement set by the KFA to look the part of a fully professional team or maybe a statement of intent from the club that they are treating their ‘promotion’ to the big leagues seriously. 

In terms of visual changes, Cheonan have decided to forgo their old badge and emblem for something slightly more modern. The badge incorporates the Independence Hall of Korea in the centre and the torch of Yu Gwan-sun, who led the movement for national independence against Japanese rule.




The club are fortunate enough to play at Cheonan Stadium, which has a capacity of over 26,000 spectators and has been used previously to host FIFA U-20 World Cup games. As part of the clubs admittance into the league, they have stated that they will be doing work to stadium in order to repair and improve its condition.

Life in K3

As mentioned earlier, Cheonan City sees themselves in K League 2 due to their application for promotion being accepted, not due to the archetypal way we are used to. 

There were a team which finished the 2022 season in 10th place out of a possible 16. Across the 30 games they played, they won 9, drew 13 and lost 8. Finishing with a +4 goal differential and 17 points behind first place. They actually had the 4th best defensive record in the division, but naturally their issue was at the other end of the pitch and failed to turn those 13 draws into wins.

With 7 0-0 draws and 6 1-1 draws, Cheonan will be looking to add some attacking impetuous to their game, as the jump to K2 will be firmly felt and they must be competitive. However, City need also decide on a philosophy and tactical style. K League 2 had 556 goals scored in the 2022 season, which works out at just over 2.53 goals per game. Cheonan do not want to find themselves on the receiving end of a barrage.


Who to keep an eye on?

City have been busy during the off-season, naturally making big changes to a side which featured semi-professional players and staff. The club confirmed early in January that Brazilian forwards Bruno Mota and Rodolfo had re-signed for the club for the upcoming K2 season. The duo both joined in June last year and had 27 appearances between them, with Mota scoring 2 and Rodolfo scoring 3.


Yet, they are not the only foreign contingents on the team, with Cheonan announcing the signing of Vietnamese 23-year-old Canh Anh Nguyen on loan from Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC. He will join his teammate and fellow compatriot Minh Hieu Vu, who also joins on loan from the same club and plays as a centre-forward.

Croatian attacking midfielder, Damir Sovsic, also joins the team, as they look to utilise their foreign signings to improve in their attacking phases.

But what of the current team? Was there any standout performers from last season who have been kept on? Captain and defensive midfielder, Lee Min-soo will be a stalwart player to steady the ship in a new look team. With the average age of this Cheonan side being 25.5, Lee with his experience, maturity and leadership will be vital in maintaining the balance between veteran players and youthful exuberance.


Does the ambition match the drapes?

The club brought in former Seongnam Ilhwa Chuma and Korean National Team midfielder, Park Nam-yeol as manager. Formerly coaching at Gimhae FC and helping them obtain a respectable 7th place finish Nam-yeol does have some idea of how K League 2 operates, after spending time as an assistant manager at Jeonnam Dragons.

Cheonan flew out to Thailand for pre-season for some much-needed warmth during this winter period, basing themselves in Chonburi and playing in some unofficial Friendlies against local sides.

Given that Cheonan are a debut team in the league, and that they are here due to their application being accepted, like any side which comes up from the division below, you will have them placed as firm favourites to struggle. However, we saw Gimpo FC, a team which had also come from K3 League, compete well in this league last season and gave a good account for themselves despite the jump from semi-professional to fully professional football. 

Given the clubs, astute signings and business in bringing in players which can help with the attack, whilst retaining those who helped them have a respectable defensive record, can only be a positive.

But as we know, there ain’t no party like a K2 party. Anything is possible.


 

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