2015 K-League Challenge Preview
The big news in the K-League challenge this season is the arrival of a second Seoul team. Seoul E-Land have joined the league and have spent big in an attempt to get promoted from it at the first time of asking. Former Vancouver Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie has brought with him two players from North America. Rennie will know new signing Trinidad and Tobago defender Carlyle Mitchell well as Mitchell played for him in Vancouver. Jamaican forward Ryan Johnson will also be well-known to Rennie. In his career, Johnson has played for five MLS clubs, and was the San Jose Earthquakes’ top scorer and MVP in 2009. He also has experience of playing for an Asian club, having been at Henan Jianye last season. The other two foreigner spots are taken up by Tarabai, a Brazilian forward who is a bit of an unknown quantity; however, he has been scoring goals for fun for Hibernians in the Maltese league. Japanese striker Robert Cullen takes the Asian player spot, and has played at a higher level in the J-league with Jubilo Iwata and in the Eredivisie with VVV.
E-land have brought in some top quality Korean signings, the most notable being midfielder Cho Won Hee. Cho has 36 international caps and has played in the English Premier League with Wigan Athletic. He is joined in midfield by Kim Jae Sung, another former international who arrives from Pohang. Seoul have also brought in several players from the J-2 as well as Ulsan’s back-up goalie Kim Young Kwang who spent last season on loan at Gyeongnam.
Sangju Sangmu will be looking to spoil E-land’s ambitions and regain their top flight status. Their chances of this have been greatly improved by a number of quality players coming in for their military service this season. K-League best XI star Lim Sang Hyub comes in from Busan where he scored eleven goals last season. He is joined by the exciting Lee Seung Gi from Jeonbuk, and Korean international Lee Yong from Ulsan.
Ansan and Gangwon will both be disappointed at their play-off defeats to Gwangju last season. Ansan will be hoping to continue the good form that they showed at the end of last season, and will be thankful that they can keep hold of Lee Jae Kwon and Lee Yong Rae for another year before they return to Seoul and Suwon respectively. Alex, Gangwon’s top scorer last season with 16 goals, has left the club for Thai side Chainat Hornbill. Gangwon will be hoping to keep hold of their star midfielder Choi Jin Ho if they are to mount another playoff challenge this season.
Gyeongnam’s relegation in the playoffs last season has hit them hard with the squad losing most of their better players. It’s hard to predict how well their new look side will cope this season, and with cost cutting in place at the club, a bounce straight back to the top tier may be more hopeful thinking than expectation for the 2012 FA cup winners.
FC Anyang will also be disappointed by how their season ended last year. They spent much of the year in the top three, only to miss out on the play-offs on goal difference. They have brought in a few loans this year to strengthen their squad, including midfielder Kim Sun Min from Ulsan and surprisingly Austin Berry, an American defender, from Philadelphia Union. Daegu have strengthened their forward line with Eder Luiz, a Brazilian-Palestinian, from Al-Shabab. The Journeyman striker has also had spells in Brazil and Greece where he played for AEK Athens. Daegu have also brought in left back Moon Jin Young from Jeonbuk while Bucheon have signed Almir from Ulsan. The K-League Challenge kicks off on the 21st and 22nd of March for all teams except for Seoul E-land. As there are an odd number of teams in the league, Seoul’s second team will have to wait a further week before they can kick-off their first league match.