Professional soccer K League 2 team Gimcheon Sangmu, which returned to the first division after one season with a dramatic upset victory, actually did not have a bright future until the middle of this season.
After a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Ansan Greeners on May 3, the team went on to lose three games against Seongnam (2-2), Anyang (0-0), Chungbuk Cheongju (0-0), and Jeonnam (0-1).
By the end of May, Gimcheon’s ranking had dropped to sixth place. It was a period in which other team managers had called Gimcheon the “absolute number one” before the start of the season.
Chung Jung-yong emerged as a firefighter for Gimcheon. Chung, who came to prominence after coaching South Korea to a runner-up finish at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, hadn’t quite made the grade at the senior level.
After the U-20 World Cup, he took over the reins of the K League 2 Seoul Eland, but despite significant support from the club, he failed to lead the team to the promotion playoffs and was eventually fired after failing to secure a new contract.
After parting ways with former coach Kim Tae-wan last season, who had led the club since 2017, Gimcheon began the new season with Sung Hansu as head coach, but needed a full-time coach with military status.
Due to the team’s status as an Armed Forces Athletic Organization, there were only a handful of soccer coaches who could fulfill all of Gimcheon’s demanding requirements, and the meeting between Gimcheon and Chung was a natural fit.
Chung suffered a 0-1 defeat against the Jeonnam Dragons on his debut in the 16th round, but the team went on to win their next four games.
Gimcheon also climbed up the standings, reaching the top for the first time under Chung on July 19.
In the second half of the season, when a two-way tie with Busan I-Park, which has been in the lead since September, was solidified, Chung’s team went unbeaten in seven games (six wins and one draw) to pull off the upset.
In particular, last month, the team exploded for 15 goals in four games and laid the foundation for a thrilling upset victory.
Gimcheon has a history of returning key players to their original clubs after completing their military service, so the emphasis is on organization and motivation.
In fact, Chung is said to have emphasized mental strength and a passion for winning to the Gimcheon squad since his arrival. According to the club, he met with each player individually and ordered them to work on their mental game.
Under Jung, Gimcheon has been particularly strong in home games. Starting on June 10 against Ansan and ending on the same day against Irand, the team won 11 and drew one of its 12 home matches, picking up plenty of points.
Gimcheon’s come-from-behind victories have been fueled by a fiery offense.
Gimcheon has scored 71 goals in 36 games this season. That’s one of the most prolific offenses in history.
The team with the most goals in the history of the K League 2 is Sangju Sangmu in 2015 (77). Busan is second with 72 goals in the 2019 season.
Gimcheon’s goal differential (+34) is also “second best in history.
The team with the best goal differential in K League 2 history is Lee Jung-hyo’s Gwangju FC (+36), which won the title last season and was promoted to the first division.
Gimcheon’s firepower is largely due to Cho Young-wook, who is currently in military training.
Jo Young-wook, who was tied for the top scorer with Gimpo FC with 13 goals, last played for Jeongju against Chungbuk Cheongju on September 2.
Selected to represent Korea at the Hangzhou Asian Games, Cho Young-wook scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Japan in the tournament’s final and announced his ‘early retirement’ after the victory.
‘Corporal’ Cho, who joined Gimcheon for military service, received military benefits for winning the gold medal.
He has only played 28 games for Gimcheon this season, but his name hasn’t disappeared from the scoring charts.
Lewis, Valdivia (Jeonnam), and Gleison (Gyeongnam) are the top five scorers, and all of them are foreign players.
Cho Young-wook, who was in charge of the front line as Gimcheon’s de facto “foreign player,” is currently fulfilling the remainder of his military training schedule in preparation for an early transfer. He will return to his original team, FC Seoul, on the 30th.
Cho and Gimcheon will be reunited as enemies next season. That’s because Gimcheon is returning to the top division after a one-season absence.
In the 2022 season, Gimcheon fell to 11th place in K League 1 and played a promotion playoff (PO) against then-K League 2 runner-up Daejeon Hana Citizens. They lost the first two games 1-6 and were relegated, but a year later they are back in the top division. 슬롯게이밍