Midfielder Park Yong-woo (Al Ain, UAE) is the only one missing. Ulsan Hyundai’s inexplicable fall from grace continues.
A season is a long breath. Crises happen to every team. But Ulsan has been unbeatable. “We will have a crisis at some point,” said Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo. But it seemed like something from another world. 안전놀이터
However, a “real crisis” came to Ulsan. After the transfer of Park Yong-woo, the “center back commander,” Ulsan fell into a one-win, one-draw, three-loss slump. In their last five games, they have only earned four points. It’s even worse that they’ve become a ‘point vending machine for the last place team’. Ulsan lost 1-0 to last-place Suwon Samsung in the 23rd round on March 15. Then, in the 26th round on December 12, Ulsan fell to their knees 0-2 at home against Gangwon FC, who also slipped to the bottom of the table after Suwon.
Gangwon, which joined the K League in 2009, caught Ulsan at home for the first time since its inception. They have two wins against Ulsan, but both came away from home. Ulsan also broke Gangwon’s 25-match winless streak against Ulsan (21 wins and four draws) after 11 years on July 15, 2012. Gangwon used Ulsan as a “bolster” to get back on track, picking up three points in 16 games after seven draws and eight losses. It was Yoon Jeong-hwan’s first win in charge of Gangwon.
Ulsan still has some breathing room. There is a large gap between them and the second-place group in the 40-point range. Ulsan (57 points, 18 wins, 3 draws, 5 losses) is within striking distance of the 60-point mark. However, at this rate, it’s not going to happen. Moreover, a higher bar awaits them next month. Seol Young-woo and Uhm Won-sang, who made the final roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games, will not be returning. August will be crucial for the team to navigate the variables wisely.
Hong is also feeling a sense of crisis. He believes the team is in the lowest mood since he took over as Ulsan’s coach. He knows that there is no way out but to overcome himself.
It is urgent to revive the ‘winning mentality’. In the case of Gangwon, the team was overwhelmed by the determination of their opponents from the beginning of the game. Winning doesn’t just fall out of the sky. We shouldn’t forget that it took Ulsan 17 years to reach the top of the K League last year. We need to play every game with confidence and urgency.
We also need to think differently. We don’t need to play hastily. Playing too much leads to counterattacks, which leads to goals. In a crisis, the result is more important than the content. It is important to play football with faith, but we also need to expand the range of players. The new center combination of Lee Kyu-sung and Kim Min-hyuk is showing its limitations. Lee Myung-jae, the left fullback, has his ups and downs. The team should actively utilize foreign resources such as Ataru, Rubikson, and Boyanich. Seol Young-woo and Kim Tae-hwan, the left and right fullbacks, also need to be restored.
Ulsan welcomes ‘Hyundai rival’ Jeonbuk home on the 19th. There is no place to back down. The opponent is the opponent, but Ulsan’s priority at this point is internal cohesion.