Football teams finalize many offseason signings

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Football teams finalize many offseason signings

With the start of the 2011 K-League season just around the corner, teams have been finalizing their offseason signings and watching a large number of current and former national team players change sides.

Among the 16 clubs in the league, Ulsan Hyundai and the Suwon Bluewings were the busiest during the offseason, making significant upgrades to their rosters.

Ulsan is currently negotiating with free-agent forward Seol Ki-hyeon. The 32-year-old former national-team forward has played in Belgium, England and Saudi Arabia, and competed in his first K-League season last year with the Pohang Steelers, scoring seven goals and adding three assists in 16 league matches.

“We were considering overseas players to fill the forward position,” said Song Dong-jin, Ulsan’s vice president, in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “We did not find any overseas players to our liking and Seol can be a very good option for us.

“Having said that, we are going to have to consider his age and hefty contract before making any final decisions.”

Jose Maria Ortigoza of Paraguay led Ulsan in scoring with 17 goals last season but has moved on to Brazil’s Cruzeiro Esporte Clube. With Ortigoza gone, Ulsan lacks a top-flight goal scorer.

National team forward Kim Shin-wook scored seven goals and added three assists for Ulsan last season while Noh Byung-joon notched two goals and added one assist. The two are projected to start, provided the club doesn’t sign anyone new, like Seol.

Ulsan finished fourth in the league last year with 15 wins, eight losses and five draws. The addition of Seol would finalize an impressive offseason for Ulsan, which managed to bolster its midfield and defense by signing veterans Kwak Tae-hwi, Song Chong-gug, Lee Ho and Kang Min-soo.

Ulsan lost veteran defender Kim Dong-jin to FC Seoul but managed to significantly upgrade its defense with the addition of Kwak and Kang.

Both are veterans with plenty of international experience, while defensive midfielders Lee and Song, member of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup squads, should further bolster an already strong Ulsan defense, which finished with the fourth-best defense in the league last year by allowing just 30 goals - behind Jeju United, FC Seoul and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

The Suwon Bluewings also signed an impressive group of free agents to upgrade its roster after finishing the 2010 season seventh overall with 12 wins, 11 losses and five draws. Suwon signed Lee Yong-rae, Oh Beom-seok, Jung Sung-ryong and Choi Sung-kuk among others.

Goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong has been the starting goalkeeper on the national team since taking over for Lee Woon-jae at the 2010 South Africa World Cup. Lee Yong-rae has emerged as a starting defensive midfielder and has also been tabbed as a possible replacement for retired national-team left fullback Lee Yong-pyo.

Suwon lost forward Shin Yong-rok to Jeju United but added veteran midfielder Choi Sung-kuk. Oh Beom-seok, who split time at the right-fullback position with Cha Du-ri during the 2010 World Cup, will also provide a huge defensive boost for the Bluewings.

Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, which finished fifth last season with 15 wins, six losses and nine draws, failed to add any free agents despite losing Jung Sung-ryong and Choi Sung-kuk to the Bluewings.


By Jason Kim [jason@joonagng.co.kr]
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