Korea Baseball Organization
Samsung Lions at Doosan Bears
6:00 p.m. Saturday, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Seoul
What a difference one season can make. Just last year during the Korean Series, the Doosan Bears and the Samsung Lions vied for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) title of 2015. Now, less than a year after the Korean Series 2015, while the Bears are at the top of the league once more, the Lions are at rock bottom, highly unlikely to play in the postseason after this month.
The Lions won the KBO 2015 regular season and had comfortably secured their spot in last year’s Korean Series. The Bears, on the other hand, had to work their way up through a series of playoff games in order to take a shot at the Korean Series title, which the Lions had taken for the past four years from 2011 to 2014. Of course, general consensus was that the Bears would ultimately come out of the 2015 Series empty-handed while the Lions would continue further with their title streak. But at the end of the day, the roaring Lions were brought to their knees by the charging Bears.
That’s perhaps when the dynamics of the KBO finally shifted. Since 1997, the Lions have not failed to advance to the postseason, except in 2009. Other than 2009, the Lions have claimed seven Korean Series titles, making them the most successful club in the KBO. But now, the Bears have taken the crown to become indisputable champions. This season, the Bears have won eight games and lost only four against the Lions.
The Lions and the Bears will play at the same venue for the second game of this weekend’s series on Sunday at 2 p.m.
FC Seoul at Incheon United FC
7 p.m. Saturday, Incheon Football Stadium
Perhaps the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors were too much for FC Seoul to handle, who lost by 3-1 against the Jeonju-based team on Aug. 28.
Seoul could have blamed the fact that they just came out of an Asian Champions League (ACL) match against Shandong Luneng FC of the Chinese Super League on Aug. 24, but this excuse seem less than convincing since Jeonbuk also played in an ACL game just a day before Seoul.
Now that the second-ranked Seoul-based team takes on the bottom-ranked Incheon United FC this week, the Seoul club may have some room to breathe and console itself after its heartbreaking loss the previous week. The good news is that the Brazilian striker Carlos Adriano is back in business.
Adriano had not scored for weeks for the Seoul-side and had been suspended from the K-League in June, and even after he came back to the pitch, he seemed to have somewhat lost his lethal touch. But last week, Adriano, the “the livewire striker” as described by the Asian Football Confederation, scored not only in the ACL match but also against Jeonbuk, which was the only goal that Seoul had, to mark his return. It seemed as though Adriano is ready once again to hunt for goals and possibly the top scorer title of the league.
Right now, Adriano is ranked fourth in the league in scoring with 12 goals, only one goal behind his teammates, Dejan Damjanovic and Jung Jo-gook of Gwangju FC.
Meanwhile, Incheon United seems to be in crisis as its manager Kim Do-hoon stepped down from the post to take responsibility for the team’s poor performance. Coach Lee Ki-hyung will oversee the team as the acting manager for the time being.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings at Seongnam FC
7 p.m. Sunday, Tancheon Sports Complex, Seongnam, Gyeonggi
Where did the old Suwon Samsung Bluewings go?
Suwon, who finished the 2014 and 2015 seasons as the runner-up after Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, is irrefutably the elite club of the K-League Classic. Since the league began in 1983, the Bluewings have won four K-League Classic titles. In the Asian Champions League (ACL), it has claimed three titles total, making it one of the most successful clubs in Asia.
But this year’s Suwon just simply cannot pull itself together to live up to the club’s old reputation.
At the moment, the Bluewings are ranked 10th in the K-League, third from the bottom, barely evading the cut for possible relegation next season. Even in the ACL this year, Suwon had finished its group at third, unable to make it past the group stage into the round of 16. Seo Jung-won, a former Bluewinger himself during its heyday, took over the position as the team’s skipper starting in 2013, after serving as its assistant coach in 2012.
Seo needs to make things happen soon in order to assuage the anger of Suwon fans, who remember their home club as an elite team always near the top of the rankings in any competition it was in.
At this year’s K-League, Suwon has only won six matches, while tying 13 and suffering nine losses. For four weeks straight, the Bluewings are without a single victory, the last one being from July 31 against Jeju United FC when it defeated the Jeju side 5-3. Even then, were it not for the goals scored later in the second half, it might have been difficult for Suwon to win.
In last week’s K-League match, Suwon tied with Sangju Sangmu FC, the football side of Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps.