In the 12-team K League 1, the top division of professional soccer, up to three teams can be relegated. The final 11th-place finisher will play the second-place finisher in K League 2 (Division 2), and the 10th-place finisher will play the winner of the Division 3-5 playoffs. They have a last chance. Twelfth place, on the other hand, is automatic relegation. Suwon Samsung and Gangwon FC are two teams that want to avoid the bottom of the table.
For Suwon, a club steeped in tradition, the 2023 season has been a nightmare. After opening the season without a win in 10 games (2 draws and 8 losses), the club struggled to record its first win until the 11th round against Incheon United in May. Suwon hired Kim Byung-soo, 53, as their new head coach that same month, but there was no rebound. From early April to mid-July, Suwon didn’t move out of 12th place. However, a 3-1 win over Ulsan Hyundai on March 15, followed by a 2-1 victory over Gangwon, lifted them out of last place. It was Suwon’s first back-to-back wins of the season after a string of losses.
Kangwon, who were also struggling and hanging on to 11th place, dropped to the bottom of the table after the Suwon blow. However, the team bounced back with a 2-0 victory over Ulsan on April 12. Gangwon’s victory broke several records. It was their first win over Ulsan in 11 years, and the first time they had beaten them at home since their founding in 2008. Most importantly, it was a three-point victory. Gangwon coach Yoon Jung-hwan (50), who tasted his first victory since taking over in June, said, “The players were focused until the end. We will continue our winning streak.” After 15 days, Gangwon has 20 points, just one point ahead of Suwon (19). Coincidentally, the other two bottom teams were sacrificed by first-place Ulsan (57 points).
Both Suwon’s Kim Byung-soo and Gangwon’s Yoon Jung-hwan were outstanding midfielders as players. Kim was called a “genius” and Yoon was praised for his “good passing and dribbling”. Kim has been coaching since 1998 and Yoon since 2008, and both have a particularly heavy burden on their shoulders as firefighters to lead their teams to survival this year. With 26 games out of 38 rounds played, Suwon will play Jeju United (8th place – 34 points) on Oct. 18 and Gangwon will play Suwon FC on Oct. 19.
10th-place Suwon FC is also in a tough spot. With 23 points, they are just three points ahead of Gangwon. On July 7, 꽁머니사이트 key striker Lass (32, South Africa) was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and the KFA handed him a 15-match suspension. He will miss the remainder of the season. Ras is fourth on the team’s scoring list with nine goals. Suwon FC will look to Lee Seung-woo (25-4 goals) to step up.