Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo looking to take next step in K League title defense

After coaching Ulsan Hyundai FC to the pinnacle of South Korean football last year, Hong Myung-bo said Wednesday he would like to see his squad take the proverbial next step in 2023.

Ulsan held off their longtime rivals Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last year for their first K League 1 title since 2005. They had finished runners-up to Jeonbuk in each of the three previous seasons, but Hong snapped that skid in his second year in charge 메이저사이트

The two clubs are once again expected to duel for the K League supremacy this year.

“We have to keep building on good things we did last year and take another step forward,” Hong said at a press conference at his team’s clubhouse in Ulsan, some 310 kilometers southeast of Seoul. “Sacrifices by all of our players led to great results last year. But we didn’t necessarily win the title because we had a better team than Jeonbuk. We were just able to execute the kind of football we wanted to play. The key this year is to continue to play complete football.”

Jeonbuk, the biggest spenders in the K League year in and year out, have been predictably busy this winter bringing in new faces. Hong acknowledged that Ulsan will never be able to match Jeonbuk’s deep pockets.

“At least we haven’t lost too many players from our championship team last year,” Hong said. “This will be my third year here, and I’ve asked my players to be even sharper in their execution. For instance, we conceded a lot of goals on counterattacks and crosses, and we have to be better in those areas.”

Hong said Ulsan will be fine without Amano and added he was pleased with the way the remaining players showed up in training camp in great shape.

In particular, Hong was looking forward to deploying returning striker Joo Min-kyu, a former Ulsan forward who rejoined the club last week after leading the K League 1 in goals in 2021 and 2022 for Jeju United.

Joo will join Hungarian marksman Martin Adam on the front line of attack.

“We may consider using both of them as strikers. We must find ways that can make the best use of their talent,” Hong said. “They are similar in their style of play. We will try different things with them during our training camp.”

Ulsan will continue to train at home through Jan. 19, and then travel to Portugal on Jan. 21 for overseas camp.

“We’ve been trying to entertain our fans with a fun brand of football,” Hong said. “The mood in the clubhouse is great. We’ll try to build on our success to prepare for the 2023 season.”

One of the few Ulsan players that left is Japanese midfielder Jun Amano, who joined Jeonbuk last Thursday after scoring nine goals in 30 matches for Ulsan in 2022.

The usually stoic Hong had a few choice words for Amano, calling the 31-year-old “the worst Japanese player I’ve ever seen” for his dishonesty.

“He first told me money wasn’t important, but ultimately, he went to Jeonbuk for money,” said Hong, who played five seasons in Japan from 1997 to 2001. “He basically lied. I’ve met a lot of Japanese players so far and he’s the worst ever. If he had been honest about money, we would’ve negotiated (a better deal) because of his contribution to the team. The fact that he left for money, which he first said wasn’t important, shows he has absolutely no respect for Ulsan and our players.”

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