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Coach for reigning football champs tempers expectations on returning ex-captain

All News 08:17 January 25, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- Reigning South Korean football champions FC Seoul have been reunited with their former captain Ha Dae-sung this winter, but their coach Hwang Sun-hong is trying to temper expectations.

The veteran midfielder has come a full circle after leaving Seoul in 2014 for stints in China and Japan. Best known for his passing skills -- which earned him the moniker Havi after ex-FC Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez -- Ha will be counted on to be the field general for the 2016 K League Classic champions.

For now though, Hwang is taking a wait-and-see approach.

In this file photo taken on Dec. 3, 2016, FC Seoul head coach Hwang Sun-hong looks out to the field ahead of their Korea Football Association Cup final match against the Suwon Samsung Bluewings at Seoul World Cup Stadium. (Yonhap)

"Ha Dae-sung will need plenty of time to get back into shape because he's been away from the field for so long," Hwang said Wednesday. "We'll have to see what kind of impact his return will have on our team."

Ha spent the past season with Nagoya Grampus in the top Japanese competition, J1 League. They didn't qualify for the playoffs, and their season ended in early November.

Ha only signed last Thursday, missing FC Seoul's intensive, three-week camp in Guam earlier this month.

Hwang said he expects Ha will only come around just before or even after the start of the season on March 4, though once that happens, he will be a key part of the team's offense.

In this photo provided by FC Seoul on Jan. 19, 2017, midfielder Ha Dae-sung poses next to the team's logo after signing with the club. (Yonhap)

Ha's signing came three days after the team lost Carlos Adriano, their leading scorer from 2016, to a Chinese club. Ha may never be the scorer that Adriano was, but he can still make FC Seoul better in other areas.

"I think his creative passing skills will be of great help," Hwang said. "We have other defensive midfielders, with Ju Se-jong and Osmar Barba, and Ha will be able to play a more offensive role."

As for the rest of his offense, Hwang said he hasn't decided on the new formation after Adriano's departure.

He had formed the K League's most lethal offensive unit alongside Dejan Damjanovic and Park Chu-young. Hwang said either Damjanovic, a former K League scoring champion and MVP, will be the featured striker, or he and Park, a one-time Arsenal man, will lead the two-pronged attack.

Following their Guam training camp, FC Seoul have been working out in Korea. They will leave for Hong Kong on Thursday for a minor tournament and spend 10 days in Kagoshima, Japan, for more training starting Feb. 1.


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