KENYA BROWN - Friday, November 22, 2019
Mix Diskerud and Ulsan Hyundai could get their hands on the K League 1 crown on Saturday in South Korea as they face Jeonbuk Motors in the potential title decider.
It's rare to find American players plying their trade in Asia as many teams in the region are more prone to sign guys from Central and South America, Eastern Europe or Africa. However, this season has been one of excitement as two Americans have played huge roles for their teams in their pursuit of silverware.
Jonny Campbell was the linchpin in the back line for Svay Rieng as they romped to the C-League title in Cambodia a couple of weeks ago. Now, Mix Diskerud could be the next American to claim a title as his team, Ulsan Hyundai, is closing in on the K League 1 crown.
This will be the first title for the team based in the southeast of South Korea since 2005, but they have a huge obstacle in their way to reaching the top of the mountain.
Jeonbuk Motors, the defending K League 1 champions, lie just three points behind Ulsan, and they will be heading to the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium intent on making sure the title is not decided until the last game of the season on Dec. 1. The team is also looking to win their third consecutive league title if the result sways in their favor.
It has been a good season for Diskerud and Ulsan thus far. A much stronger run in the league this season and a good showing in the AFC Asian Champions League, where they reached the Round of 16, should be rewarded with a title. The Tigers have always been contenders in the K League, but have have fallen short on many occasions. They hold the record for second place finishes with seven, and they'll be hoping to stave off number eight with a win on Saturday.
On a personal note, the Norwegian-American has done his part to get the team to where they are now as he's played in 30 games and chipped in with five goals.
When these two teams met in August Jeonbuk came away with a 3-0 win, showing their strength as perennial champions. However, the upcoming game may give Ulsan one big advantage. They have been a hard team to beat at home as they have won 12 out their 16 games, with only one loss coming at the hands of Seongnam.
Ulsan will enter Saturday's game at full strength. Shin Jin-ho and Lee Dong-gyeong have recovered from their respective injuries and should provide some help to Diskerud in the midfield shoud the coach elect to put them in the starting eleven. And they will be counting on Brazilian forward Junior Negao to be on target as he is joint top-scorer in the league with 16 goals.
On the other side, Jeonbuk will be missing their key player, midfielder Moon Seon-min, as he serves a suspension for accumulated yellow cards. Lee Yong could also be ruled out of the game as he tries to overcome a knee injury.
It promises to be an exciting yet never wracking encounter on Saturday as one of these teams will look to end the season as the champions of South Korea.