Ulsan Hyundai is divided into two periods: before and after the appointment of Hong Myung-bo. Hyundai had appointed numerous managers and raced for the K League golden trophy, but ended up as runners-up. After being criticized as a “junsan,” Hong handed over the baton to Myung-bo Hong, and after 17 years, the team has won two consecutive titles with an early victory.
Ulsan hosted Jeonbuk Hyundai in the final match of the 2023 Hana One Q K League 1 at their home stadium, Ulsan Munsu Stadium, on March 3. Ulsan had clinched the title with a win over Daegu FC in October, regardless of the remaining matches, but wanted to have a successful coronation by knocking out their rivals at home.
While a loss would not have prevented them from winning the title, Ulsan were more focused than ever. Instead, they took the pressure off Jeonbuk by passing the ball with ease. Seol Young-woo made a bold move forward from the left and was an imposing presence in the midfield and in the box.
Jeonbuk, on the other hand, did not find a breakthrough as easily. Baek Seung-ho held the key in the center of the midfield triangle, but he didn’t offer much in the way of attacking options. Even when Lee Dong-joon used his speed to find space on the flank, his next step was unclear.레모나토토
Ulsan celebrated their victory at home, with Seol Young-woo’s bold one-timer in the first half saving the day. The crowd of 28,638 at Munsusu Stadium cheered even louder, delighting the players.
Ulsan hadn’t won a golden trophy since reaching the top of the league in 2005. Under Kim Ho-gon and Kim Do-hoon, the club lifted the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) trophy, but the league title has been elusive.
When Hong Myung-bo was handed the reins in 2021, it was with a mixture of question marks and hope. In his first year, the team lost the trophy to Jeonbuk Hyundai and continued the “Junsan Jinx,” but in his second year, the team fixed its shortcomings one by one. They became a solid team that didn’t collapse at crucial moments, and in 2022, after 17 years of waiting, they won the title.
This year, it was their second attempt as defending champions. An early win was on coach Hong Myung-bo’s roadmap. The idea was to enter the final round and end the championship race in two games. The plan worked, and the early victory made the final a festive affair.
Hong Myung-bo had done what no other coach had done in 17 years. In an interview after the Jeonbuk game, he said, “We have grown from a team that slipped in important games to a team that wins. It’s a tremendous thing that happened in less than two years,” he said.
The team also handled the tough moments well. Over the summer, the team suffered a bout of measles after a racism controversy erupted on social media. It was urgent to stabilize the team’s atmosphere, but the team rallied around coach Hong Myung-bo and overcame several crises to reach the top.
As the team went from “Junsan” to “champions,” their attendance increased dramatically. Munsugu Stadium, which was once empty except for rivalry matches with Jeonbuk, has become a hot spot with 20,000 spectators. It was not uncommon to see female fans taking photos with the stadium in the background.
The varsity-level home crowd was no coincidence; it was the result of two consecutive winning seasons combined with coach Hong Myung-bo’s philosophy that “soccer should be fun first.” “It’s quite difficult to get fans to come to the stadium without the service of fun games and good results,” he said.
The 2023 season ended with a grand coronation, but Ulsan is not stopping there. For now, the club has a Champions League group stage to look forward to. As soon as the Champions League is over, Ulsan will start planning for 2024 in earnest.