|Ulsan Hyundai midfielder Lee Chung-yong, right, celebrates with his teammate Kim In-sung after scoring a goal against the Pohang Steelers during the K League match at the Pohang Steel Yard, June 6. / Korea Times file|
By Jhoo Dong-chan
Ulsan Hyundai FC is the top contender in the K League 1 this year, just as it was in 2019. The team held the first spot in the league for longer than any other team during the last season, but had to concede it to rival Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at the last minute after it suffered a crushing defeat against the team in the final round.
In a bid to make up for last year's failure, Ulsan signed a number of high-profile players ― including ex-English Premier League winger Lee Chung-yong and South Korea's national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo ― during this offseason.
Of them, Lee has been in the vanguard of the team's K League 1 dominance with his superior ball control and ability to orchestrate the pace of the game from the midfield area. Having played 13 games so far, Ulsan tops the K League 1 with 10 wins, two draws and one loss.
"Lee used to be a speedster along the sideline with top-notch dribbling skills when he played in the Premier League, but now he is a different type of player," said football commentator Lee Ju-heon.
Fellow commentator Park Jong-yoon added, "Now, his role is to control the pace of the game in the midfield area. His ball control skills are exceptional. He knows how to surprise the opponent's defense."
Some experts expressed their concerns about Lee's age and possible fatigue later during the season, but Ulsan coach Kim Do-hoon has successfully managed the veterans' playing time.
The 32-year-old midfielder has scored three goals with one assist in his 10 appearances this season.
Football fans are also looking forward to watching Ulsan's game against FC Seoul next month as the latter has signed another player with international experience, Ki Sung-yueng, to boost the team's performance. Lee and Ki played together at FC Seoul between 2006 and 2009 before they advanced to Europe.