Veteran defender for K League 1 champions Ulsan nominated for MVP award

SEOUL, Kim Young-gwon, a veteran center back for the K League 1 champions Ulsan Hyundai FC, has been nominated for the league’s most valuable player (MVP) award.

The league announced candidates for its three major individual awards Tuesday: MVP, the Young Player of the Year and the Coach of the Year.

Kim is one of four finalists for the MVP award, after helping Ulsan win their second consecutive K League 1 title.

In this Sept. 16, 2023, file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, Kim Young-gwon of Ulsan Hyundai FC is in action against Daejeon Hana Citizen FC during the clubs’ K League 1 match at Munsu Football Stadium in the southeastern city of Ulsan.

Ulsan locked down the title on Oct. 29 with three matches left in the season. The season will conclude Sunday, and Ulsan hold a 73-63 lead over Pohang Steelers in the tables.

Kim, 33, has appeared in 31 of Ulsan’s 37 matches so far in his second season with Ulsan.

Kim was nominated ahead of Ulsan striker Joo Min-kyu, who leads the league with 17 goals. Ulsan have scored the most goals in the league so far with 62.

Pohang have secured the runner-up spot, and their Brazilian forward, Zeca, is also up for the MVP award. He leads his club with 12 goals, good for third most in the K League 1.

Tiago Orobo of Daejeon Hana Citizen, who has scored a team-best 16 goals to sit in second place, has also been shortlisted for MVP, Daejeon took the league by storm in the early going in their first season after getting promoted from the K League 2, and Tiago Orobo, who led the second division in scoring last year with 19 goals, picked up where he left off against the big boys.

In this Oct. 20, 2023, file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, Zeca of Pohang Steelers celebrates after scoring against Incheon United during the clubs’ K League 1 match at Pohang Steel Yard in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province.

Ahn Young-kyu, defender for Gwangju FC, rounds out the list of MVP candidates. After earning a direct promotion to the top competition this season thanks to their K League 2 title in 2022, Gwangju have been the biggest surprise this year. With one match remaining, they are holding down third place in the tables with 58 points, one ahead of the powerhouse Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. With Ahn locking things down on the backline, Gwangju have conceded the second-fewest goals so far with 35.

All four candidates will be going for their first career MVP honor.

Ulsan’s head coach Hong Myung-bo is going for his second straight Coach of the Year award. He will face challenges from Lee Jung-hyo of Gwangju FC, Kim Gi-dong of Pohang Steelers and Cho Sung-hwan of Incheon United.

The top coaching prize has often been awarded to the bench boss of the champions. In 2020, Pohang’s Kim captured the award after leading his team to a third-place finish, becoming the first winner not to come from a champion or a runner-up.

In this Oct. 22, 2023, file photo provided by the Korea Professional Football League, Tiago Orobo of Daejeon Hana Citizen FC claps following a 1-1 draw against Suwon FC in the clubs’ K League 1 match at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

The four nominees for the Young Player of the Year award are: Kim Ju-chan of Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Lee Ho-jae of Pohang, Jung Ho-yeon of Gwangju and Hwang Jae-won of Daegu FC.

This award recognizes the best player aged 23 or younger, with under three years of K League experience. The winner must have played in at least half of his team’s matches this season.

Voting by members of media (40 percent), club captains (30 percent) and head coaches (30 percent) will determine the award winners. They will be unveiled at the awards ceremony in Seoul next Monday.

Also on Monday, the K League 1 Best XI will be announced, featuring one goalkeeper, two full backs, two center backs, one left midfielder, one right midfielder, two central midfielders and two forwards.

Source: Yonhap News Agency