The Vancouver Whitecaps signed South Korean midfielder Hwang In-beom on a Designated Player contract this offseason. I spoke to South Korean football expert Steve Price to get the lowdown on the 22-year-old.
My thanks to Korean football expert Steve Price for taking the time to talk with me. You can find him on Twitter @kleaguefootball.
The Vancouver Whitecaps looked as though they were blowing it all up and starting over. Marc dos Santos was hired as the new head coach, with the club unequivocally making it clear that his hiring was a long-term project, not a quick fix.
Out went star centre-half Kendall Watson, starting centre-forward Kei Kamara via the expansion draft, and the hefty wages of Brek Shea and Aly Ghazal, with dos Santos keen to reshape his roster in the manner that he wanted.
While all these high-profile departures were taking place, there was a suggestion that Vancouver were ripping too much away from the original squad, especially with Alphonso Davies having already been sold to Bayern Munich.
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But dos Santos’ building process has now begun, with the key piece added this offseason: the central midfielder. The Whitecaps signed Hwang In-beom to a Designated Player contract in late January. The announcement came with fanfare, dos Santos bigging up the qualities of the midfielder, stating that the 22-year-old would be a key part of his Vancouver project.
Now, let me be honest. I know almost nothing about In-beom. And I am not going to sit here and reel off anything that Google could probably tell you. So, instead, I asked South Korean football expert Steve Price for some more information on the new Vancouver cornerstone. This is what he told me:
"“Hwang In-beom is one of the most promising young players in the Korean national team. K League fans have been raving about him for a few years, and he made the smart move to get his military service done early at Asan Mugunghwa so that it would be easier for him to move abroad to further his career. He really stood out in the Asian Games last summer where Korea won gold, earning the players exemption from military duty. His performances at the Asian Games impressed new national team manager Paulo Bento who has played him a lot in the Asian Cup. With Ki Sung-Yeung retiring from the national team, Hwang may be the guy that Bento builds his midfield around as Korea look ahead to the 2022 World Cup. He played in Ki’s role as the more creative holding midfielder for some of the Asian Cup games but also played as the central attacking midfielder in the quarterfinal against Qatar.”"
For the Whitecaps, then, it is clear that they have signed a versatile midfielder with the quality and capabilities to not only play in a number of positions but also be the foundation of the team. The central midfield is still the most important position in the team. Having a star midfielder makes everybody else’s job easier.
In Hwang, Vancouver seemingly have one of those cornerstone midfielders that every good team requires. And at 22, arriving in dos Santos’ first offseason, the Korean international provides the perfect teaching student for the rest of the squad. Dos Santos, through In-beom, can now implement his style as he wants.
This is a signing to be excited about. The future is bright in Vancouver. All that is needed now is patience.