Editorial — The offseason for LAFC has officially begun. Today, LAFC announced the signing of defender, Kim Moon-Hwan, from Korean League 1 side, Busan Ipark. The official announcement comes after weeks of speculation, in one of the worst kept secrets of the new year.
LAFC Sign Busan Ipark Defender, Kim Moon-Hwan
The signing adds more depth to a position of need for the black and gold. While the play of the defense was a hot topic last season, the lack of depth was never in doubt. Tristan Blackmon played a majority of the matches at right back, but often the only other option was midfielder Latif Blessing. However, it must be highlighted that Blessing not only did a job, but did it extremely well when called upon, with an energy to match. While the arrival of Kim answers some of the depth questions, it does raise a few others. Let’s examine the newest member of the Los Angeles Football Club.
One thing that sticks out immediately when looking at the newest defender, is his height. Kim stands at just 5’7″ which is smaller than the 6’1″ of current LAFC right back Tristan Blackmon. However, he is a few inches taller than Latif Blessing, who proved all season that height isn’t the end all, be all, in terms of MLS defending. While he may not have the size of Blackmon, he does have something just as important, speed. While not as fast as Blessing or Brian Rodriguez, he is just as quick, especially on the ball.
Having played for Busan Ipark his entire career, Kim has featured in 105 league matches, while named starter in 95 of those. While most of his time in Busan Ipark was spent in the Korean League 2, his team did spend 2020 in top division Korean League 1, where he started all 24 league matches. The 25-year-old was also called up to the South Korean senior team, where he’s appeared in 11 matches so far.
What Kim Moon-Hwan Brings
As mentioned, the one thing that sticks out the most while he plays, is his quickness. While he may be short in stature, he plays long, meaning, when he has the ball, it only takes a few steps before he’s crossing midfield. He also oozes confidence with the ball at his feet. Almost every single time his team played from the back, the ball immediately found Kim, so he could take it up the pitch. Not just a few times, but nearly every time a defender brought the ball up the pitch, it was Kim.
His confidence was also on display several times as he launched rockets at goal on a somewhat consistent basis. To be fair, it’s doubtful he would try that consistently while with LAFC, but it’s good to know a player has no fear, and all faith in themselves to try shots like that.
To say he fits LAFC’s style of play is an understatement. His speed, ability and comfort on the ball, and awareness in attacking build-ups will be on full display with the black and gold. During his time with Busan Ipark, Kim netted 8 goals and earned 22 yellow cards, with a career high, seven cards, in 2020. While he may be small, much like Blessing, he refuses to back down and has no issues playing the physical game. However, how he handles the likes of Portland Timbers or Seattle Sounders physicality, remains to be seen.
The Last Word on LAFC and Kim
This signing has been hyped harder than Coachella in the summer. While fans eagerly await his debut, it is important to remember the RB already within the squad. Chances are, when the season starts, Tristan Blackmon will be the starter. The 24-year-old has improved in each of the last two seasons, and just recently was called-up to his first USMNT camp. Historically, Head Coach Bob Bradley likes to keep the lineups unchanged if possible. With Blackmon steadily improving, only a terrible preseason, or a Moon-Hwan masterclass in preseason, could keep him out of the starting XI. However, Kim Moon-Hwan will provide an added dimension to the way LAFC play.
He could be the lightning to Blackmon’s thunder. Where Tristan is the big bruiser, Kim provides that speed going forward, while still keeping Blessing in the midfield. Look for a lot of long-balls to the likes of Vela and Rossi whenever Kim is called upon. This is a signing that definitely strengthens LAFC’s defense, while keeping them a real threat going forward.