Wed. Jun 7th, 2023

Image: Minnesota United

While Minnesota United had an unsuccessful outing on Saturday night, losing in come-from-behind fashion to Orlando City, the occasion was notable for the starting debut of their newest signing, South Korean attacking midfielder Sang Bin Jeong. The 21-year old debuted for the club in the previous week’s loss in Chicago, playing the last half-hour of that 2-1 loss, but was trusted as a part of Minnesota’s starting attacking quartet last week.

Sang Bin was not on the pitch for any of the game’s three goals, departing after an hour of play. What were we able to learn about how Adrian Heath might use Sang Bin, and where he looks to play on the pitch? Let’s dig in.

Here’s a chalkboard of Sang Bin’s attempted shots and passes from Saturday night’s match. This is accessible through the match recap on the MLS website, and you can see this data for any player and any match. In the image above, squares are passes and circles are shots; grey outlines are unsuccessful, and black outlines are successful.

Sang Bin was immediately in charge of corner kicks for Minnesota, taking all six of the club’s first half corners to limited numberic success. The one success of the six was a near-post ball for Mender Garcia to flick on in the tenth minute:

Video: Apple/MLS Season Pass

This play resulted in a nonzero bump to Minnesota’s xG, and could have resulted in an assist for Sang Bin had Mender’s flick found a Minnesotan head. While this was the only “completed” set piece of the six, all six were testing balls at the right height for a header, and interestingly, all six targeted almost exactly the same area on the pitch as above, the right side of the goal. Of Sang Bin’s six corners, five were from the right and taken to the short side of the goal; one was from the left, and was taken long, to the far side of the goal and the same area of the pitch. One must wonder if this was a specific goal against Orlando, or a specific goal of Minnesota’s attack regardless of opponent.

Sang Bin only recorded one total shot on Saturday, but it was one of Minnesota’s four shots on target and required a diving stop by Pedro Gallese. Watch Sang Bin’s positioning in the buildup to this attempt:

Video: Apple/MLS Season Pass

While he never showed a particular turn of speed or a need to break away from his defender, he drifts into the pocket of space created by Robin Lod’s run and has a clean look at goal. His use of space and search for defensive openings was everything the Loons needed to create a shot on goal.

What will be interesting going forward is discovering what Minnesota can do to further involve Jeong in attacking movement within open play like this. Jeong attempted just 20 passes in Saturday’s game of any kind, fewer than any starter other than Mender Garcia, and was isolated to the right side of Minnesota’s attack in open play, as both the above pass attempt chart and the passing map below show:

Notice both how Sang Bin’s position is tight between Mender and Lod, and that literally no passes were attempted between Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Sang Bin, or between Kervin Arriaga and Sang Bin. The thicker the line, the more passes were attempted in either direction. Minnesota played primarily through D.J. Taylor and Lod on the right side, and (logically) through Hassani Dotson and Arriaga in the middle, which left Sang Bin and Garcia somewhat more isolated. The two combined to great effect on a one-two in the thirteenth minute, but were limited in their opportunities.

When Sang Bin’s signing was announced a month ago, Adrian Heath said the following: “I have no qualms, no doubts that he’ll hit the ground running. We did a little work this morning and he’s looked really fit and quick. I don’t see him having any trouble fitting in, so no pressure there.” This was clearly on display on Saturday by both the numbers and on the pitch, and will make for a great building block as Sang Bin likely receives further opportunities and more minutes moving forward.

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