Seung-ju Kim played his second season with the Orange County Blues in 2015. The South Korean teenager, second-youngest player on the team, did see a reduction in his minutes under head coach Oliver Wyss. But he did make an impact in limited time this year.
Kim's minutes came entirely in the middle of the season, and it was clear when the team was running on all cylinders late on that he was not part of the core group. Obviously, that is not a great sign for a player looking to really establish himself, but I don't think that's entirely an indictment on Kim's prospects.
Here were Kim's statistics for 2015:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|USL Regular Season||6||6||459||0||3||5||1||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
So OC went 2-4-1 in the games Kim played in 2015, across all competitions, but on the bright side, he did get decent production in those appearances, in notching three assists.
The bottom line is that the 19-year-old remains an intriguing prospect at the moment. He is a playmaker-in-training, and has the technical ability to get out of tight spots in the midfield and set up teammates with terrific passes. He remains slight of build and can be pushed off the ball, something that happens pretty frequently in USL play. Perhaps his best chance of really blossoming would be to have a "protector" of sorts in the middle of the field assisting with the dirty work and physicality, while he can focus on his offensive contributions, but realistically, the modern game now requires basically every player to defend, and Wyss' philosophy does not stray from that trend. He'll need to improve his two-way ability if he's going to maximize his chance of seeing minutes.
If Kim can bulk up a bit, continue to hone his ability to deal with the physicality in the league, and further mature in his playmaking abilities, he could be a real diamond in the rough. I'm not sure if he's definitely on track to be an MLS-level contributor, but his potential is intriguing and it is possible. But for him to reach that level, he'll have to make a pretty significant step up over the next season or two.
And of course there's no guarantee Kim will be back with the Blues in 2016. He moved to California out of high school two years ago, and one would figure he probably would have a pretty good shot of landing at a second-division Korean club if he wanted to go back home. But I think his vision on the field and technical ability means he is a player with loads of potential, and I would love to see if he can break through here. If he does, we could see a special player before he made it big.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!