Suwon: With the 2020 AFC Champions League on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Suwon Samsung Bluewings defender Doneil Henry is hoping to use the time available over the coming weeks to make the changes necessary to bounce back from a disappointing start to the competition.
Suwon slipped to narrow defeats in their opening Group G games against both Japan’s Vissel Kobe and Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim before a halt was called to proceedings as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
And while uncertainty remains over when the competition will resume, central defender Henry believes he and his Suwon teammates can use the current situation to their advantage as they seek to iron out some early-season teething problems.
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“It’s a good time to figure it out as a club, how we want to play, what formation, the best personnel,” the Canada international told the-AFC.com. “If you see the two games, we didn’t get played off the park. Both games were really close.
“When it comes down to it, it’s about how you close out games. It takes more focus and I don’t think we’re far off. It’s not a problem where we really need to figure it out because we’re being played off the park. It’s just one or two things, and if we can get those things right then we’re going to have tremendous success.
“I think it’s way too early to start panicking. Once we figure out those things and we can go on the pitch with more chemistry and more team cohesion then we can start getting some wins.”
Suwon lost their opening game to a last-minute goal from Kyogo Furuhashi before slipping up against JDT two weeks later to leave the 26-year-old without a win since joining the club from Vancouver Whitecaps ahead of the new season.
Despite that, Suwon coach Lee Lim-saeng has already earmarked Henry as a star in the making, claiming the former Apollon Limassol and West Ham United man could establish himself amongst the best defensive players in the Korean league.
“It’s too early to let any of that kind of stuff get into my head,” said Henry of his coach’s praise. “I’m coming here with massive pressure because I'm the first Canadian player to come here and play in the top league in Korea.
“I want to do well for my nation and for myself and my family, but when you have a sense of pride and will to win that comes on a game-to-game basis. The games I’ve played are behind me, I just look forward to what’s next and when we play that we win.
“What defenders are judged on is how many wins they can get and how many clean sheets they can keep. I just want to be able to do my part within the back four or back five that I play in and make sure we’re solid as a unit.”
With the AFC Champions League halted and the K-League season yet to start due to the current health crisis, keeping fit and staying focused is a challenge for players and coaching staff at clubs around the world. Henry, though, believes football players are well-equipped to handle the situation.
“With athletes, we deal with so much uncertainty in sport anyway,” he says.
“When I say that, I’m talking about injuries or where we’re going to be playing next, if we’re going to be in the team and things like that. So we just have to try to keep ourselves mentally in it.
“We need to engage ourselves, and when I say that I mean that we have to keep our fitness, make sure we’re doing all the right things to give ourselves the best chance.
“I think what’s tough about what’s going on right now is that we’ve never been in this situation where work has stopped because of health concerns. That’s what makes it so different and that’s why it’s so important that we follow all the guidelines.”
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