TFPL Team Preview: Will Taipower Finally Get Their Title?

With the TFPL’s habitual ‘nearly-men’ having strengthened over winter, 2020 represents Taipower’s best opportunity to take the title in some time.

After finishing second to Tatung for three consecutive seasons, and with a heartbreaking home defeat to Tatung on the final day of last season to hand their rivals the title, Taipower FC will have watched their nemesis’ offseason business with extreme interest. Whilst Tatung are looking weaker than in previous seasons, Taipower appear to have progressed.

As per their general strategy, the Kaohsiung club didn’t sign any foreigners, preferring instead to focus largely on local talent.

The squad has grown since last season, no players have departed and two new players, Chen Chao-An and Jiang Sin-Long, have joined. With Taipower’s busy start to the season looking even more frantic due to the coronavirus outbreak, these additions are welcomed by the rest of the squad. “Two more players are very helpful. We will have a lot of official matches this season,” explains international back Lin Yueh-Han.

Chen, a 24-year-old Taiwan international midfielder (27 caps, 2 goals), has been recruited from Taichung Futuro. The former Hunan Billows FC number 10 will be a key addition when Taipower are in possession. His respectable scoring record (6 goals last season) will also be appreciated.

By signing star university midfielder Jiang Sin-Long, Taipower confirmed their capacity to attract the best Taiwanese talent. Although he may be a little rusty after returning from his military service, Jiang will likely be an extremely valuable addition to the team.

The versatile 23-year-old midfielder was the Golden Boot winner from last year’s college championship (UFA) and comes into the team with high expectations. “[Jiang] Sin-Long will try to prove he can come back to the national team,” explains international midfielder Yen Ho-Shen. “He can be the missing goalscorer we need.”

Jiang Sin-Long will reinforce 2014 player of the year Lin Chien-Hsun (11 goals in 2019), former Taiwan international striker Chiu I-Huan (9 goals in 2019) and diminutive Taiwan international striker Ko Yu-ting, in attack.

Taipower’s coach Chen Kuei-Jen will likely be optimistic for a better goals output from Ko this season. The former Tatung and Changchun Yatai (China League One) forward scored only 6 goals last season. However, after breaking his international duck in a 3-0 friendly win over Guam in August last year, Ko should be confident going into the season.

In the first months of the season, Taipower FC will have to deal with a hectic schedule thanks to the disruption caused by the coronavirus to AFC Cup.

Taipower were originally slated to face Mongolian champions Ulaanbaatar City in the preliminary rounds of the AFC Cup back in February. However, this was postponed after travel restrictions were implemented as the coronavirus began spreading beyond China.

If the AFC Cup does finally go ahead, Taipower will have to accommodate home and away games with the Mongolian side and, should they emerge victorious, a playoff with Hong Kong Premier League side Kitchee. If Taipower are also able to best Kitchee, they will take a spot in Group I.

Whilst recognising that fixture congestion may become a concern, Taipower’s players are fairly relaxed. “Of course, our goal is to qualify but we need to play it, matches-by-matches, round-by-round,” says Lin. The former Beijing Baxy player probably dreams of a similar run to 2011, when a Chen Po-liang-inspired Taipower became the first Taiwanese team to win the now-defunct AFC President’s Cup.

Despite the emergence of Taiwan Steel and Taichung Futuro as potential title rivals, Taipower remain optimistic of their own credentials. “Every year in Kaohsiung, the target stays the same, winning the league,” concludes Lin.

If Taipower can make a strong start to the season and maintain another title challenge, spectators at the beautiful 55,000 capacity National Stadium in Kaohsiung will be desperate for them to finally make it over the line.

Olivier Vidal

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