|Hoàng Vũ Olaleye Samson (left) and Campbell Jonathan David Ward have been tasked with leading their younger HCM City FC teammates in the V.League 1 this season. Photo courtesy of HCM City FC
HÀ NỘI — Though HCM City FC's coach Vũ Tiến Thành has been tasked with avoiding relegation, he has set a personal goal of finishing in the top three of the V.League 1 this season.
"People said that a top-three finish is out of reach, but I think we should set up a clear target, and the whole team will work hard to get it," said Thành.
This year, HCM Cty have failed to find a sponsor, leading to many of their best players moving to new clubs. Among them were star midfielder Lee Nguyễn, former national team midfielder Ngô Hoàng Thịnh and former U23 goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng.
Their small budget also prevented them from signing any new high-quality players.
Thành said he deeply regrets the loss of Lee Nguyễn. The Vietnamese-American contributed a lot to HCM City's battle to avoid relegation last season.
"My players this season are not well-known. Many are saying these are players nobody else wanted. But the performance against Nam Định proved their ability," said Thành.
HCM City lost 1-0 in their opening match to Nam Định, losing only due to a last-minute penalty, and Thành is proud of their performance.
We have no Nguyễn, but veterans like Ngô Tùng Quốc, Lê Cao Hoài An, Hoàng Vũ Olaleye Samson and Campbell Jonathan David Ward will lead the young teammates.
"All of my players are good, they just lack experience, which they will gain through matches. Our solidarity and style will help us overcome challenges."
Thành said HCM City must claim some points in their next two matches against Hải Phòng and Khánh Hoà.
The team will host Hải Phòng in the second-round match on February 8 at the Thống Nhất Stadium and Khánh Hoà a week later.
"We are underestimated this season because two-thirds of our team are young and inexperienced players. It is a disadvantage, but we will be at home in the coming game. I hope my players' bravery and determination will help win points," Thành said during a training session on February 6.
Thành recognised the challenge that awaits them – Hải Phòng finished in second last season with their tactician Chu Đình Nghiêm voted best coach of the year.
"Hải Phòng were being beaten 2-0 by Bình Dương last week but they fought back and drew in the final minutes. It was not a lucky game but a match of great spirit and will," said Thành.
"Nghiêm is a good coach. He is a master in pushing his players up and inspiring them to play well."
HCM City have played Hải Phòng 14 times in the past, winning five, drawing one and losing eight. Last season, the two sides drew 1-1.
Elsewhere, Bình Dương will play Hoàng Anh Gia Lai and Đà Nẵng will face Nam Định today. Meanwhile, Hà Tĩnh welcome Viettel and Hà Nội entertain Hà Nội Police tomorrow
All matches will be aired live on FPT Media platforms. VNS