The China Super League kicked off last weekend and this weekend it’s the turn of China League One. has already looked at four teams and here examines Guangdong Sunray Cave; the often forgotten third team in Guangzhou.
The manager: Julio Cesar Moreno arrived at Sunray Cave early in January with a wealth of experience behind him having been assistant coach at five different national sides. One of these was China and he was part of the coaching staff that took China to their first, and currently only, World Cup in 2002.
The history: Formed in 2007, Guangdong Sunray Cave are yet to play in the CSL having narrowly missed out on promotion to Guangzhou R&F in 2011 and blown a fantastic promotion chance on the final day of the 2013 season by losing at home to relegated Chongqing FC. Sunray Cave have lived up to the ‘Guangdong’ part of their name by playing home matches at various stadiums in Guangzhou as well as Dongguan and ended last season at Foshan’s Century Lotus Stadium where they first played in the third tier of Chinese football.
The team: After a disappointing 2012 season, little was expected of Sunray Cave in 2013 but they defied expectations as they got off to a blistering start and never looked back as they were consistently in and around the promotion places in China League One. Some late, late goals in their final games towards the end of the season lifted them into second place before an agonising home loss on the final day meant they missed out on promotion.
The stadium: Crowds in Foshan were significantly larger than in Guangzhou (around 5,000 for each game compared to only 2,000 or 3,000 in Guangzhou) but the management decided that the reduced media profile warranted a move back to the Cantonese capital. So it is that Sunray Cave go back to the future as they return to the Huangpu Sports Centre in Guangzhou for the 2014 season, having previously played there in 2009. The stadium is in the east of the city and can be reached by taking metro line 5 to Dasha East station.
The changes: Aside from the new management structure, there have also been changes on the pitch with both Hong Kong internationals (Chan Siu Ki and Leung Chun Pong) leaving and new players arriving. Young defender Tu Dongxu and striker Ye Weichao have been signed on loan from Guangzhou Evergrande but the proposed loan move for Guangzhou R&F’s Liu Cheng fell through.
The foreigners: There are changes here too as solid centre back Carlos Garcia is out and stiker Dori has moved to Harbin Yiteng. Sunray Cave have retained the services of one of the longest serving foreigners at any club in China as Cameroonian striker Mahama Awal begins his sixth season with the club. He is joined by Petar Jelic who comes with an uninspiring goal scoring record from various Eastern European leagues.
Beijing Baxy: To avoid relegation
Shenyang Zhongze: Top half finish
Shenzhen Ruby: Fifith or sixth
Wuhan Zall: Promotion back to the CSL
The x factor: Apart from a year managing Kitchee in Honk Kong, all of Moreno’s experience is as an assistant manager and to ease his transition to greater responsibility Sunray Cave have appointed a Bora Milutinovic as an adviser. Milutinovic has plenty of experience and is one of only two men to have led five different sides at World Cup finals. More importantly, he is also friends with Moreno as the pair have worked together on numerous occasions, including with the Chinese national side, and his input can only benefit Sunray Cave.
The prediction: Repeating last season’s form will be very difficult, especially after losing Dori, and despite their experience on the touchline Sunray Cave are unlikely to come as close to promotion as they did last year. They should still have enough to be among ‘the best of the rest’ though.