Bundesliga recap and analysis
American players and managers struggle as games resume in Germany
May 18, 2020
THE #BUNDESLIGAISBACK was the big hashtag of the weekend and it was welcome news for sports fans, not just soccer fans or even German fans, across the globe. It marked the first attempt of a sports league to resume play after a stoppage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, there were no crowds and soccer behind closed doors made for an usual television program. You could hear the echo of the kicks and banter between coaches and between players. The biggest reactions came from benches – whenever there was a goal.
Most reactions were positive but not all.
This isn’t football. The game without fans is a total contradiction to what footy is/has been all about. Empty stadia just to keep tv companies and billionaire club owners happy is an insult to the game and should certainly be opposed by all true fans. https://t.co/ClGK8hwIAm— Derek Hatton (@DegsyHatton) May 16, 2020
It goes without saying that everyone would prefer fans in the stands but to say that what football is about is having huge crowds misses the point entirely. Soccer is the global sport and it is played everywhere. All but very few games have significant crowd – many games have very, very little crowds. Some of these games are important too. For anyone who has watched the U-20 World Cup, games involving key prospects who will one day bet elite are often played in front of just a few hundred people.
It might be tough to get into if fans do not have attachment to one of the teams playing. For fans who do have attachment and a standing interest with one of the teams, they’ll get used to it.
Sports without crowds are pure. Most athletes grew up playing hundreds of games their whole lives with no one in the stands. Training sessions at top clubs are often met with the tenacity of big games and yet are behind closed doors. Athletes are fine.
To also say that this is to benefit big television companies, sponsors, and deep-pocketed owners misses the point. Yes, big business benefits but so does everyone else. What are the choices? The first is to find a way to play games during a pandemic – when it is possible. The second is to shut everything down because it isn’t perfect and some wealthy might benefit.
The COVID-19 shutdown has been brutal. Many people are lonely, many people are worried about loved ones, many people are anxious over the state of their jobs – or even their industry. Most things which gave people joy in their daily lives are missing and are uncertain when or if they will return. Trying to bring sports back can help give people a break from the current situation and offer hope that other senses of normalcy will follow sooner than later.
The bottom line is that an attempt to bring sports back should be celebrated. We can only hope that more leagues follow soon.
Bundesliga’s first steps back
The Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga’s first slate of games of the restart were pretty good considering the long layoff and the quick return to the games – most teams not having played friendlies to tune up. There was a lot of rust and only one goal was scored within the game’s first 27 minutes.
But what was interesting is that, for most teams, form seemed to continue from where it was right before the shutdown.
Teams like Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Wolfsburg continued to be strong. Schalke continued to look very poor.
Germany is the home to many American players at the moment and, for the majority of them, it was a weekend to forget.
McKennie a full 90, Reyna injured in Dortmund rout
The most anticipated matchup of the weekend for American fans was second-place Borussia Dortmund (winners of four straight before the shutdown) hosting sixth-place Schalke in the Revierderby. Normally it is one of the most intense rivalries in Germany and all of Europe - so seeing it behind closed doors was especially odd.
Weston McKennie earned the start for Schalke and budding star Gio Reyna, 17, was set to make his first Bundesliga start for Borussia Dortmund. This exciting development was short lived as Reyna was replaced in the starting lineup before kickoff due to suffering an injury in warm-up.
This bad news was alleviated somewhat following the game as it was reveled that Reyna’s injury was not serious. It was a tweak in the thigh muscle that will require just a few days of rest.
???? Gio #Reyna qui était annoncé dans la XI dé départ face à Schalke s'est blessé durant l'échauffement. L'Américain souffre de problèmes musculaires à la cuisse. Il n'y a rien de grave mais juste quelques jours de repos. Witsel et Can sont sur le bonne voie du retour. #bvb— Borussia Dortmund ???????? (@FranceBvb) May 17, 2020
The game itself was a total mismatch and Dortmund coasted to a 4-0 win. Schalke was playing poor soccer before the shutdown and this continued into this game against a much better Dortmund team. Reyna’s replacement in the game, Thorgan Hazard, had a goal and an assist. Teenage Norwegian sensation Erling Haaland also had a goal and an assist. Halaand, 19, is still under 1000 Bundesliga minutes in his career (979) and he has an astonishing 16 goals and six assists.
For American fans, the focus shifted to McKennie with Reyna out. It was a hard game to judge McKennie because he wasn’t particularly clean with the ball. He made some poor turnovers and was sloppy. On the other hand, he was probably Schalke’s best player on the day for his defensive efforts – often times winning the ball and covering for teammates.
Weston McKennie in 4-0 loss to BvB.— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 16, 2020
82% pass completion
1 aerial won
4 tackles (best on team)
5 interceptions (best among all players)
3 clearances (best on team)
3/6 accurate long balls #USMNT
But this doesn’t mean he played well. The need for McKennie to limit his mistakes has been apparent for quite some time. But Schalke is a tough place for McKennie. He does a good job winning the ball but often there is no outlet to transition the ball into the attack. His mistakes are often too costly and he strengths are muffled.
Schalke is playing astonishingly bad soccer at the moment and it is hard to believe it entered the weekend in one of the Europa League positions. With the loss to Dortmund, Schalke has now been outscored 19-2 over its last 752 Bundesliga minutes. The complete lack of offense is alarming and it dates back to before this season.
Former U.S. national team forward and Schalke manager is trying to preach confidence despite the numbers.
???? #Wagner: "We gave them too much freedom and space. Their goals could have been avoided. This team has a lot of potential, despite the result. I don't want to start questioning that just because of today."#Revierderby | #SchalkeUS???????? pic.twitter.com/J0fwHJ57MR— Schalke 04 USA???????? (????) (@s04_us) May 16, 2020
The problems is that while the goals could have been avoided by giving Dortmund too much time and space, it doesn’t answer the total lack of goalscoring right now.
Schalke returns home next Sunday, without fans, for a more manageable game against Augsburg. After Wagner preached optimism, the pressure will be on him to for the team to play much better.
Despite own goal, Brooks strong in Wolfsburg win
Schalke’s downward spiral has opened the door for Wolfsburg to overtake it for the final Europa league spot. On Saturday, Wolfsburg succeeded and moved into sixth place with a 2-1 win over Augsburg.
Wolfsburg’s U.S. national team central defender John Brooks scored an own-goal for Augsburg only goal. Despite that poor moment, Brooks had a very good game
His numbers on the day were decent and his passing out of the back was very good.
- 90 minutes
- 83 touches
- 92% pass completion
- 1 own goal
- 1 key pass
- 1 successful dribble
- 1 aerial won
- 2 tackles
- 1 interception
- 1 clearance
- 7/10 accurate long balls
The own-goal was a tough blemish but Brooks played well. He will have to be on his game this Saturday when Wolfsburg hosts surging Borussia Dortmund.
Adams goes 67 in Leipzig draw
Tyler Adams earned his sixth start of the season when he played as right wingback for third-place RB Leipzig against eighth-place SC Freibrug.
Adams, 21, was steady but quiet on the day and a 1-1 draw was a disappointing result as Leipzig has a manageable schedule the rest of the way and a win over Freiburg could have created a lot of momentum.
Tyler Adams for Leipzig in 1-1 draw vs Freiburg— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 16, 2020
83% pass completion
1/1 accurate long balls
0 aerials won/interceptions/clearances #USMNT
Adams left the game with RB Leipzig trailing 1-0. Leipzig rallied for the equalizer in the 77th minute but could have lost it late – but Freiburg’s Robin Koch failed to covert a late penalty.
RB Leipzig can always rally against the weaker teams in the league but it’s hard to see Julian Nagelsmann’s club passing Dortmund or catching Bayern Munich. The goal for Leipzig right now is to hold onto fourth and secure a Champions League spot next season. It has a four point lead on Bayer Leverkusen but Leverkusen plays against Werder Bremen today with the opportunity to make up three points.
Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf draw Paderborn
Fortuna Dusseldorf will be bitterly disappointed with its 0-0 draw against last-place Paderborn on Saturday. A win would have seen it move within two points of Mainz for automatic safety and seven points clear of Werder Bremen and automatic relegation (Bremen has played two fewer games and will make up one game on Monday).
Instead, Fortuna Dusseldorf settled for a draw and its culprit was an inability to finish. Specifically, it hit the post four times throughout the game.
Fortuna was without injured American goalkeeper Zack Steffen but Alfredo Morales came off the bench in the 67th minute. His passing was off but he still put in steady work in central midfield.
Alfredo Morales for Fortuna Düsseldorf in 0-0 draw with Paderborn— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 16, 2020
60% pass completion
2 aerials won
Chandler and Eintracht fall to Gladbach
Former United States international right back Timothy Chandler had a great run of form in late January through mid-February. During that time, he scored four goals in four games while playing in an advanced wing position.
Chandler, 30, has been mostly coming off the bench in recent games. Eintrach Frankfrut has stumbled. It lost its final three games before the shutdown and on Saturday it dropped a 3-1 decision to Borussia Monchengladbach (who were without the injured American Fabian Johnson).
Chandler played the final 16 minutes of the game. His highlight came with a very good chance to score in stoppage time. Other than that, it was a pedestrian outing and his pass completion percentage continued to be too low (a problem which saw him get dropped from Eintracht’s starting lineup despite scoring goals).
- 17 minutes
- 17 touches
- 55% pass completion percentage
- 2 shots
- 1 shot on target
- 1 incerception
- 1/2 accurate long balls
The good news for Chandler is that Eintracht is in 13th place and is not going to contend for a spot in Europe and will likely not face the threat of relegation.
Green and Furth draw Hamburg
American attacker Julian Green, 24, made a return from injury and started for Greuther Furth against Hamburg on Sunday in a 2-2 draw. It was his first appearance since January 28 and he ended up being substituted out in the 57th minute with Greuther Furth trailing 2-1. This numbers were mediocre.
- 57 minutes
- 43 touches
- 1 shot
- 1 key pass
- 2x fouled
- 1 interception
- 0/3 accurate crosses
- 1/2 accurate long balls
The draw did little to help fifth-place Furth as its chances of earning a spot in the promotional playoffs are remote. The result hurt Hamburg which moved past Stuttgart and into second place for an automatic promotional playoff position but holds that position only on goal differential as opposed to a two-point cushion it would have had with a win.
Matarazzo’s Stuttgart suffer bad loss
VfB Stuttgart’s American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo is surely very disappointed with his team’s result on Sunday. Playing against a Wehen Wiesbaden team that was in the automatic relegation places, Stuttgart fell behind in the 50th minute, rallied for an 83rd minute equalizer, but lost the game on a stoppage time penalty.
Matarazzo’s tenure began in strong fashion and it moved from third and into second. Prior to the shutdown, Stuttgart began to struggle with a tough draw and a loss. This loss on Sunday means that Stuttgart has just one point from its last three Bundesliga games. It has now fallen back into third place and a spot in the promotional playoff.
Stuttgart has a favorable draw down the stretch but must find ways to play much, much better. It has the talent to win automatic promotion and anything less will be a huge disappointment for one of Germany’s biggest historical clubs.