Only three matches into the season, and I’m already forced to adapt to adversity.
Because my normal resource for match video seems to have disappeared, I do not have the opportunity to watch the match a second time before writing my match reaction.
This does reveal the fact that I’ve not yet reinstated my FC-TV service, of course. For some reason, when I am logged in as a member and attempt to go to FC-TV, I’m told I’m already an FC-TV customer . . . which is true, except that my last payment was from a Gutschein (gift certificate, I suppose). It doesn’t really present me a way to restart service.
That said, perhaps this is a one-week blessing. Maybe my resource for downloading football matches returns next week, sparing me having to re-watch what was truly a painfully boring first view. I know now that a second viewing always allows me to get better insight into individual performances, but . . . that was a brutal 90 minutes!
Timo Horn – All Timo did over the international break was post another 180 minutes of shutout football in service to German’s U21 side, sending Ireland (2:0) and Romania (8:0) home from European Qualification matches with nothing but a new appreciation for German goalkeeping talent. Horn’s star continues to rise, and now he seems to realize it might be a good time to get a longer-term hitch to the also rising fortunes of the club that has let him grow into one of the most-promising young keepers in football. The potential for young Timo to become an Effzeh legend is pretty huge, to be honest. If he plays well as the club grows into a permanent fixture in the top of the table and into Europe . . . okay, I’ll slow down. Just sign the damned contract, Timo.
Brecko, Maroh, Wimmer, Hector – I have questions, but as long as they keep the zero posted, I think you MUST continue to trot them out there. It won’t last forever, of course (though, that would be awesome), so we can start to discuss options once someone actually scores.
Vogt & Matze – Looks like Stöger maybe has landed on his preferred double-six tandem? I don’t guess you purchase Vogt to keep him on the bench, even if Matuschyk looked fine in the HSV match, and you have Yannick Gerhardt just sitting and waiting and not transferring to Portugal for a tidy pile of money. Considering the injuries elsewhere, I suppose it’s good to have the depth. Strong group.
Risse & Halfar – The duo on the outside channels remain the best possibilities for driving some action into the offensive zones. Still waiting for it to be effective.
Simon Zoller?! – Was NOT expecting to see Zoller starting, much less in a tandem with Ujah. I do wonder whether it’s a sign that Helmes is not very close to making his return, though it could just be that we paid a LOT of money for the guy, and giving him a test run against our fellow promoted side is a relatively safe environment for such things. I’m also curious what this means for Osako going forward.
UJAH!!!!! – Still the number one name in the sport in my house, because my house is ruled by a four-year-old fanatic. Daddy says, “just score goals and we’ll be alright.”
All hail the mighty Effzeh defense?
Still no goal surrendered. Three consecutive clean sheets to start the campaign is nothing to dismiss. It’s a fine achievement that has delivered two of our five points. (Let’s face it; Stuttgart was never scoring, much less winning that day.)
Yet, now we see that Hamburger SV played two more matches since the scoreless draw and didn’t score in either of them. Stuttgart did get one against the Ponies on opening weekend, but, as I hinted above, they were a mess going forward.
And then there is Paderorn. All due respect to Paderborn, which was a great second-division side last year, but I’m not sure they’re a good indicator of the rigors we are about to face, either.
Even so, I do think they are the best offense Stöger’s crew has faced thus far. That has to count for something. Elias Kachunga can play a bit. I was happy that Suleyman Koc was not in the line-up, quite honestly, because he showed me in SCP’s match with Mainz that he can cause some problems. No Alban Meha to score absurd free kick goals, either.
Timo had to make one pretty good save to preserve the zero, and that was at least in part due to Captain Miso getting absolutely owned on the flank. Other than that, this match was played largely in the midfield, with neither team looking all that dangerous on offense.
If this streak goes even one more week, then we’ll know we are really onto something, because it’s Derby Week and the Ponies are starting to get hot. There is no chance we will be as disorganized as was Schalke over the weekend when they allowed four goals to the farmers from East Holland, but we will see just how solid Maroh and Wimmer really are in the central defense (I have to assume the Viererkette will remain the same), as well as whether Brecko can tighten things down on his side. I think Hector will be okay, but he sometimes takes chances that have yet to bite him on the ass. I’m hoping he will reign it in a little come Sunday because even if I think Andre Hahn’s skills are a bit overrated, his speed is not, and chasing him from behind is not really a recipe for success, especially now that Max Kruse is back on the pitch.
Or maybe they’ll all be exhausted from playing in Europe, and the shop will be rather easily shut down. Even should that be the case, I’ll be calling it good for us.
The offense, though . . .
It’s already been said/written many, many times the last few days, but it’s too obvious to not repeat: the effort in the final third of the pitch has to be better.
We all love Ujah, but we love him better when he scores. I suppose if he’d connected on his header in the opening moments of the match, rather than have it bounce just wide of the post, that match would have played out very differently, and hopes of offensive success might not seem so dim right now.
But the header ended up as nothing more than an early-contest highlight in a dull, scoreless match. There was not anything nearly as interesting coming from that side of our squad for the 89 minutes and 40-some seconds (not counting stoppage and halftime) that followed. When a soft ball landed in Lukas Kruse’s arms deep in the second half (maybe from Halfar?), the commentator said it was the first time the Paderborn keeper had to make a stop, which seemed ludicrous, but I certainly couldn’t remember one prior to it.
The one thing about Paderborn last season was that they didn’t really play all that defensive a style of football. They were all about pushing the issue and going toward goal. It wouldn’t be surprising for them to alter their stance on the matter at the higher level of competition, but even then you wouldn’t peg them for impenetrable on defense.
Clearly, the return of Patrick Helmes is something on which we might be able to pin our hopes, assuming he’ll ever return. There seems to be a lot of mystery about his injury/ies and the prospects for his return anytime soon. Of course, we learned last season that the Helmes-Ujah dual attack doesn’t really work that well, so a return of the former could lmean a reduction of playing time of the latter. I suppose there is no harm in letting them take another crack at it together. It’s not as if the offense will somehow look less a threat at this point.
The ongoing saga of Peter Stöger’s sponsored wardrobe
Well, to be honest, the sweater is somehow less hideous than either shirt from the past two matches, though there remains nothing great about the block logos up on the collarbone of the coach’s shirts.
What I did notice is that Paderborn’s coach, Andre Breitenreiter, had a similar look, wearing a blue sweater over a white shirt, though without the sponsor logos. Does SCP not have the allure to get someone to demand the club take money in exchange for making the coach a billboard, or do they just agree that it’s a bit over the top? Either way, the sweater works slightly better, and I suppose it’s better than seeing the coaches in track suits.
Elias Kachunga, Kölsche Jung
Somehow, I noticed a story on Twitter that quoted Paderborn’s striker as saying that he is, in his heard, a “Kölsche Jung.”
Aren’t we all?
I didn’t hear that last season when the two sides met twice, but it turns out that Kachunga is a native of the Cathedral City. I remember reading about Arminia Bielefeld’s (now former) coach Stefan Kramer also admitting to being an Effzeh fan before we faced them.
I’m always amused by these stories. It’s somewhat taboo here with American sports figures to cop to some historic attachment to a city or team other than the one in/for which you are playing, especially when it’s your next opponent, but you have to believe the vast majority of professional athletes retain some remnants of that childhood passion for favorite teams. It’s one thing to be all professional-sounding and pretend you don’t care about anyone but your employer. It’s something else to truly sever those ties to what was probably a driving force in a pursuit of sport as a profession.
San Francisco quarterback (American football) Colin Kaepernick caught tons of flack for wearing a baseball cap of an NFL team other than his 49ers in public. It’s completely common for (usually young) people to coordinate colors of their wardrobe using athletic shoes and sports-team caps, which is what “Kaep” said in explaining the photo, also having the same reaction I had, which is, “You’re sincerely upset about a hat?” The thing is, he should know better. It’s part of his job as an American sports figure to never show anything that would even remotely imply a shortage of full loyalty to his team, even if the idea is completely obtuse to anyone with half a brain. This is ironic to me, because many of the people who vilified the man for his wearing that cap also love to say that he’s dumb.
Then again, American sports entities do see fans as customers. Even when treated well, it’s still a customer-vendor relationship. I know there is an element of that in my relationship to my club, yet I still feel there is a deeper connection. Let’s call it “e jeföhl dat verbingk.” As much passion and loyalty as I have toward my favorite sports teams in American sports, I’ve never felt the same type of relationship as what I have with the Effzeh.
Many of my friends and relatives will think this weird. I believe many of my internet friends in Germany will be nodding their heads in agreement.
When Kachunga was delivered a cross in front of U21 teammate Horn’s goal, there was never a question his intent was to put his team in the lead. I guess his “Kölsche Jung” comment doesn’t necessarily imply Effzeh fandom, but I am going to assume. He’s a professional who doesn’t feel pressured to obscure his past.
In that regard, I suppose if Borussia Mönchengladbach offered me a full-time job to be a highly paid editor of their English-language content, I’d probably not hesitate to take it. I might feel a bit icky about wearing that dopey “B,” if they made me do it, but I’d try to celebrate their successes and be part of it, even if I would never obscure which side of the rivalry I belong to.
Though, I might check with a neighboring club before I accepted that gig, just to be sure there wasn’t a better position available. I might even plead with someone . . .
Anyhow, cool stuff Kachunga. Glad you didn’t score. I hope you do well in your remaining matches as long as it’s not the one against us and as long as your goal-scoring doesn’t somehow threaten our own survival in the league.
Marcel Risse, MIA
Speaking of Kölsche Jungs . . . did anyone see Marcel Risse on Saturday? I seriously had to double-check the statistics to be sure he even played, despite knowing that Zoller for Yuya was the only line-up change for us from last week.
I’m an admitted Risse fan, so maybe I’m judging him more based on how good he can be in my imagination rather than what he’s truly capable of, while also maintaining his defensive responsibilities. Yet, I keep waiting for the guy from early last season to arrive. In my eyes, the man was a dynamo, instantly putting a charge into the offense.
Now, I largely see Daniel Halfar in that role, with Risse seemingly too hesitant to assert himself on the offensive end. Actually, I also see Nagasawa playing that way in his limited time, so I’m excited for when he returns.
Nothing would please me more than to see Risse fully-realized as a dominant force on his flank. I think he’s a quality, Bundesliga-level player, and clearly Stöger is happy enough to keep him in the side. Maybe my football naivety is missing entirely just how good he’s been.
But I don’t think it’s just that. I’m watching a LOT of football and, hence, getting a pretty good grip on many aspects of the game. Right now, I think it’s fair to say we can and should expect more from Risse.
Simon Zoller’s first Bundesliga start probably has to go down as a disappointment, oder?
While scanning Twitter at halftime, it seems that people generally hated his first-half performance much more than I did. I saw him fail fairly spectacularly once, but other than the fact the offense was neutered for the most part, I didn’t have any particular problems with Zoller specifically that don’t go back to how much we paid for him.
He did have another poor moment in the second half, though I don’t remember what it was that made me note it in my own Twitter-ing. I don’t know what would have been reasonable to expect from him there, but more certainly would have been welcome.
Yannick Gerhardt also finally got to grace a Bundesliga pitch, coming on for Kevin Vogt in the 83rd minute to at least be able to say he’s finally played in the best league in the world.
There’s a good chance I’ll keep posting videos in these pieces, just to try to impress my musical tastes onto some of you. My homeland is guilty of shipping a lot of garbage into the popular culture, some of which then comes to your country and pollutes your popular culture.
But we have some great, authentically American-style music, too.
Nickel Creek is one of my all-time favorite bands. Chris Thile is a certified genius on the mandolin and cranks out great music on a consistent basis, whether it’s his solo performances of Bach or with other well-regarded artists on one-off projects, or with his band Punch Brothers.
But Nickel Creek, the band he was in with the Watkins siblings when they were all quite young (see the still at the end of this video), remains one of my favorite things. They recently reunited with a new album and tour after a too-long hiatus. They still crush it. The songwriting has matured, while the musicianship remains lovely.
Please tell me if I help you find something new for your ears. It would please me immensely.
Finally, it’s time to be “movin’ on (to where I belong),” which is to the mindset of the coming derby.
Sunday’s late match is against Borussia Mönchengladbach, and the heat of the rivalry can be felt from here, even if it is tempered slightly by our lack of offensive punch and the way the Ponies steamrolled through Schalke last weekend. It seems most are preparing themselves for the worst from the standpoint of an actual match result, while also taking the opportunity to remind the world they are fully invested in their love of club as we march toward the renewal of this rivalry.
If you’re in the US and can get GolTV, it’s going to broadcast live as the 8:30 a.m PST match. If you don’t get GolTV already, read this piece on Bundesliga Fanatic about a legal, live stream of that network via something called KlowdTV. Would be an ideal time to try their service as a stop-gap between now and whatever Fox ends up doing with the Bundesliga rights next season.
As for me, I have to say I am not very optimistic about getting points and retaining the streak of clean sheets, but having watched only BMG’s match against Stuttgart, I can say they weren’t overwhelmingly impressive in attack at least once recently, so there is always a chance.
Well, it’s football. I suppose anything can happen. I’m fairly confident our guys will be up for the event. Let’s hope for a boost and some good fortune combining to surprise most everyone.