Archive for the ‘Bundesliga’ Category

Bo’Munchen: Michael Bradley Out To Pasture, Favre’s Foals Look To Gallop

Chris McClintick returns–(Are you getting college credit for these features yet, Chris?)–to TSG with a feature on Borussia Mönchengladbach (or as we affectionately call them around here “Bo’Munchen) minus one Michael Bradley.

Favre's Foals....

Taking charge of a bottom-of-the table team during the second half of a season is a daunting task when the single expectation and only possible positive outcome is survival.  Unfazed by this ominous challenge, Lucien Favre accepted Borussia Mönchengladbach’s head coach position on February 14th last season, inheriting a squad with only 16 points in 22 matches, and quickly transforming the mentality, and philosophy that ultimately led Gladbach to safety.

The nickname, “Die Fohlen” (The Foals), harking back to Gladbach’s young, prolific, and trophy-laden sides of the 70’s, couldn’t be more relevant with Lucien Favre at the helm.  Throughout his career, Favre has been known for his introduction and development of young players.  While coaching in the Swiss Superliga, the top tier of his home-nation, Favre was responsible for the exposure of youth players such as Steve Von Bergen, Almen Abdi, and Gökhan Inler at FC Zurich who eventually broke into the Swiss national squad.  Using this young blood, as well as his dynamic, attacking, and organized system of play, Favre led Zurich to two consecutive titles in 2006 and 2007, the former being the first for the club in 25 years.

Although the current Gladbach squad hasn’t entirely lived up to their thriving predecessors of the 70’s, the former Hertha Berlin skipper’s trust in youth has not only spurred what papers in Mönchengladbach dubbed “The Great Escape”, but also a continuation of their impressive form in the first two weeks of their 2011-12 Bundesliga campaign: a 1-0 upset of Bayern in the Allianz Arena, and a 1-1 draw against the resurgent Stuttgart.

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Hannover 96: A Triumphant Tale Of Two Seasons

TSG’s Chris McClintick checks in from Germany

Wistful remembrances....

There was once a street named “Arthur-Menge-Ufer” next to AWD-Arena, home of Hannover 96.

Now the street sign has a large red X over the name, above it, there is another street sign: “Robert-Enke-Straße.”

Enke, celebratory...

The street serves as a somber reminder to the passersby that Enke’s tragic suicide will always be a part of the fans, players, and club of Hannover 96.

Following Enke’s death on Nov. 10, 2009, Hannover’s season was in a constant state of turbulence.  Following his final lace-up, a 2-2 draw against Hamburg, Hannover spun into a freefall, taking only one point from five matches as the winter break came. A 3-0 loss to Berlin after the break, claimed the job of Interim coach, Andreas Bergmann.

With the appointment of ex-Schalke manager, and former Hannover player, Mirko Slomka, the club continued their struggle, survival in the top ranks dependent on two wins in the last two weeks of the season.

Slomka and Die Roten (reds) delivered with a 6-1 home thrashing of Borussia Mönchengladbach setting up a decisive match against fellow relegation contenders VFL Bochum, only two points beneath Hannover going into the final match of the season.

Fromlowitz thanks the day's 12th man....

After a vigorous, emotional match Hannover found themselves on top 3-0 in the Rewirpower-Stadion to climb above Nurnberg and out of the relegation zone.  After a solid display in the net, the number 27 — now number one — back-up keeper under Robert Enke, Florian Fromlowitz, fell to his knees at the final whistle.

The young, then lachrymose keeper clutched the encircled number one (in memory of Enke) on the upper chest of his jersey while looking towards the heavens, then he collapsed to the pitch as relief, joy, and lament for his fallen teammate and captain seized the moment and his body.

The Winds Of Change

This season the main worry for Slomka’s Hannover 96 has been far from worrying about escaping the drop amongst the bottom teams in the Bundesliga.  Instead, it’s been competing with the mighty Bayern Munich for the third and final champions league spot and the inevitable preparations for a season in a European competition.  The turnaround from Hannover has been significant.  So much of the team’s current success is thanks to the skipper and the rigorous and disciplined system he has instilled.

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Gekas: The Atlas Of Frankfurt

Please welcome Chris McClintick, on the ground in Germany and offering his take on the goings on in the Bundesliga.

Atlasing a team on his back is nothing new for Gekas...

It is not the first time Theofanis Gekas could save a club from the perils of relegation to the second Bundesliga. It’s been three seasons since the Greek scored a league-topping 20 goals to secure the newly-promoted VFL Bochum another season in Germany’s top flight. History may repeat itself this season with Eintracht Frankfurt as they tinker just four points above Wolfsburg in the play-off relegation spot, and four points ahead of St. Pauli in the automatic relegation zone.

At Bochum...

Three seasons ago the loudspeakers in Bochum were blaring Greek folk music with fans serenading Gekas as he danced the Sirtaki, a Greek folk dance, in front of 25,000 Bochum fans after scoring one of his 20 goals during the 2006-2007 Bundesliga season. The Bochum faithful rightfully dubbed him the “Greek God”, as he joined the squad on loan from Panathinaikos and single-handedly eradicated any fears of relegation from the first Bundesliga newcomers. Although Gekas would deny any divine status, he admits in an interview with BundesligaTV that ever since he was little, he had an innate ability to score goals as a striker, and he believes this talent to be god-given.

Not only have the three previous seasons been anything but fortuitous for Gekas’ former club Bochum, who now play in the second bundesliga after slipping further and further down the first Bundesliga’s table, but also for the 30-year-old Greek who struggled to find a starting role and produce goals since his outstanding season with Bochum. Gekas signed with Bayer Leverkusen in 2007, but was only able to find the net 13 times in 50 appearances, losing his starting position competing with the consistent Stefan Kießling and the emerging Eren Derdiyok. After a one-match loan spell at Portsmouth, and a more fruitful loan-spell at the relegated Hertha Berlin, Gekas signed for Frankfurt in May of 2010.

Despite his frustrations on the club level, Gekas’ quality shone through on the international stage as he proved to be an inimitable asset to the Greek national team. The striker scored five during the 2008 European finals qualification campaign, and was the leading scorer in the UEFA region for the FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifying scoring ten goals, edging Wayne Rooney with nine. Although it seems that dressing room problems inside of the Greek squad has ended any more hopes of international success, as Gekas officially announced his international retirement in September of 2010.

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As Told By Preston Zimmerman (Part II)

Struggles in Austria...

(*Note: Preston has graciously agreed to answer any questions that you post for him in the comments below.) (Part I) (Part III)

TSG: Okay, so then Hamburg sell you to what I’ll call your “nightmare club” in Austria? Spill it on Austria.

Preston: Well, thanks. It would be good to set the record straight.

TSG: Go ahead.

Preston: Thanks.

Basically what happened is my agent at the time couldn’t find a club for me.

Hamburg came and spoke to me and they didn’t want me on their books, and they had a relationship with a club in Austria and they wanted to loan me out.

I knew nothing about the club. The very next day Hamburg had consummated the deal with Kapfenberger SV and they said I just had to sign some personal terms.

At the time I thought it was a good idea and a good situation. So I went there and became a starter and started for 23 or so games.

I can’t say anything bad about playing there. I had playing time and an opportunity. I played and scored against Red Bull Salzburg and did some other good things…but…

It all came to a sudden end and they wanted me to sign a contract through 2012.

I had already communicated to them that I was only there because I couldn’t find a second league club in Germany and I couldn’t find that connection.

Everyone knew that I was going there to get experience, but not to settle down.

That was the plan and it wasn’t supposed to hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t like the atmosphere at the club and the culture in Austria is not really what I wanted either.

They wanted me to sign a contract until 2012, and when I didn’t things went sour…fast.

Once I said no, I got benched despite starting all the games before that. And then the coach would start hollering at me after training and also trying to get me to sign the contract.

I’d keep telling him that I’m not going to agree to a contract and you’re my coach, not the management.

He chastised me in front of the team.

Matt, this story could go on for hours.

TSG: We’ll take the short or long version.

Preston: It sort of came to a head after losing against Vienna.

He benched me for the first half and then the second half I came in, but didn’t score.

He came into the locker room after and wanted me to fight him!

He even pulled some other guy’s hair who didn’t play well!

So we get back to the club–it was a road game–it’s 11pm at night and we’re out on the pitch, it’s snowing and we’re sprinting up and down the pitch non-stop carrying medicine balls!

Then we have a meeting a little after midnight and he says…well, he demeans me in front of the team saying I have no respect for the team and the coach, and if that’s my attitude (about the contract) I can go find a new club.

He put his hand out and I shook it. I thought I was fired.

TSG: Wow.

Preston: We then had a meeting when I came back and he blew up on me and basically wanted to fight me again!

Well, then I was 100% sure I was fired.

So I didn’t come back to training anymore, and he started threatening me through other players on the team saying if I didn’t come back to training he was going to have UEFA suspend me for six months.

By then I had a lawyer who advised me that I was fired by what happened, and that I shouldn’t say anything and not to go back.

It went on and on and it went into the media and he crucified me there.

He said I went to England on a trial. Meanwhile, I don’t even have the papers to be able to play in England!

I’d go walk places around town and people would come up to me and get in my face and ask why I was doing what I was doing.

But, bottom line: I was fired and I didn’t get any of the money owed to me.

Also, the apartment was from the club and my car too. I got everything out of my apartment because I thought they would take that.

And then I went home to Washington.

I tried to get into teams, Regensburg in Germany’s third division was interested, but no team would take me even though I had the papers that I was fired. Teams would check with Austria and they would say I broke my contract.

[At the time of publication, Kapfenberger SV had not responded to email requests for comment]

TSG: So let me interrupt and ask a question: how do you prevent a situation like that? Can it be prevented?

Preston: I’m sure it could have been prevented, but Hamburg did the deal more than my agent.

It could have been I guess, but no one was really involved more in the situation. My agent wasn’t helping me because he’s not the one that got me to Kapfenburg.

On to Mainz...

TSG: So then you had a friend at Mainz who finally quote “hooked you up?”

Preston: Basically.

I don’t want to name him, but he’s in good standing with a club.

Somehow I popped up in a conversation and they were curious what happened to me after I was at Hamburg.

But with my history it was still difficult. Why claim a player with my background who might be a headache?

TSG: Wait let me go back…qualify just how difficult the Vienna situation was?

Preston: Worst time of my life, obviously.

It was hard because I had to stick by my guns and for ten months I couldn’t play while it got sorted out, plus I wasn’t making any money.

They [Kapfenburg] even tried to make Mainz pay money for me when I wasn’t even under contract anymore.

TSG: And let me remind our readers that you’re all of 20-years-old at this time.

Preston: Yup.

I had to bum around Europe. I thought, “Is this what I have to go through?”

I was desperate. I went to Turkey on trial. I even thought about an offer from Azerbaijan.

I just wanted to play football.

TSG: Were you going to stay in Europe at all times or were you considering coming back to MLS?

Preston: I was staying in Europe.

A lot of people don’t understand the reason I live in Europe isn’t based exclusively on football. I love Europe and it’s not just about the football.

One of my goals in life was to learn another language and now I know German.

It’s not a bash on MLS. It’s just that I want to live here.

I decided I’m not going to give up and that team in Austria is going to know they messed up. I’m going to stay and make it.

TSG: Now you’re in a better situation?

Preston: When I first got to Hamburg I had great wages and then I had nothing, and now I’m back to where I was.

Everything has sort of gone the way it’s supposed to except that spell in Austria, I guess.

I wish it didn’t happen, but I can’t worry about that anymore.

TSG: So, to refresh, the plan is to now play out the year?

Preston: Basically I go to work in peace now.

I don’t do interviews because so often the media has got it wrong. You guys are an exception, of course.

I’ll see where it shakes out in January. I just want less chaos.

I know that I’m safe in Mainz and no one is out to get me. They want me to succeed.

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Weekend preview

Can Holden hold the potent Villa midfield?

Well after a goal fest this week in the two euro competitions, we’re back to domestic league play.

EPL
Brad Friedel and Aston Villa host the Holden Wanderers.
This is caretaker managers, Kevin MacDonald’s last game in charge before Gerard Houiller becomes the gaffer.

I for one, wanted to see the Frenchman take over the USMNT national job. Amongst the footballing world he’s considered a tactical genius with impeccable knowledge of the game, but in the public eye he comes off more as a bit of buffoon. He’s got great pedigree winning trophies at Liverpool and with Lyon and was responsible for creating the dominant French side of the late 90’s and early aughts, but isn’t given that much respect. Hopefully he can take Villa to that next level.

Both teams coming off losses in the previous weekend, will look to right the ship with an emphatic win. The majority of play will take place in the midfield. Look for Holden to attempt to stifle A. Young, Petrov and Downing and that Elmander can continue his fine vein of form.

Lichaj hasn’t been making the bench let alone the starting 11 recently, but the season is still young.

Blackburn play Fulham at Ewood park. With the unfortunate injury to Zamora, look for Dempsey to play up top a little more and partner with Dembele. Sparky and Fulham remain one of 5 unbeaten teams in the EPL and will look to jump into the top four with a win.

Damien Duff has been proved fit and will provide nice width and balls for the Fulham strikers to latch on to.

Can Blackpool continue their dream start?

Chelsea host plucky little Blackpool, and anyone outside of Stamford Bridge will be pulling for the seaside town to pull the upset of the season. Already in 4th with two away wins they have exceeded expectations, but it’s early doors. Look for them to get thrashed but one can dream!

The big one this weekend pits two teams who haven’t had the best of starts. Man United host Liverpool in the North West derby. Both played midweek, though with different results. United were stifled by a determined Rangers side and Liverpool were comfortable 4-1 winners against Steaua Bucharest whilst also resting Gerrard and Torres.

For Liverpool, Joe Cole is back after serving his three game suspension and Torres and Gerrard should replace Ngog and Lucus, though I hope Meireles gets the nod over Poulsen.

United should be fully fit minus Valencia who suffered a season ending injury mid-week. Rooney with a clear head and no mean ol Everton supporters to make him cry should be back leading the line with The Berba.

The key to this matchup…Is Ferdinand fully fit?

In the Championship, Conor Doyle was a late sub in last weeks game against Hull. Will he get a full 90 against Barnsley? We say he should.

Juan Carlos...pick me please

Rest of Europe. A typically British statement, but there you are. Midweek, Jozy Altidore started and played a full 90 against Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa Cup, but the Yellow Submarines were sunk 2-0. Altidore played okay but didn’t do himself any favors by failing to connect from a cross from fellow American Rossi late in the game.

Currently 6th (with one win, they’ve only played two games); on Sunday they go to Levante, who are rock bottom with two losses and 6 goals against them. If this is ever an opportunity for Jozy to stake a claim in the side, this is it!

After getting thumped 4-0 at home, Michaelbradleybach visit bottom of the table Stuttgart. The Bundesliga has been full of surprises this year and is a highly entertaining league to watch. I’ve been a M’gladbach fam for many many years, as I had an uncle who supported them in 60’s and 70’s, and with Bradders on board, all the more reason.

Dolo and Beasley visit winless Vfl Wolfsburg as their manager, the “wally with the brolly” McClaren is starting to feel the pressure.

Serie A is in full swing as his Ligue 1 and off course the MLS.

Rumored: DeMerit to Wolfsburg

Will former England man Steve McLaren be the manager that lands gritty Jay DeMerit?

DeMerit...another destination rumored...

Multiple reports out early Tuesday morning suggest that the 30-year-old DeMerit is set to sign for Bundesliga top-10 side Vfl Wolfsburg.

If the reports prove true, that’s quite a step up for the former Championship league USA international.

However, don’t get too hyped up yet for DeMerit, first because no major outlets or Wolfsburg are reporting the signing yet, but also because DeMerit may step into a starting role but will have to fight for it come the turn of the year.

DeMerit, if Bundesliga-bound, will pair Denmark 21-year-old rising star Simon Kjaer in the middle who played for Serie A’s Palermo last year.

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Michael Bradley Back at Bo’Munchen

Michael Bradley was back at the Borussia Mönchengladbach training grounds Monday. Here’s an interview conducted by the club (translated via Google from German) that Bradley issued after training today.

Junior in May 2009 versus Turkey (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

No talk of the silly Blackpool rumors (unfortunately) or other player movement discussion.

Michael, welcome back in the Borussia-Park. Are you a little sad that the holiday is over already?

Michael Bradley: Of course I have enjoyed some time off and mentally and physically recharge.I was with my family and my girlfriend in my home. The first time we were in New Jersey, then in California. This has done really well. But who knows me knows that I always have a mind on football and I’m glad it starts again.

Too much you ought not to have lost in three weeks so …

Michael Bradley: That’s right. I have naturally regenerated predominantly, but nevertheless I have kept fit, so I should be back relatively quickly at 100 percent.

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