And so, the 3. Liga has come to a close but not with its fair share of controversy and drama, with the last relegation spot being decided on the last day as were the champions. In the end, 1. FC Heidenheim ended up winning the league equal on points (79) with RB Leipzig, with this season’s surprise package, SV Darmstadt, coming in third place. In the bottom three places, 1. FC Saarbrücken, Wacker Burghausen and SV Elversberg will all be playing Regionalliga football next season barring any license troubles for the current teams above them. At the time of writing, RB Leipzig’s license for the 2. Bundesliga is still in the balance whereas Darmstadt will be playing Arminia Bielefeld in the 2. Bundesliga relegation playoffs this upcoming week.
Team of the Year: SV Darmstadt
Had it not been for Kickers Offenbach’s demotion to the Regionalliga, Darmstadt would have been playing this season in the Regionalliga themselves, as they were sportingly relegated last season finishing in 18th position in the 3. Liga. However, the Lilies were given a lifeline and they’ve seized it with both hands, finishing in a surprising third place a whole 16 points ahead of fourth-placed Wehen Wiesbaden. Dominik Stroh-Engel’s goals will be getting the headlines but credit must go to manager Dirk Schuster and the excellent centre-back pairing of Aytaç Sulu and Benjamin Gorka, as well as Heidenheim-bound goalkeeper Jan Zimmermann. Bundesliga teams also felt the wrath of the revelation team of the year as Borussia Mönchengladbach fell to them on penalties in the First Round of the DFB Pokal and Schalke 04 barely scraped past them in the Second Round.
Honourable mentions: 1. FC Heidenheim, Stuttgarter Kickers, RB Leipzig.
Player of the Year: Dominik Stroh-Engel (SV Darmstadt)
27 goals and 9 assists, 47% of his team’s goals and a hand in 62% of them, it’s hard to overlook Dominik Stroh-Engel for player of the year. The lanky striker has had a storming season leading the line for die Lilien and has also topped the goalscoring charts. A heading specialist, Stroh-Engel has not only scored with it but also shown excellent composure one-on-one and also from the penalty spot. Even when Darmstadt’s attacking plan was obvious, teams failed to contain the former Wehen Wiesbaden striker as he enjoyed three braces, two hat-tricks and a four-goal match throughout the 34 matches he played this season.
Honourable mentions: Daniel Frahn (RB Leipzig), Marc Schnatterer (Heidenheim), Kenneth Kronholm (Elversberg).
Manager of the Year: Dirk Schuster (SV Darmstadt)
It might seem that one is getting caught up in the whole Darmstadt love-in but the fact is that their success is all down to one man. Dirk Schuster arrived in the win
ter of 2012 and gave a side that was set for relegation a fighting chance, narrowly missing out on salvation on the last day when it would have been a lot earlier. With the aforementioned luck, the 46-year-old manager had another chance to prove himself in the 3. Liga and he definitely took it. Playing a simple but effective 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2, Schuster employed fast wingers Milan Ivana and Marcel Heller to provide for Stroh-Engel and Marco Sailer playing off him, with Jérôme Gondorf and Hanno Behrens keeping things tight in midfield. What can be said about Darmstadt this year is that, despite Stroh-Engel’s goals, their teamwork has been fantastic and it would be wrong to single out the striker as the main reason behind Darmstadt’s rise. A huge factor, undoubtedly, but the cohesion that Schuster instilled in a team that was meant to fight relegation has meant that they are now fighting for a spot in the second tier of German football.
Honourable mentions: Frank Schmidt (Heidenheim), Horst Steffen (St. Kickers).
Flop Team of the Year: Hansa Rostock
13th position is not what fans of die Kogge were expecting this season. It’s been quite an up-and-down 2013/2014 term for the team from the Ostsee as they have challenged for promotion and been close to the relegation zone in the space of a few half-dozen games. Manager Andreas Bergmann was sacked a disappointing run of results in March and April which included defeats to Saarbrücken and Oberliga side Neubrandenburg, a defeat which was as insignificant as it was symbolic. A bright spot for them has been the emergence of David Blacha, whose 10 goals were a ray of light in an otherwise cloudy season which did indeed have some bright moments. However, despite there being just four points between 6th and 13th, a team of this stature and fanbase must surely be pushing for bigger and better things and new manager Dirk Lottner will have plenty to think about when planning next season, this time including two more big East German teams in relegated Energie Cottbus and Dynamo Dresden.
Honourable mentions: 1. FC Saarbrücken, Preußen Münster.
Flop Player of the Year: Amaury Bischoff (Preußen Münster)
Preußen Münster narrowly missed out on third place last season but nobody must be fooled by their sixth-placed finish this season. Preußen have been lingering in the bottom half of the table for most of the season, combining excellent displays like the 4-0 win at Chemnitz and the 2-0 victory against Heidenheim with awful ones, such as the 4-0 drubbing at Darmstadt or the two 3-0 defeats against Holstein Kiel, some even just a few days apart. One of the main reasons behind this poor form has been the mediocrity of their playmaker Amaury Bischoff. The French-Portuguese midfielder racked up the unimpressive tally of just 3 goals all season (2 of which from the spot), along with only 3 assists. Compared to last season’s 10 goals and 12 assists, the fall in form is quite obvious. Another important fact is that Bischoff has accumulated as many red cards as goals he has scored this season, all of them straight reds. A season to forget.
Honourable mentions: Matthew Taylor (Preußen Münster), Stefan Reisinger (Saarbrücken), Nikolaos Ioannidis (Rostock).
Goal of the Season: Ronny Garbuschewski (Chemnitz vs Jahn Regensburg)
Garbuschewski’s right peg is one of the finest in the whole division and his 40-yard free-kick against Jahn Regensburg immediately sprung to mind for Goal of the Season. While everyone expected the Chemnitz midfielder to loft the ball into the box since he was in line with the tip of the centre circle, Garbuschewski hit the ball with tremendous power and goalkeeper Patrick Wiegers could do nothing to prevent it from hitting the back of the net. Despite the fact that it was unexpected, the sheer distance of it gave Wiegers plenty of time to see it coming but the fact that he could do nothing to stop it speaks volumes of what a goal it was. Enjoy.
(skip to 8:13)
Season Best XI:
GK: Kenneth Kronholm (Elversberg)
LB: Anthony Jung (RB Leipzig)
CB: Benjamin Gorka (Darmstadt)
CB: André Laurito (Erfurt)
RB: Patrick Herrmann (Kiel)
LW: Dennis Grote (Münster)
AM: Dominik Kaiser (RB Leipzig)
DM: Hanno Behrens (Darmstadt)
RW: Marc Schnatterer (Heidenheim)
ST: Dominik Stroh-Engel (Darmstadt)
ST: Daniel Frahn (RB Leipzig)
FINAL LEAGUE TABLE
|3.L||Club||P||W||D||L||Goals||+ / –||Pts.|
|3||SV Darmstadt 98||38||21||9||8||58:29||29||72|
|4||SV Wehen Wiesbaden||38||15||11||12||43:44||-1||56|
|6||SC Preußen Münster||38||13||14||11||55:50||5||53|
|10||FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt||38||14||8||16||53:49||4||50|
|11||SSV Jahn Regensburg||38||12||13||13||51:51||0||49|
|13||FC Hansa Rostock||38||13||10||15||45:55||-10||49|
|14||Borussia Dortmund II||38||12||10||16||47:55||-8||46|
|15||VfB Stuttgart II||38||12||10||16||45:54||-9||46|
|18||SV 07 Elversberg||38||10||10||18||32:54||-22||40|
|19||SV Wacker Burghausen||38||9||10||19||39:58||-19||37|
Dominik Stroh-Engel (SV Darmstadt)
Daniel Frahn (RB Leipzig)
Kingsley Onuegbu (MSV Duisburg)
Dominik Kaiser (RB Leipzig)
Marc Schnatterer (1. FC Heidenheim)