Monday Morning (PST) Center Back

I understand how it’s not likely Monday morning in most of the world where Bundesliga football news slapped together in English is likely to be read. I do.

Yet, it IS Monday morning where I sit and write, and since I get to name my columns whatever I wish, I thought I’d steal a bit from Peter King’s schtick and mimic his excellent regular round-up of NFL news at Sports Illustrated. There’s always a hope that, someday, I will be able to do such things on a more-timely basis. For now, take it for what it’s worth along with my money-back guarantee (if you don’t love this, I’ll return you the money you paid me to write it!).

Two Ships Passing in the Night

Actually, that headline is appropriate only if you believe that Borussia Dortmund are irreversibly headed toward an era of struggles from their recent years of being one of the two most-dominant sides in Germany.

And despite the league-leading seventh loss coming at the hands of their dreaded rival with Bayern coming from behind to secure a 2:1 victory in a match that absolutely lived up the hype surrounding der Klassiker, few believe Dortmund is finished as a Champions League threat.

Besides, these ships don’t really “pass” as much as Bayern takes the opportunity to board and see if there are any supplies they would like to take with them as they head toward other shores. And all the chatter would indicate that the plunder from this round may end up finally being Marco Reus.

It will come as a surprise to exactly nobody that FC Buy’em has their lusty eyes on yet another BVB player with the dual-purpose of continually strengthening one of the world’s top collection of talents while also continuing to weaken the only club to force the Bavarians to suffer TWO ENTIRE SEASONS . . . IN A ROW! . . . without lifting the Bundesliga championship trophy/platter since the 1994-95 & 95-96 seasons when it was also Dortmund taking consecutive titles.

The current contract of Borussia Dortmund’s midfielder runs into 2017 but also features an “exit clause” that is set to activate this summer, with the reported sum to trigger it to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 million Euros. And until Reus extends with the BVB, the rumors that he is bound for the same train southwards taken from Dortmund by Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze in recent years will not cease.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, over the summer, hinted over the summer that the clause in Reus’ contract had caught the attention of Bayern, especially considering the quality of Reus’ play. We should assume these comments were made while Rummenigge twirled his cartoon-villain mustache, or . . .

Of course, Bayern fans are already screaming at their computer monitors at how they’re not the only ones who buy players from other clubs, and that Dortmund poached Reus from Mönchengladbach, and there is spittle flying everywhere, and it’s a mess.

Just calm down, alright? If it’s not enough to win almost everything, rather you need to have everyone else respect the way you go about it . . . you’re doing it wrong.

Anyhow, Bayern won’t be the only club ready with a giant truckload of money should Dortmund fail to turn its season around and secure a Champions League spot, which would presumably increase the likelihood Reus would be looking for a new employer.

As for the match. Dortmund had a 0:1 halftime lead thanks to a Reus goal in the 31st minute and Roman Weidenfeller playing like the World Champion he is (okay, so he didn’t actually play in the World Cup, but give me a break, eh?). Lewandowski stuck the knife into the hope balloon with a 72nd minute goal, and Arjen Robben, after peppering Weidenfeller with shots, gleefully pounded it home with the 85th minute game-winner.

But you knew this already, because the entire world apparently saw the match, with it televised everywhere but North Korea.

And if you’re reading this from North Korea . . . I don’t know what to say about that.

“Wilder, lower, Wolves . . . House in order”

Don’t you love R.E.M.? Especially classic R.E.M.?

Well, I do. As does my buddy Martijn over in the Netherlands. I even once sent him an old backstage pass and crew t-shirt i had extra from working one of the band’s shows in suburban Detroit. Backstage, I ended up chatting with band member Mike Mills. Turns out Mills is a big baseball fan. I don’t know if he likes football or not, but I suspect it’s not really on his radar.

What does this have to do with anything? Not much, to be honest, excepting that with VfL Wolfsburg seeming to have gathered themselves after some early struggles to look like the team everyone thought they’d be after a strong finish to last season, the lyrics from “Wolves, Lower” got stuck in my head while catching up on the Wolves’ 0:4 Saturday romp in Stuttgart to win their fifth consecutive Bundesliga match.

If you are somehow attached to Thursday’s Europa League opponent, FK Krasnodar, you may wish to look away for a moment.

Over their last four matches, including a Europa League group-stage victory and a DFB Cup advancement, Dieter Hecking’s crew has scored 14 goals. They are absolutely laying waste to everybody and everything right now.

Ivan Perisic got the first and final goals against VfB Stuttgart, with Robin Knoche and Kevin de Bruyne each scoring on either side of halftime. The rise of DeBruyne over the last several weeks has seen the Belgian become one of the more-dominating figures in the league. In addition to his goal, he assisted on Knoche’s goal and Perisic’s second.

Despite the red-hot run, Hecking refused to take the bait on questions as to whether Wolfsburg was prepared to challenge Bayern for league primacy, saying only the league leaders needn’t worry because they, just like Hecking’s own crew, are playing well right now.

Should both sides continue their current form, however, their Friday night meeting to open the second leg of the season could be a delightful way to return from the winter break.

Consistent Mönchengladbach is consistent

Can anyone beat die Fohlen?

Patrick Hermann laughs at such an idea.

I cannot justify thinking of this character from the film “Escape from New York” every time I see Hermann, but that hair with the frosted tips and the appearance of wearing eye make-up always evokes exactly tthis image for me. No bad feelings, eh, Patrick?

Andre Hahn gave the hosts an early edge over Hoffenheim with a goal in the twelfth minute, but Hermann regained the lead just two minutes after Anthony Modeste had equalized at minute 30. He then piled on in minute 52 to put the points well out of reach of a visiting side clearly outmatched after halftime.

Borussia Mönchengladbach have now run to 17 their streak of consecutive competitive matches without a loss, their longest such stretch since the 1970-71 season, which ended with the Ponies winning the league.

Clearly, without some help, Lucien Favre’s crew could extend this run to the end of the season and not win the Bundesliga without some help to close the four-point gap between themselves and first place, but nobody is too concerned with that right now, with a Champions League placement and a shot at a Europa League title very much in the realm of possibility for the club by season’s end.

Look out below!

All three clubs in the relegation zone at the end of match day nine found victory in match day ten, allowing Hamburger SV to escape the bottom three for the first time since match day one and dropping Borussia Dortmund, much more-accustomed to second from top, in to 17th place.

The HSV got their first home victory of the season over a squad featuring a few of their former players. Yet, unlike what Lewandowski did for Bayern against his own former club, neither Heung-Min Son nor Hakan Canhaloglu were able to pull Bayer Leverkusen back to level with their former employer, after a Bernd Leno foul on Marcel Jansen allowed Rafael Van der Vaart to deliver the match’s lone goal from the penalty spot.

Otherwise, the match was a train wreck dominated by free kicks and yellow cards. Referee Florian Meyer should be applauded for his performance. By continually punishing the frequently ugly contact, which also led to a confrontation between coaches Joe Zinnbauer and Roger Schmidt just before halftime, the second half nearly resembled a football match, with Hamburg desperately clutching the three points in the face of desperate efforts from the visitors.

Similarly, SC Freiburg grabbed a goal from the spot to get their first victory of the season, as well as their first-ever Bundesliga win in Köln after twelve attempts, coming just days after the pair were drawn to face-off in the third round of the DFB Cup tournament.

Offensive chances were sparse on both ends of the pitch, but it was Christian Streich’s side getting the better chances, primarily through Vladimir Darida. It was Darida who delivered the goal, after defender Mergim Mavraj’s arm contacted the ball in the area during a sliding attempt to block an Admir Mehmedi cross.

But the most-impressive victory of last week’s bottom three has to have come in Werder Bremen’s 1:2 win in Mainz to make Viktor Skripnik’s Bundesliga coaching debut . . . well . . . Viktorious?

Shinji Okazaki got the hosts off to a quick start with a goal in just the third minute, thanks to the sort of defending that tagged the Robin Dutt era at Bremen as one of notoriously poor (and porous) defense. Ja-Cheol Koo was able to easily slot a pass to Okazaki through a diamond of four Werder defenders to let the Japanese goal-machine do what he does and collect his league-leading sixth goal of the season.

Mainz continued to dominate the first half from there, but were unable to build on the lead.

Then a penalty, as penalties, tend to do, seemed to turn the match on its head.

A bit of a dive by Fin Bartels while pursuing the ball near Mainz keeper Lorius Karius put Franco Di Santo at the spot, from which the Argentinian striker equalized.

And before anyone gets too defensive of the Bartels dive, let me state that he was later taken down in the area for what should have seemed a clear penalty that was not awarded.

So there.

Then, this happened . . .

How awesome was that? Move aside Okazaki, because DiSanto just pulled level with you (and Mario Götze and Alexander Meier) atop the goal-scoring list with his sixth goal to propel Werder to victory.

The result may hide some of the blemishes on the performance, but you get points for results, not style.

And what Werder desperately needs is points.

Who knew that bringing in a Thomas Schaaf-disciple who believes in attacking football would be exactly what Bremen needed? If only they had ever had a coach like Schaaf!

Okay, it’s too early to claim that everything has been repaired with the arrival of Skripnik from the youth ranks. Yet, a successful passage into the third round of the DFB Cup and the club’s first victory of the season coming on the road at one of the better sides of the early season are fairly good indicators there are brighter days to come for Werder Bremen.

That’s it! I give up trying to figure out Hannover 96!

I’m certain they have played like one of the worst clubs in the league this season. I can’t watch them and see anything other than a relegation-battle squad.

So, why do they keep getting points?

Ironically, in the wake of their mid-week loss in the DFB Cup to relegation-threatened second-league VfR Aalen by a 2:0, Hannover 96 put together one of their better performances of the season in Frankfurt, somewhat handling host Eintracht, but unable to get the ball into the goal.

Which is why Alexander Madlung did the honorable thing and finished beautifully a headed pass in the 88th minute from Hannover’s Marcelo . . . into his own goal.

Also, Hiroshi Kiyotake is on fire, so if you had taken to calling him “Hiroshi incredibly overpriced usless transfer from Nürnberg Kiyotake, you may now stop.


Can I just exit by simply saying SC Paderborn is legit?

Seventh in the table after Sunday’s 3:1 over Hertha BSC, and, unlike Hannover, don’t end a match with viewers scratching their heads at the result, thinking, “but HOW?!”

See also . . .

FC Schalke beat FC Augsburg Friday night 1:0 in a match that was so poorly played by the home side, neither fans nor players seemed able to bring themselves to celebrate the points.

Well, that’s not true of everyone . . .


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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.

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