Team of the Week: Match Day 15

Match day 15 featured magic. How else do you explain Lukas Kruse’s force field guarding Paderborn’s goal? Or Robben’s brace? Or some unsung boys making the TotW? This week, Bayern leads the way  with two players in the eleven, followed by single players from a plethora of other Bundesliga clubs. It was an equitable Matchday 15. Here’s our Team of the Week:

Goalkeeper

Lukas Kruse – the 31 year old keeper single-handily kept his underdog side in the match at Wolfsburg. VfL dominated play and absolutely shelled the Paderborn keeper. Kruse made 7 saves, but none as important as a saved penalty, plugging up a seeming VfL landslide. Against all run of play, his side managed to equalize and secure a somewhat miraculous draw. Hopefully, Kruse won a five-star gourmet dinner for saving his side. Rumor is that Bas Dost didn’t sleep a wink Sunday night.

Defence

Medhi Benatia – the Moroccan’s first Bundesliga goal was a dynamic header during the 2nd half that broke open the 0-0 match in Augsburg. The 1.91m centerback was absolutely stellar with his passing game, too, completing 96% of his passes, including many key connecting balls around the heart of the midfield. Xavi-esque. Surely, Benatia embodies the ball-carrying / flexible skillset now required from elite centerbacks.

John Anthony Brooks – While Julian Schieber stole headlines as Hertha beat BVB, the tall American centerback was Hertha’s unsung hero. Brooks helped keep Immobile mostly out of scoring positions in his defensive area. His 11 clearances close to the goalmouth stymied many a BVB attack. Finally, Brooks sprayed an impressive number of successful longballs into the opponent’s territory (overall 82% completion rate). Jürgen Klinsi’s mouth is watering.

Johan Djourou – the Swiss international centerback for HSV pulled in a fantastic shift in a 0-0 draw. Djourou’s passing out of the back third frequently carried the ball into the opponent’s half. He also pegged 15 clearances – with both his head and feet – and 2 blocked shots on goal. A versatile performance from Djourou. HSV could use this unsung magic every week.

Pawel Olkowski – Köln’s Polish rightback was instrumental in stopping play down the Billy Goat’s own right channel, as Schalke’s Christian Fuchs hit a midfield wall. However, Olkowski was able to penetrate along S04’s left channel with his passing, meaning that both he and Jonas Hector gave the Royal-Blues fits along the flanks all match as Köln pulled off a surprising 2-1 road win. With all this flank action, the flying’ Goats lifted off in Schalke.

Midfield

Roberto Firmino –  the Brazilian playmaker was brilliant during Hoffenheim’s exciting 3-2 win over Eintracht. Firmino scored and assisted a goal and, generally, wreaked havoc around Eintracht’s box. Over three-quarters of his passes occurred in the attacking third. Additionally, Firmino worked very effectively off the dribble, which helped him create all kinds of tiny creases for sniping quick passes around the box. His best match of the season thus far. Masterful stuff.

Kevin De Bruyne – although the ginger lad didn’t have a goal (one was called back) or an assist, he exemplified box-to-box midfield dominance in a variety of menacing ways: work rate, passing, marking, dribbling, etc. A comprehensive performance. Where the ball was, there was De Bruyne. Always. It was that kind of match for the Belgian. With encompassing play like this, goals and assists are mere derivatives.

Hiroshi Kiyotake – Hiroshi, where have you been? We missed you! H96’s top chance creator was present in a big away this matchday with a dagger goal in the comeback at Werder. He also created six chances and completed 90% of his passes. Teeing off as a winger seemed to work perfectly well for Kiyotake in this exciting match. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more artistry to come.

Zlatko Junuzovic – although Calhanoglu might be the Bundesliga’s poster boy freekick specialist, “Junu” has been lighting up the goal posts in equally stunning measure. His latest free kick gem kicked off Werder’s three goal gala against H96, which redeemed his earlier woodwork shot earlier in the match. The Serbian also threw in 3 chances created for good measure. Well played, Junu.

Attack

Arjen Robben – surely the man of the weekend. The flying Dutchman was sensational and reminded us that, perhaps, he not Neuer deserved to make the Ballon d’Or final three cut. Robben’s first looping goal was the weekend’s highlight, while his second goal was vintage “dodgy flapper” goodness as he made a trademark right-to-left cut, then shot a bullet of a ground ball in the opposite direction. Goal. Champagne stuff from Robben, who looks as fresh and young as ever.

Haris Seferovic – for a few weeks, Seferovic has been on the cusp of making the TotW. Finally, he gets his chance, albeit in the loss at Hoffeheim. Regardless, Seferovic was thoroughly dangerous in this match. His late goal knotted a tense match. All his shots were on target. And he created four chances. Eintracht’s attack completely relied on his ability to control the opponent’s half – and the Swiss national didn’t shy away from the grittier work of aerial challenges and other defensive duties. Seferovic is indispensable to Eintracht.

Honourable Mentions: Julian Schieber (Hertha BC), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht), Per Skjelbred (Hertha BC), Lars Stindl (Hannover 96), Thomas Kraft (Hertha BC), Jens Wemmer (Paderborn 07), Christoph Kramer (Gladbach), Hakan Calhanoglu (Leverkusen), Johannes Geis (Mainz 05), Vieirinha (VfL Wolfsburg), Sebastian Rode (Bayern), Robin Knoche (VfL Wolfsburg), Jonas Hector (FC Köln). 

Goal of the Week

A regular to the “goal of the week” discussion, this score from Hakan Canhaloglu was one of his non-free kick scores, but just as beautiful as many of his set-piece masterpieces.

 

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Howler magazine, 11Freunde, America Magazine, The Short Pass, Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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