March 23, 2017

2016-17 Season Preview: SV Sandhausen Close Their Eyes and Cross Their Fingers

Basics

Name: SV Sandhausen 1916 (Sportverein Sandhausen 1916 e.v.)
Nicknames: 
none! (Someone nickname this poor team, please.)
Founded: 1916
Club colors: black and white
Primary rivals: Karlsruher SC (the Nordbadischen derby).
Fan friendship: VfR Aalen.

Hardtwaldstadion

capacity: 15,414
2015-16 attendance: 184,158 (10,231 per match)

SV Sandhausen's Hardtwaldstadion in 2015.
SV Sandhausen’s Hardtwaldstadion in 2015.

Trophies

3. Liga Champion 2011-12

German Amateur Championship 1977-78, 1992-93

2015-16 Finishes

2. Bundesliga: 13th with 40 points (40 goals scored, 50 allowed, -10 GD)

DFB Pokal: 2nd round (3-4 loss on penalties to FC Heidenheim)

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals:  4
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 7
Number of Matches drawn:  7
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 4
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals:  11 (!)
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in loss:  1
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in draw:  2
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw:  3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory:  1

Top 2015-16 Scorers

Aziz Bouaddouz: 9
Andrew Wooten: 5
Ranislav Jovanovic: 5

Summer Test Results

Record: 4-1-0
Goals Scored: 29
Goals Allowed: 10

1 FC Saarbrücken 2:3 SV Sandhausen

SV Sandhausen 2:0 FC Augsurg

SC Hauenstein 0:0 SV Sandhausen

1. FC Mühlhausen 0:8 SV Sandhausen

SpVgg Ketsch 0:4 SV Sandhausen

Questions with an Expert:

If you aren’t following Vavel.com’s 2.Bundesliga coverage, do yourself a favor and start right now. Over at Vavel, writer and editor Jonathan Walsh keeps up with the league like few others in the English language, so we tapped him for some information about SV Sandhausen’s upcoming season.

Keep an eye out for . . .

Most certainly Andrew Wooten, who was tipped for an USMNT call-up at the start of last season due to his blistering form. That has returned in pre-season and he will certainly be hoping to continue that this year. Lucas Höler and Julian Derstroff are an interesting partnership that thrived for 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the 3. Liga last year and could well prove excellent impact players this term.

Terrace favorite . . .

As much as it may be obvious, Stefan Kulovits’ never-say-die attitude and tough tackling makes him an obvious candidate. The club captain never shies away from a challenge and sees his fair share of cards. If getting stuck in and barking orders are your thing, the Austrian midfielder is the man for you.

Player that should be driven to another club . . .

After the sizeable summer clear-out at Sandhausen, there are very few players that would be picked out as ‘please get them out, now’ candidates. If we’re talking about driving, heading to Hannover and bringing back Florian Hübner might not be a bad idea.

Advice you’d give your manager . . .

Keep us up. For Sandhausen, even staying in the league is a big achievement. With one of the smallest gates in the division, it is always going to be hard to push further up the table, but Kenan Kocak looks to be an exciting prospect and one which could flourish if given the time. Patience is a virtue.

Opposition player you despise . . .

With Dimitrios Diamantakos scoring twice against SVS in the derby last year, Daniel Gordon will be out to stop his former Karlsruher SC team-mate. Due to that not being a ‘proper’ derby as such, there is no man that would stand out as being a true enemy of the Hardtwaldstadion faithful; the Greek forward will have to do.

What will opposing sides underestimate?

Most probably their defence. Teams went in hard on Wooten and Aziz Bouhaddouz after they realised their strength in attack last season and that accounted, partially, for the slump after Christmas. Daniel Gordon and Tim Kister will still form a solid partnership, and the return of Leart Paqarada will be warmly welcomed.

What are fans overestimating?

It’s hard to say. Sandhausen fans don’t expect much, if anything, being the smallest side in the league – I mean that in a nice way – but perhaps the pressure on Wooten to deliver could prove too much.

Tip you’d give foreign fans visiting Hardtwaldstadion for the first time  . . .

Go visit the rest of the region. Baden is a wonderful place and with Stuttgart and Heidelberg within train distance, it’s definitely worth seeing round. If you’re like me and want to make the most of a footballing weekend, combine it with a VfB game if time suits and get football value for money.

Where will SVS finish? . . .

Anywhere above the relegation places would be a success. Given the departure of Alois Schwartz as one of the league’s most respected managers, it will be tough – especially considering Kocak is jumping two tiers himself to take the job. However, if everything falls into place, lower mid-table could be the target.

What is your standout SV Sandhausen memory from last season?

Their blistering start to last season will most definitely live long in the memory as, for a time, they looked to be hanging onto the coattails of the promotion pack. Unfortunately that faded away, but the 6-1 win over Paderborn was a huge shock and one which they will treasure.

When last we saw them

A season of two contrasting halves. The 2015-16 Hinrunde saw SV Sandhausen gain a bit of “fairy tale” status as the minnow club (from the 2.Bundesliga’s smallest city) rose to a stunning 4th place. The likes of Uli Hesse speculated that SVS was the 2015 calendar year’s performer of the year. Even more remarkably, Sandhausen completed this task as it opened the season with an automatic 3-point deduction. By Christmas, SVS were sitting glowingly at 7th.

However, the new year brought a curse familiar with overperformers everywhere: regression to the mean. From February to May, SVS’s fall was precipitous. During the disastrous Rückrunde, SVS won 4, drew 2, and lost 11 (!) with a -17 GD during this stretch.

SVS's 2105-16 fairy season quickly regressed to the mean by late spring. (Courtesy of kicker.de)
SVS’s 2105-16 fairy season quickly regressed to the mean by late spring. (Courtesy of kicker.de)

Moreover, SVS lost both their head coach, Alois Schwartz to 1. FC Nürnberg, and their leading scorer (9 goals) and leading assister (9 assists), the Moroccean Aziz Bouaddouz to FC St. Pauli. But this isn’t all. They also lost starting centerback Florian Hübner (to H96) and backup centerback Daniel Schulz (to Stuttgarter Kickers), as well as 2nd leading goal scorer, Ranislav Jovanovic (to FSV Frankfurt) and a bevy of midfielders. If there’s silver-lining here, it’s that these players average about 30 years old between them all, so these losses allow SVS to play with a younger roster.

In all, SVS was below the Bundesliga 2 average for 2015-16: they were in bottom half for goal scoring and (unfortunately) in the top half for goals conceded – appropriate results for a club that finished 13th.

Aspiration

Mid-table. Perhaps even the most exuberantly silly expectations only place this club somewhere mid-table. No one is dreaming of anything higher. But where there’s massive change in football, there frequently seems to be relatively high expectations, as the glittering uncertainty of “the new” baits supporters into hope – no matter who the new coach or new players are.

So a bit of hope-in-the-new will surely have SVS supporters a bit excited as the season begins.

Reality

Don’t get relegated! Seriously. With so much turnover and a new coach, Kenan Kocak (more on him below), surviving a relegation battle will probably be Sandhausen’s destiny this season. The club has too many goals from a season ago, as well as their defensive core, to replace.

Let’s not forget that SVS was a below average unit in terms of scoring goals and a significantly below average unit in terms of preventing opponents’ goals. It’s not like a new coach and new players automatically cancel out these issues.

If the club is successful (by which I mean a mid-table finish) during 2016-17, it’ll be from some luck and the mysterious gelling of a relatively unknown squad. Such occurrences are not possible, of course (anyone remember Darmstadt’s one year tear through the 2.Bundesliga in 2014-15?), yet making predictions on such vicissitudes is foolish.

Prove me wrong, Sandhausen!

The Boss

Boss, Alois Schwartz has moved upstream to 1. FC Nürnberg after coaching SVS from 2013-16. In steps Kenan Kocak, who previously has only coached 4th division Waldhof Mannheim (2013-16). Kocak’s record at Mannheim was 48 wins, 26 draws, and 30 losses with a total +54 GD and a winning percentage of 46%.

Last season, the 35 year old Turkish coach led Mannheim to a Regionalliga West title, but his club missed out on 3.Liga promotion after losing a promotion playoff to Sportfreunde Lotte.

Kenan Kocak in action during his time coaching Waldorf Mannheim.
Kenan Kocak in action during his time coaching Waldorf Mannheim.

If reports can be believed, SVS got their top pick in Kocak after Schwartz departed. At Mannheim, Kocak preached strong defense and “schnell Umschalten,” which means something like “fast position switching in English – an approach similar to gegen-pressing in that speedy transitions between defense and attack are paramount.

Philosophy

Assuming Kocak sticks to his style, SVS will aspire to defense and speed in a 4-2-3-1 shape. With many older players transferred out and many younger players transferred in, Kocak’s style should be realistic. For example, big talent Benedikt Gimber (centerback, loan from local neighbors Hoffenheim) is one of three new centerbacks that Kocak will try groom into a rock of a backline. Meanwhile, Julian-Maurice Derstroff and Lucas Höler joined from Mainz 05 II, a pair who destroyed 3.Liga a season ago, as Jonny Walsh reports. These new boys will join exciting American Andrew Wooten (this season’s Bobby Wood?) atop to do some of that “Umschalten” stuff. Moreover, Wooten looks to build on his 9 goals from last season as he replaces Bouhaddouz as “the guy.” 

Plan B

When the going gets tough, f— it all and play two banks of four defenders, who synchronize like a ballet troupe. Sandhausen will need this to survive if there’s any problem in gelling together all these new players, especially – I’d wager – in the midfield, which might not provide enough link up play or opportunistic transitions to keep SVS in matches. Besides, learning speedy position switching is something that takes times and repetition.

Avoiding relegation is paramount for a club from a city of only 12,000 people, all of which who can fit inside the stadium.

Notable Transfers 

Out:

  • Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli)
  • Florian Hübner (H96)
  • Daniel Schulz (Stuttgarter Kickers)
  • Robert Zillner (?)
  • Ranislav Jovanovic (FSV)
  • Philipp Kühn (Viktoria Köln)
  • Alexander Bieler (Kiel)
  • Jakub Kosecki (Legia Warsaw)

In:

  • Lucas Höler (Mainz II)
  • Julian-Maurice Derstroff (Mainz II)
  • Daniel Gordon (KSC)
  • Tim Knipping (Gladbach II)
  • Max Jansen (Hallscher FC)
  • Richard Sukuta-Pasu (Cottbus)
  • Benedikt Gimber (Hoffenheim)
  • Michael Hiegl (FCA Walldorf)
  • Markus Karl (Kaiserlautern)

Strengths

No matter table position or results, SVS will play decent (at least!) defense. Kocak emphasizes this phase of play – a smart outlook for a club looking to stay up after an off-season of heavy turnover.

Speed might become another strength for Sandhausen, depending on how quickly and well their new attack gels.

Weaknesses

It’s gotta be the midfield. New signing Markus Karl will pair with Kulovits as double pivots. While Kulovits is a known bundle of passion and defensive, Karl is 30 and is hoping to resurrect his career after a steep decline at Kaiserslautern.

Finally, with the turnover in the attacking line, it’s likely there’ll be a bumpy road getting out first gear during the season’s opening weeks. Hopefully, SVS can survive what will likely be a bit of a fallow Hinrunde.

Crucial Stretch in Schedule

Honestly, the opening five weeks with matches against F95 (Home), VfB (Home), and Kaiserslautern (Home) highlighting this stretch. Then a November run of the Baden derby against KSC (Away), Union Berlin (Home), 1. FC Nürnberg (Away), and two weeks later H96 (Away), could make or break Kocak’s job.

Verdict

14th place. I think SV Sandhausen survive another season in the 2.Bundesliga, thanks to their defending, which can help them frustrate enough midtable sides to nab points here and there.

My guess is that Kocak and co. view 2016-17 as an anchoring year in which to establish a system, defensively and offensively, that will lead to future stability. In this sense, table placement will be secondary.

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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 coaching the U6s are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, and his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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