After practice Friday morning, Mainz 05 Coach Martin Schmidt sat and talked with reporters. Among the topics for conversation with the 44 year-old former Mainz reserve club coach was the club’s visit to Colorado Springs, which is coming to its end as the club returns to Germany Saturday. In addition to training time, the 05ers played two friendlies during their week in the States, against the American 3rd division Colorado Springs Switchbacks Tuesday and the UdG Leones Negros of Mexico’s second division on Wednesday, both wins for the German side that collected a Cup after each match.
Schmidt’s feelings about Mainz first visit to the United States were very positive in all aspects. He felt that his club “represented Germany well” in a nation of fast-growing soccer awareness and a market that the Bundesliga is quite anxious to penetrate. It was good for his players to experience a different culture and they enjoyed coming to America, something which I’ve found true of any Bundesliga player visiting the States with his club. Also, being in a radically different timezone from that of Germany meant that players just couldn’t pick up the phone and call family and friends back home whenever they wanted who may be sound asleep — a good experience for the players, according to Schmidt.
The competition in the Freedom Cup and Colorado Cup friendlies was much to Schmidt’s liking. Both the Switchbacks, in midseason play, and the Leones Negros, whose new Ascenso MX season begins this weekend, proved to be opponents in fine physical shape. Schmidt was impressed by the Switchbacks “very athletic style” and felt it key to be able to score goals against such a physical and fit side. Mission accomplished, as the 05ers put six into the Switchbacks’ goal, despite some good goalkeeping by Devala Gorrick, a veteran who as a youngster attended the Bayer 04 Leverkusen academy for several months training. Although the Switchbacks compete at a much lower level than the Bundesliga, they are having a successful season, holding onto fourth spot in the USL PRO Western Conference table after 16 matches.
Leones Negros also drew praise from Schmidt, who referred to the Guadalajara club as one that plays at a “very high technical level.” The two clubs drew 1-1 after 90 minutes, with Jhon Cordoba netting for Mainz. Schmidt was pleased that his defense was up to the task and relished the penalty kick win, claimed after newcomer Gerrit Holtmann delivered the decisive spotkick. For the highly competitive coach, it was an opportunity to win “the willpower war” of deciding a game on penalty kicks.
Despite currently being a second division club, Leones Negros have played in Mexico’s first division as recently as two seasons ago. It is very difficult to earn promotion from Ascenso MX, as only one club each year is promoted to/demoted from the 18 team Mexican first division, leaving some powerful and traditionally popular clubs competing in the second division for years without promotion. Also appreciated by Schmidt was the differing styles of play presented by the Switchbacks and Leones Negros, which helps his players prepare for an upcoming season that will see 05 feature in three different competitions.
Although Mainz didn’t draw the of number fans that a Bayern Munich would, Schmidt was pleased with the friendly and appreciative reception by fans in Colorado Springs and enjoyed their interest in Mainz and Bundesliga football in general. Given the training facilities at the USAF Academy, the competition provided by event organizer Justin Rose, the beautiful environment and friendly, respectful fans, Schmidt stated that he would be very happy to return to the Springs for a future training program. Very glad to hear that.
05er Jannik Huth Earns Place on German Olympic Squad
There will be a Mainz man representing Germany at the upcoming Brazil Olympics, as 22 year-old goalkeeper Jannik Huth was picked as one of two goalkeepers (the other being the Billy Goats’ Timo Horn) on Horst Hrubesch’s 18 member squad. The Rio-bound Huth, a native of Bad Kreuznach, has been at Mainz since 2007 and played 47 matches for the reserve side in 3. Liga competition. As a second half sub in both Colorado Springs matches for Mainz, Huth impressed, especially with his penalty-saving ability against Leones Negros that brought 05 victory.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Huth and several of his reserve side teammates the next day. They were smart, funny and great company, and the Bundesliga Fanatic wishes the best for young Herr Huth while with the German Olympic team, a well-deserved honor indeed.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention how much fun it was to be with Mainz, Justin Rose and his staff and the great footy fans here in Colorado and visiting from all over. This is a talented Mainz squad under an excellent coach, who is enthusiastic and wants to win badly. Mainz’ staff members such as Silke, Daniel and the others were serious about their work but fun to be with, and it was great to meet such folks here as Peter Moufarrege, an American-German with a great sense of humor on assignment here for Bild, along with longtime online friend Juan Arango and Bruce Silverman, who commentated on the Leones Negros match for ESPN, along with the good folks from Froozer, a healthy frozen treat that refreshes. Juan was one of the first, along with Patrick from the outstanding Neverkusen Podcast, to support the early efforts of the Bundesliga Fanatic six years ago. I’ll never forget Juan referring to our site and one of our talented editors, Cris Nyari, who now works for Bayern Munich USA. on a GolTV Bundesliga match broadcast several years ago. Priceless.
I met so many wonderful families out here in Colorado, too, involved with the game at the grassroots level….. tremendous and inspiring !!! And one can’t say enough about the friendliness and courtesy of the Mainz players, and their patience with language barriers…. a fine group of men !!!
Justin Rose has been working on his vision in tandem with the DFL of expanding Bundesliga awareness in the United States, but also promoting business exchange between American and German business through the beautiful game. An important part of that vision and passion also concerns cultural sharing and youth development, student exchange programs and crossover learning from techniques developed in both countries to improve sport on the field and its business culture off of it. With a smart and friendly team consisting of his brother Jason, special friend Mary Ann, Erin, Levi and Lila helping, along with Mom Shirley, Mainz first visit to the Western Hemisphere was a success, and future plans to continue this work are developing as I write. Good luck this season to Mainz 05 this upcoming season, its fine players and staff, and thank you for coming to America.