May 29, 2017

Yanks in Deutschland: Post-Matchday 19 and DFB Pokal Edition

This series tracks the performances of U.S. players in the German Bundesliga. Currently, a key group of American players ply their trade in the German top flight and on the U.S. Mens National Team. This group of players continues the contemporary trend of Americans playing in the German Bundesliga.

Outside of Major League Soccer (MLS), you will find the most important group of U.S. footballers in the German Bundesliga. The reasons for this phenomenon vary, but historically can be largely attributed to the presence of U.S. citizens – especially military personnel – marrying Germans, having kids, and those kids growing up playing football in Germany. Moreover, German clubs, with their emphasis on youth development, have been quite welcoming to U.S. youngsters.

The Yanks in Deutschland trends continues. So let’s see how the Americans fared these past couple weeks …

Current Americans in the Bundesliga 

Terrence Boyd (forward, SV Darmstadt 98) – Boyd is back. The former BVB and RB Leipzig II forward was signed by the relegation struggler for a 600,000 € fee during die Winterpause. So far, Boyd hasn’t done much with his new club. In two starts, Boyd hasn’t registered a single shot, has been spotty with his passing work, and earned a yellow card for his efforts. At least he’s in the top flight again — and on a side who can actually use him.

John Brooks (defender, Hertha BSC) – Brooks remains a defensive stalwart, anchoring Herha’s relatively stingy defense. Like many starting centerbacks in one of Europe’s top leagues, Brooks registers both strong and sloppy performances. However, overall Brooks has really matured as a reliable centerback this season. He continues to be Hertha’s most involved passer. And given his height, his ability to win aerial duels puts him among the league’s best (e.g. he won 75% of his 20 aerials last matchday in the Hessianderby). Finally, Brooks continues to be his club’s final line of defense, as he’s among the league leaders in clearances made (about 6 per match).

Timothy Chandler (fullback, Eintracht Frankfurt) Timmy’s career year roars on. The fullback has been sensational for his sensational club, who is in 3rd place. From the flank, Chandler leads his club in chances created: 22 total, 2 of which are assists.  Moreover, Chandler continues to draw a lot of contact when he’s dribbling down the flank. Chandler’s passing work is fascinating; depending on context and opponent, his type of passing and pass completion rate fluctuates from below 50% to above 80%:

Chandler’s fluctuating pass completion rate.

Another topic for another day.

Anyhow, so far Chandler might still be my candidate for Yank of the Season, given his importance for his suddenly successful club. If he continues to remain healthy, I’m willing to plug him for an all-Bundesliga Startelf at rightback.

Aron Jóhannsson (forward, Werder Bremen) – Jóhannsson’s forgettable season continues. Again, injuries are dogging Jóhannsson — this time calf problems, which have kept him even off the bench during the Rückrunde so far. He’s appeared in 7 matches for 240 total minutes this season with 1 goal and 1 assist. It’s time to start thinking about next season already.

Fabian Johnson (midfielder, Borussia Mönchengladbach) – Johnson is trying to get back into form after dealing with an Achilles tendon injury during the break. We missed you, Fabi. On Matchday 19, Johnson earned an assist as his Foals finally got a win (3-0 over SC Freiburg). Johnson also earned an assist during Gladbach’s 0-2 win at Greuther Fürth this week.

Alfredo Morales (midfielder, FC Ingolstadt) – After recovering from his injury, Morales has made a comeback into relegation struggler Ingolstadt’s squad. He scored a goal a couple weeks before die Winterpause at Bayer Leverkusen. Morales has played the full 90 in 4 of FCI’s last 5 matches. On an offensively starved side, he’s only averaging a shot a match. However, the playing time is a welcome sign, as Morales pieces his season back together after his injury.

Christian Pulisic (midfielder, Borussia Dortmund) – The teenager continues to grab the most attention of all Yanks abroad — and rightly so. He’s still a regular fixture on Tuchel’s side. He’s still worth riding the hype train for. And, boy, does he routinely come agonizingly close to scoring another goal or making another assist. So close! Pulisic’s main strength continues to be his ability to penetrate the opponent’s 18 yard box with his speed and terrifyingly direct angles. When he’s not in the Startelf and is subbed into matches, he immediately adds a dangerous dimension to Dortmund’s attack. However, our favorite 18 year old also has his growing pains: he’s dispossessed a lot (2 times a match, 6th most in the Bundesliga), as he extends his dribbling moves or dribbles right into a pack of 3 defenders. Moreover, Ousmane Dembele has been absolutely sensational for BVB these past weeks, leaving Tuchel with a dilemma about which teenager gets more playing time — they don’t quite seem to combine together very well when playing at the same time. Finally, Pulisic missed his penalty against Hertha during the DFB Pokal penalty shootout. It was an eager beaver, honest-to-god, ah-jeez miss. Better next time, Christian.

Bobby Wood (forward, Hamburger SV) – Bobby’s back. I think. Sorta? At least our 24 year old has doubled his Bundesliga goal tally (4!) since last time, as well as scoring a goal in HSV’s DFB Pokal win over 1.FC Köln this week. Moreover, his dribbling run into a mob of defenders largely set up HSV’s first goal. Positively, Wood has played heavy minutes since his red card suspension back in November. He’s even played the full 90 in four straight HSV matches.

All of which means there’s little doubt about Wood being one of HSV’s starting forwards. Bruce Arena must be happy. If Wood can increase his 1 shot per match average (SRSLY!), he should score many more goals. Hopefully, the HSV will continue to gell, as der Dino strings together solid results in recent weeks. Ah shucks, the Hawaiian is our “Yank of the Week.”

Americans in the 2. Bundesliga 

Andrew Wooten (forward, SV Sandhausen) – Our “Next Season’s Bobby Wood” candidate. Wooten still impresses me greatly. In all competitions, he has 11 goals and 4 assists (our American leader in both categories so far this season). Although his SVS crashed out of the DFB Pokal in somewhat surprising fashion to S04 this week, Wooten still got his goal. He also scored in SVS’s home win against Erzgebirge Aue last weekend. Meanwhile, SVS sit at 6th in the 2.Bundesliga, currently. A success surely very few predicted. Wooten continue to defines himself as a striker who’s lurking in the right places for cleaning up rebounds, finishing off attacks, or tapping in goals. Is it luck? Positional smarts? We’ll know more as the season marches forward.

Julian Green (forward, VfB Stuttgart) – The 21 year old native of Tampa continues his search for playing time, as he transferred to VfB Stuttgart — the traditional power, who’s looking like a strong favorite to regain top flight promotion. So far, he’s played in both matches for VfB, including 61 minutes against Fortuna Düsseldorf last weekend. Green scored a goal (20′) in this match; he was lined up as a left attacking midfielder and scored his goal with his left-foot on the volley. A lovely strike.

The move to VfB Stuttgart seems smart for Green, who desperately needs regular playing time — and the topsy-turvy 2.Bundesliga is as good as any place to put in this time right now for Green. It’s likely Green can remain in VfB’s starting lineup through the remaining Rückrunde, which bodes well for Green earning even more time and experience next season if Stuttgart is promoted.

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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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