Though there's the rest of the current 2013-14 Bundesliga season left to play, USMNT defender Fabian Johnson got a jump on the summer transfer season. Johnson's club starting in 2014-15 is Borussia Monchengladbach, with Gladbach announcing on February 24th that Johnson has signed a four-year deal starting this summer. Early announcements of future plans aren’t rare in the Bundesliga, with clubs letting their supporters know a move will happen as soon as it's official. Johnson remains a regular selection with his current club Hoffenheim, but what waits for him at Gladbach? Will he pay homage to a former USMNT legend by body slamming Junter the mascot? Read on.
Fabian Johnson's future move from Hoffenheim to Gladbach
Well, eventually Fabian Johnson's Gladbach. Johnson is an established Bundesliga player, closing in on 100 appearances since 2009. He is seeing out his deal with Hoffenheim, moving on a free transfer this summer. With Hoffenheim already aware of his plans, Johnson went ahead and completed a deal with Gladbach. So Hoffenheim now, Gladbach later. This is Johnson's latest in a series of moves since coming up in 1860 Munich's youth system. He played for them at first team level before moving to VfL Wolfsburg in 2009. Two seasons later, he joined Hoffenheim.
What waits at Gladbach?
Johnson got a firsthand look at this season's version of Gladbach in his last game, a 2-2 draw between his current and future teams. Hoffenheim are mid-table in 2013-14. Things are brighter for Gladbach, just outside of the European places in the Bundesliga table. Gladbach finished 8th last season, but it was in 2011-12 that they made their intentions known. Gladbach finished 4th, qualifying for the Champions League. They fell out of that competition into the Europa League in 2012-13, making it to the Round of 32. Gladbach not only have ambition, they have proof that they can put together a competitive team.
Borussia VfL 1900 Mönchengladbach e.V.
Aka Gladbach have been playing soccer in Mönchengladbach since 1900. The city is in Westphalia, extremely close to the French border. If you want to know why people so freely drop the rest of the name, the city’s original name was Gladbach. The city has just over 250,000 residents and like most places in Europe is quite old. How old? The answer to that particular trivia question is 974.
For the soccer club, the professional era starts with the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963. Gladbach had back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 1970 and 71, winning three-in-a-row from 1975-77. In 1977, they also won the European Cup. That was the crowning achievement in a decade where they also won the UEFA Cup twice (1975 and 79) and were the losing finalists in 1973 and 80. Gladbach won more Bundesliga titles than any other team in the 70s, but it's worth pointing out that a little club from Munich called Bayern won four titles, including three back-to-back in the three seasons before Gladbach did the same thing. Bayern also won the title in the 1980-81 season. Then there's Bayern's European Cup treble from 1974-76.
While Bayern would have other decades of dominance, Gladbach fell off. They've never won the Bundesliga since, with their most recent major honor the 1995 German Cup. In 1999, they made the drop to the 2.Bundesliga.
Back in the topflight in the early 2000s, they dropped again at the end of the 2007 season. Relegation cost them the services of goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who spent two seasons with the club before returning the Premier League with Fulham. Keller's tenure was notable by his choice to live in a castle and the fun he had with the club's mascot. Gladbach’s nickname is The Foals and their horse mascot’s name is Junter. ‘Fun’ might be a relative term here. Keller body slammed Junter after a game against Kaiserslautern in 2005. Do we really have to specify that this is a person in a mascot costume and not an actual horse?
Gladbach turned things around in the 2.Bundesliga, winning promotion the next season. That brought with it the services of another USMNT player. Michael Bradley spent three seasons with the club from 2008-11.
How Tough is the Bundesliga?
Right now, it's the league with the defending Champions League winner. Gladbach aren’t going to convince anybody they'll be challenging for a top two finish, but they're certainly in position to push into the top five. Getting past Bayern and the other Borussia, Dortmund, is tough. Making it worse, normally the announcements of a good player leaving for another Bundesliga club involve Bayern buying someone. They're top of the table and the regular favorite for a reason.
Where do Gladbach play?
Bo-Russia Park, one of Germany's newer stadiums that has a standing section for Bundesliga games. That means it has two official capacities. For the Bundesliga, it's 54,057. For European games where standing sections aren't allowed, it's 46,249. The stadium opened for the 2004-05 season. Oddly enough, it wasn't used for the 2006 World Cup.
During the glory years of the 1970s, Gladbach paraded trophies around the Bökelbergstadion. Construction started before World War I and finished in 1919. Rebuilt for the 1962-63 season, it had a capacity of 34,500. That was mainly terraced standing sections for most of its history. The stadium no longer exists.