By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (May 12, 2021) US Soccer Players – In an interesting twist to an already strange calendar, a domino effect of coaching changes has already hit the Bundesliga for next season. Bayern Munich’s coach is taking the Germany job. His replacement comes from RB Leipzig, who, in turn, will bring in former USMNT player Jesse Marsch from Red Bull Salzburg. That should mean two American coaches in Germany’s topflight with New Jersey native Pellegrino Matarazzo trying to keep Augsburg above the relegation places.
What remains to play for in Germany involves several USMNT players. Bayern Munich has already locked up the title, but there’s still the domestic cup. Tyler Adams, the American already established at Leipzig, has a chance to lift a trophy on Thursday when his club goes for the DFB Pokal. He’ll have to beat another American to win RB Leipzig’s first piece of silverware. Gio Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund arrive in Berlin equally anxious to secure a trophy this season. Six points separate the two clubs in the Bundesliga standings, with both in Champions League spots. Dortmund helped themselves to three points at RB Leipzig’s expense on Saturday, with the two clubs meeting in the league.
“We’ve now got enough time before Thursday to analyze our mistakes,” RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said following the 3-2 loss. “Not everything was bad today, though. We can discuss some positive things too. We’re looking forward to the cup final. It’s a special occasion. We will need to be better on Thursday to win the title.”
RB Leipzig is all but assured 2nd-place in the Bundesliga. Borussia Dortmund’s situation is trickier. They’ve benefited from another USMNT player’s club struggling. Timmy Chandler’s Eintracht has had issues in the final stretch of games, falling out of the Champions League spots to 5th-place. They only trail Dortmund by a point with two games remaining, but a loss at Bayer Leverkusen and a draw at home with Mainz look like squandered points.
“We didn’t do as well as I imagined and struggled to come up with answers against aggressive opposition,” Eintracht coach Adi Hutter said following the draw with Mainz. “We need to keep focusing on ourselves and win the two remaining matches, and then we’ll know. We’re going to fight to the end.”
Hutter is also part of the coaching carousel, already announcing he will move to Gladbach. Eintracht head of sport Fredi Bobic is leaving for Hertha BSC. The Bundesliga clubs will quarantine through the end of the season, meaning a return to the type of environment they faced during last season’s restart. It’s a last chance for the leadership at multiple clubs before what will undoubtedly be a tumultuous summer.
Dortmund is one of those clubs, with Gladbach’s current coach Marco Rose taking over. Right now, under interim coach Edin Terzic, it’s not overly dramatic to suggest that Dortmund’s ability to hang onto its young superstars hinges on finishing in Germany’s top four. Erling Haaland is already linked with the biggest clubs in the sport. Gio Reyna is currently part of a squad focused on Haaland’s goals and the play of Jadon Sancho. That could change quickly.
Squeezed in between RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in the league table is John Brooks’s Wolfsburg. Of the three, it’s Wolfsburg that is the biggest surprise. Dortmund entered the 2020/21 season off the back of two straight second-place finishes, while RB Leipzig has been priming itself for a title challenge for years.
Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga history is all over the map, with high highs and low lows. The club narrowly missed a Europa League place last season and entered 2020-21 picked to finish somewhere in the bottom half of the top 10. Instead of merely a respectable position in the table, Wolfsburg is on the verge of earning a Champions League spot for the first time since 2015. Brooks is no small part of the success of the club, enabling Wolfsburg to play out of the back with his passing. This season is his strongest since arriving from Hertha Berlin in 2017.
Wolfsburg’s two remaining games are against Leipzig on Sunday and Mainz on the season’s final day. Eintracht is within reach, meaning any slip could end up with Wolfsburg falling out of the Champions League places late. Goal difference favors Wolfsburg and Dortmund over Eintracht, +25 to +15 should it come to that.
There are two other Americans further down the table. Chris Richard’s second-half loan to Hoffenheim has paid off for the Alabama native in both minutes and praise. Since arriving from Bayern Munich at the beginning of February, Richards has collected 13 starts and prompted Hoffenheim to inquire with Bayern Munich about a permanent move. He’ll likely play a part in Hoffenheim’s final two matches against 16th-place Arminia Bielefeld and 14th-place Hertha Berlin. Hoffenheim sits safely in 11th-place with no danger of relegation, so the stakes will be low.
Meanwhile, Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen face another relegation battle. The club only managed to avoid relegation last season through a playoff. Now, they’re in 15th-place tied on points with Arminia below them and Hertha above. With games against Augsburg (currently 13th) and Moenchengladbach (7th) the pressure is on for Werder to get something out of its last two matches. It’s not just the relegation playoff spot. Cologne in 17th-place could still escape relegation at the expense of one of the several clubs ahead of them. That should lead to final day drama, hopefully not involving a USMNT player.
More From Jason Davis:
- Josh Wolff: “We want to break them down just like they want to break us down”
- No need to panic three weeks into the MLS season
- Jesse Marsch’s coaching plan
- Producing elite soccer talent in the USL Championship
Photo by Imago via ZUMA Press – ISIPhotos.com