By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jan 27, 2023) US Soccer Players – Germany’s league seasons have hit the halfway point, with the top division delivering one of the most competitive title races of any of Europe’s top domestic leagues. Bayern Munich sits in its usual spot atop the Bundesliga, but every club from second to sixth is within five points of 1st-place. There’s a decent chance that this season could end with someone else claiming the championship for the first time since the 2011-12 season. A new champion would end a run of 10 straight titles for Bayern.
Among the challengers is Borussia Dortmund, the last non-Bayern winner of the league. Dortmund is in fifth, tied on 31 points with Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Freiburg after picking up six points from its two matches coming out of the league’s extended winter break. Germany paused for the World Cup, then extended that interlude into its traditional midseason stoppage. The league returned to play last weekend with a full slate of games, including Dortmund’s dramatic 4-3 win over Augsburg at Signal Iduna Park.
Gio Reyna scored the winning goal with a volley in the 78th minute after coming on for Karim Adeyemi as a second-half substitute. The power of Dortmund’s young corps of budding stars was on full display in that game, with 19-year-old Jude Bellingham, 23-year-old Nico Schotterbeck, and 18-year-old Jamie Bynoe-Gittens joining 20-year-old Reyna on the scoresheet.
Reyna followed his match-winning performance against Augsburg with another winner in midweek against Mainz, again via a substitute appearance. Combined with a draw between SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund’s win lifted them into a tie with those two teams on 31 points.
Eintracht’s season is already looking better than its last. The 4th-place club finished last year in 11th position, a decline from the top-10 performances it put in during the previous four seasons. The team that Timmy Chandler has called home since 2014 is outperforming its xG number by enough to believe there could be regression coming, but for now, the results are exceedingly positive.
Eintracht is riding a five-game unbeaten run that includes four wins, meaning the club hasn’t lost since October 29. That run will be tested when the second half of the season begins this weekend with a match at Bayern Munich.
The team closest to the 10-time defending Bundesliga champions after 17 matches is something of a surprise: Union Berlin. Union has been on a steady rise in the top division since gaining promotion from the 2.Bundesliga after the 2018-19 season. Last season, the club finished fifth, gaining entry into the Europa League, where they’ll face Ajax in the first knockout round next month.
A big part of their success so far in 2022-23 is the efficiency of Union’s performances. Despite ranking eighth in goals scored through 17 games at 29, Union Berlin is tied with Bayern and Dortmund for the most wins with 10. A solid defense and the ability to come back from deficits have characterized the season so far. Jordan Pefok has contributed three goals to the effort.
Down the table, the Bundesliga maintains a parity sometimes lacking in top-level leagues in Europe. Among the clubs battling to make the top half of the standings is 9th-place Borussia Moenchengladbach, where fullback Joe Scally has established himself as a regular in coach Daniel Farke’s team.
Gladbach dropped both of its matches coming out of the break. They’re finding the challenge of chasing down 7th-place Wolfsburg and 8th-place Bayer Leverkusen more difficult given those clubs’ recent form. Wolfsburg is on a run of six straight wins in the league, while Leverkusen is five for its last five.
John Brooks joined Hoffenheim on Thursday, with the club in 13th-place and trying to break a four-game losing streak hosting Gladbach on Saturday.
A level down, the goal is promotion to the topflight. Halfway through the 2. Bundesliga season, that battle is just as intense as the chase for the championship in the first division. Germany’s second division played 17 matchdays before the World Cup/winter break and will return from the break this weekend with Round 18.
Only by earning a spot in the top two can a club guarantee promotion to the Bundesliga next season. The 3rd-place club faces the 16th-place team from the first division in a two-legged playoff for the last promotion spot. Through the opening half of the year, Darmstadt (36 points) and Hamburg (34 points) lead the way for automatic promotion, but the race is tight.
Heidenheim sits in third on 33 points ahead of a small gap back to 4th-place Kaiserslautern. Kaiserslautern is aiming for two consecutive promotions after moving up from the third division last year. Promotion brought Terrence Boyd back into the 2.Bundesliga after three years of playing in the 3.Liga. Boyd joined Kaiserslautern in January of 2022 and scored eight goals during the promotion push. Boyd matched that total through the first half of this season, scoring eight goals in 17 starts.
Greuther Furth returned to the second division after a year in the Bundesliga and sits in 10th halfway through the 2.Bundesliga season. Julian Green is in his sixth season playing in Furth’s midfield. Green has two goals on the year in nine starts as the club works to get back into the promotion picture. These days Green plays at Furth with another product of the Bayern youth system Timothy Tillman, the brother of USMNT midfielder Malik Tillman.
Fullback George Bello joined Arminia from Atlanta United in January 2022. Over the first half of this season, Bello nearly equal his minutes from his first half-season with the club in 2022, putting him on pace to double his total playing time in his first full year in Germany. Arminia, a club that can boast the most second-division titles in the 2.Bundesliga’s history is in 16th-place.
Germany’s fourth division has turned the corner for the second half, too. Divided into five competitions by region, Preussen Munster has the inside track for a move to the 3.Liga thanks to an eight-point lead in the Regionalliga West standings. Andrew Wooten, a forward who spent time at SV Sandhausen (where he played with Haji Wright) and the Philadelphia Union, is second on the team in goals with nine.
Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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Photo by Imago via ZUMA Press – ISIPhotos.com