By Peter Vice @ViceytheSS
We address the many absences on the 2022/23 German Bundesliga’s 22nd matchday in the introductory paragraphs.
Matarazzo’s section also contains some thoughts on the tectonic shift in German football this week that Hoffenheim will strive to be a 50+1 club once again.
|Jordan Siebatcheu.||Photo: 1. FC Union Berlin|
Our weekly check in with the American actors active in Germany’s top footballing flight – for the first time in the four-year-history of this column – features only two graded sections. Recently returned trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo receives marks as does American striker Jordan Pefok. All of the other actors were conspicuously absent in the latest round of action.
Borussia Mönchengladbach trainer Daniel Farke left many league watchers questioning his logic by not starting fullback Joe Scally even though the American was once again fit and replacement right-back Stefan Lainer had performed so poorly last week. VfL Wolfsburg flanker Kevin Paredes recovered from a bout with illness in time to make Niko Kovac’s bench squad, but was only used as a late time-killing sub against Köln.
TSG trainer Matarazzo benched John Anthony Brooks following the Berliner’s fifth consecutive underwhelming performance last week. We also haven’t seen Giovanni Reyna – not even as a time-kid;ling sub off the bench – since a rather suspect performance as a starter on matchday 20. Those with eyes toward the future may be interested to know that Paxten Aaronson made his first bench squad last week for struggling Eintracht Frankfurt.
Pellegrino Matarazzo, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Trainer)
Matches = 1, Result = L
Grade = B
A noticeable improvement from die Kraichgauer in our American trainer’s third match in charge of the club. The constellation that the New Jersey native opted for brought with it some early defensive stability, crucially holding heavily favored Borussia Dortmund at bay in early stages of last Saturday’s loss. The Sinsheimers were eventually able to generate some offensive impetus of their own later one. After trying out a 3-4-3 and a 3-4-1-2, Matartazzo went with a 3-3-2-2 this time.
Lineup—TSG Hoffenhein—Match 22 (3-3-2-2)
Much to the dismay of J.A. Brooks fans, the back-three performed much better without the out-of-sorts U.S. international. The deputized club veteran Sebastian Rudy also out some great work in on the track back. it was such that the hosting Neckarstädter were able to limit Dortmund to one tight-angle shot from BVB attacker Jamie Bynoe-Gittens in the opening half-hour. Edin Terzic’s crew were nevertheless able to find the gaps as the first-half drew to a close. This shape unquestionably buckled following the solid initial phase.
Ozan Kabak’s subbing off didn’t help. Ermin Bickacic had great difficulty handling the BVB rush and it came as no surprise to see Dortmund grab the opening goal shortly before it was time to head into the tunnel. After two lengthy VAR stoppages impeded the match flow for much of the second half, we witnessed some late-game fight from Matarazzo’s men for the second consecutive week. The American trainer maintained the shape whilst ultimately introducing Kasper Dolberg, Fisnik Asllani, and Angelo Stiller for Rudy, Ihlas Bebou, and Umut Tohumcu.
All three subs got their looks in at goal. Dolberg forced a solid save out of BVB keeper Gregor Kobel. Asllani narrowly missed the equalizer via a header wide six minutes from the end of normal time. At the end of the day, Hoffenheim racked up an xG figure (0.92 to Dortmund’s 1.67) reflective of a hard-fought and surprisingly evenly-matched fixture. Some positives heading forward include the contributions of the later subs as the overall play of attackers Andrej Kramaric and Christoph Baumgartner.
There suddenly exists a more hopeful vibe around this team. Much of this actually has to do with the huge bombshell that dropped off the pitch this week. German footballing diehards must, most unexpectedly, re-examine their feelings about what is easily the most disliked club in the top-flight. One of the most hated men in German football – TSG owner Dietmar Hopp – now claims he wishes to return the organization he built up back to a fan-ownership model. Incredibly significant piece of news there.
It’s actually not a stretch to say that German fans might be preparing to make a complete 180-degree-turn on the Kraichgauer. The perception of the TSG as a billionaire’s vanity project won’t be wiped clean overnight, but the notion that Hopp’s 96-percent-ownership stake was merely a temporary measure shifts the entire dynamic. History could recall Hopp as someone who built his hometown club up out of genuine affection for the local community; something perfectly acceptable in the context of German football.
From a “vanity-project” to a “labor of love”?
We shall see.
For now, we’ll get back on tangent with the football. Matarazzo has multiple injury concerns heading into the weekend fixture away at Mainz. Given the recent form of the Rheinhessen, the American trainer’s first point earned in charge of the squad doesn’t look likely. A competitive performance and some sensible tactics could still well keep our subject here on “B-Level” in the next series of assessments. The recent developments with respect to the club’s ownership structure might even see considerably less “TSG bashing” in this space.
Jordan Siebatcheu, 1. FC Union Berlin
Minutes played = 63/90, Positions played = LS
Grade = C-
Very difficult to score Jordan or indeed any other Union player after what transpired against Bayern on Sunday. After back-to-back Europa League weeks, Urs Fischer’s poor Eisernen were left hung out to dry against the well-rested German giants. It did come as a surprise to see this American get the start here. Last week’s column specifically predicted that the D.C. native wasn’t in good enough form to factor into Fischer’s rotative plans. The 26-year-old might have gotten a go as part of a tacit capitulation.
Jordan certainly can’t be accused of capitulating himself. The writer recorded 18 sprints from the U.S. international. To observe this tally after watching a match in which Union appeared pinned back in their own half nearly all the time served as good old-fashioned evidence that initial impressions can be deceptive. Not much deceptive about the subject’s duel rate, particularly in the air He hit the 50-percent mark directly. Bad losses came in the 9th, 32nd, 36th, 43rd, and 45th.
Jordan found himself directly culpable for one of Bayern’s goals. One of his bad aerial losses proceeded the sequence on which Kingsley Coman scored in the 40th. He also literally fell down on the job on a sequence in the 20th. After releasing Sheraldo Becker out wide right with a clever pass, he slipped attempting to try out an artistic finish on the return ball. Ground duels were particularly bad on this day. The striker appeared very slow on the ball in the 5th, 8th (twice), 10th (again, twice), 12th, 25th, 44th, and 49th.
Interestingly enough, some of Jordan’s better work occurred when he was forced to defend in the Bayern box. There’s some great defensive touches on display in the 17th, 27th, 60th, and 62nd. Sharper and more creative offensive work can also be found in the 15th, 26th, 56th, and 58th. Not all of his aerial wins/flick-ons proved especially useful, but one can watch him beat back direct opponents serviceably and get to the ball first in the 13th, 16th, 18th, 28th, 37th, 45th, and 51st.
Just-below average marks seem appropriate this time around. Despite all the miscues, Jordan remained about as positively impactful as one could hope for in this one. Many of his 37 recorded touches suffered from rushed thinking on the ball. That’s perfectly understandable against a ravenous FCB press actively seeking to make a statement following last week’s league defeat to Gladbach. Not much to glean about this American’s quest to reinstate his status as a regular starter here.
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All columns debut on Bulinews before appearing on Peter’s website as the season progresses.