Professional soccer will return in Germany this weekend. Here’s a brief look at the country’s top-tier league and it’s few connections to the Philadelphia Union.
There are just 9 matchdays remaining in the top-tier German Bundesliga. But those 9 weeks will surely be cherished by soccer fans around the globe considering the prolonged absence of sports in the last few months.
Major League Soccer has only hinted at potential returns to action while Germany is now at a place where professional sports can continue with no fans in attendance.
Almost every Bundesliga club has played at least 24 matches so far, with most having 9 fixtures remaining. A quick glance at the standings (or table) will show the top 5 as being all but sorted out. But the real intrigue will come from the battle for that 6th place finish and with it a shot at qualifying for the Europa League.
For one club, in particular, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, that 6th place finish is what they’ll scrap and claw for with the final two months of the season now coming to fruition.
For Philadelphia Union fans, the connection between their club and Hoffenheim is real.
So, why not support Hoffenheim?
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
The connection between Hoffenheim and the Union is perhaps the most notable and worthy of mention.
Take a quick look at the club’s technical staff. You should immediately recognize the last name Schreuder and maybe even smile when you remember Dick Schreuder as a member of current Union Head Coach Jim Curtin’s technical staff.
Dick Schreuder decided to pack up his things and leave Philadelphia for Hoffenheim last June following the June 8th 3-2 home victory against New York Red Bulls. You may also remember that as the “Ilsinho game.”
On several occasions, Curtin would make every effort to highlight the work of his technical staff in 2019. As the team progressed to the top of the table, the technical staff, headed by assistant coach Schreuder, became an integral part of the club’s success last season. Through Schreuder’s continued hard-work, he earned the opportunity to join his brother overseas.
Curtin said at the time, “It’s been a pleasure coaching alongside Dick Schreuder for the past two seasons and I wish him nothing but the best as he takes this new position with Hoffenheim.”
“Dick has a rare opportunity to coach alongside his brother, and he has my full support. We’ve learned a lot from each other since he came here from the Netherlands, and I know he’ll be successful in the Bundesliga,” said Curtin.
Schreuder and the technical staff were especially vital during the later stages of the season when Curtin needed to find ways to continue using his most impactful players without burning them out. He relied heavily on Schreuder and others to get the most out of veteran players like Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin without running them into the ground.
Now, Schreuder, alongside his brother and Hoffenheim manager Alfred Schreuder, hopes to help Hoffenheim return to post-season play with a clear shot at grabbing that 6th place finish and a chance to qualify for the Europa League.
At the end of the 2017-2018 season with Alfred as the assistant coach, Hoffenheim surprised many German soccer fans with a 3rd place Bundesliga finish which granted a coveted place in the world-renowned UEFA Champions League. Unfortunately, the success of their season did not overflow into Champions League play. They finished at the bottom of their group after failing to win, drawing three, and losing another three contests during the 2018-2019 campaign. They would not have much luck domestically either, finishing 9th with just 51 points and 13 wins.
But this year, Hoffenheim are still in good enough shape to salvage something from this briefly halted season. And it begins Saturday with a clash against Hertha Berlin, who sit in 13th place – seven points below Hoffenheim in the table.
Of Hoffenheim’s nine remaining fixtures, seven of them are against clubs below them in the table. With 35 points currently (just two points behind 6th place FC Schalke 04), the Schreuder brothers will need to capitalize on the opportunities ahead of them.
However, those two other fixtures against teams above them in the table are against powerhouse clubs RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund, sitting in third and second place in the table. Both clubs have at least 50 points through 25 matches and have a combined +71 goal differential. Needless to say, the Schreuder brothers may not expect a win in those contests.
Union fans are aching for soccer’s return and Saturday is an opportunity to enjoy it once more, just on a different stage. But this stage shouldn’t be too unfamiliar for DOOP fans.
Hitch your wagon to Hoffenheim and the Schreuder brothers at the helm. They’ll need all the support they can muster as they hunt for a top 6 finish. It all starts back up Saturday. And it can’t come soon enough.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: imago images
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.