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Interview: HSV Coach Achim Feifel on team’s successful second half start

By Chapin Landvogt – Coming out of the winter break, the HSV of the German’s Bundesliga had managed to garner a win, two ties, and a loss in its four games heading into its match against FFC Frankfurt. There, they were able to upset the heavily favored ladies of the FFC, 1-0, on the road, something that sent some shockwaves through the women’s Bundesliga.

The team’s record over the past few weeks is coming on the heels of a fall season in which the team was only able to gain two wins and two ties in its first 10 games of the season. In continuing our inside look at the club as a functioning business entity and sample of the challenges facing a team in Germany’s professional women’s soccer scene, Our Game Magazine took the opportunity to talk to Coach Achim Feifel after a 1-1 tie against Bayern München.

OGM: Have you been happy with the team’s performance coming out of the winter break?

Coach Feifel: Most definitely. I’m quite happy with how well the team has practiced and worked on itself, on improving certain aspects of their game. During the winter break, we ran a much harder program than last summer, and I’m quite satisfied with the attitude of the players and their willingness to do whatever is necessary in practice. That’s an important thing too, because we definitely want to stay in this league.

OGM: Speaking of practice, most all of the ladies have full-time jobs or are still studying at a university or even attend high school in the course of the week. Their life can’t be devoted entirely to soccer. How difficult does that make things for you in organizing, planning and constructing meaningful and goal-oriented practice schedules and routines?

Feifel: Sure, it can be quite difficult and causes us, for example, to have to practice quite late. Wolfsburg is a team that is able to practice at 4 p.m. in daylight, which is when the games are played. We practice at 6:30 p.m., sometimes 7 p.m., under spotlights, and the girls don’t get home until late at night. Many have to be up and at it the next day at 5 or 6 in morning. So for our girls, these are much different prerequisites than some other teams have. It can be quite an extreme workload for them. Then we have the problem that some players are often held up from practicing and playing due to their work, school, tests, etc.

OGM: Do you also have players on the team who have to travel a long way to practice and play here?

Feifel: Yes. Lena Petermann, for example, needs an hour and half to get here from where she lives, often travelling through rush hour traffic. It’s asking a lot. We practice late, and then a player like her isn’t getting home until 11:30 at night, if she’s lucky. There are a few like her in the team. That travel makes for some difficult conditions.

OGM: So when acquiring players for the team, is it your experience that Hamburg has a more difficult chore of it than many of the other teams in the country?

Feifel: That is the case. Hamburg is indeed a bit of a difficult site, if even simply in light of the fact that it isn’t a heavy urban center where lots of towns are located close to each other. This leads to us having to acquire some of our players from external areas. This means that we also have to invest more money into these players. This leads to greater efforts in supporting and coordinating our players. Take a place like North Rhine-Westphalia, where ladies can transfer from Essen to Duisburg and vice versa, much less other clubs that are very closely located to each other in that area and do some really good work. Those areas also have some great potential with their heavily dense population. It just makes things simpler for them in putting together teams with quality throughout the lineup.

HSV Coach Achim Feifel

OGM: When we talk about players coming from elsewhere, some of your opponents have a number of players coming from foreign countries. Many play for their national teams and bring a boatload of international experience with them. The HSV doesn’t have any of these at the moment and has only had a few in recent years. Does this alter the playing field a bit right from the get-go knowing that some clubs are simply more capable of acquiring several players of this caliber and others are not?

Feifel: On the one side, yes. We too are currently looking into expanding our sites into the Scandinavian countries that neighbor us here in Northern Germany. On the other side, it’s always difficult to incorporate foreign players. Our experience is that things can go well and engaging foreign players can be a win-win situation, but it can also backfire. In addition, it’s never easy when you have lingual barriers. This always makes it more difficult to integrate the players. So there are definitely two sides to this coin.

OGM: Your goals for the rest of the season: Is it safe to say that you’re now primarily playing against relegation?

Feifel: Yes, you can say that. That’s definitely our goal. We’ve now got 15 points. Depending on how the games turn out, I’ve got the magic sum of 20 points in site. That is generally what it takes to guarantee yourself a spot in this league when all is said and done. That’s definitely what we’re shooting for.

OGM: Did you do anything special in the winter break to help focus on this goal in a serious, concentrated manner?

Feifel: Indeed we did. We spent time working on the psychological aspect of things, concentrating on personalities. We did some work in that field with a company called PI Europe to try and figure out what makes the individual players and the team tick. We wanted to best figure out how to approach the individual players and see what characters require which forms of motivation. We also wanted the girls to get to know each other better through these courses. In general, we were looking to discover and then pinpoint the maximum in team spirit.

OGM: You also played some test games against some boys’ teams in the area. Is it safe to assume that you as a coach do see this as being an optimal way to prepare the team for the opponents in the women’s Bundesliga?

Feifel: Yes, because playing against boys means that you have to play a compact style as a team. Boys are simply better in 1-on-1 situations because they’re generally quicker, if not stronger. This leads us to need to play better as a group. We need to generate as many 2-on-1 situations as possible, also defensively. We can’t afford to give the opponent any space. We have to keep things as tight as possible. It all requires a quicker reaction time and dribbling can’t be done lackadaisically. Decisions have to be made quickly. In addition, the ladies have to play more rugged and be more assertive. The tempo is totally different, too, because boys are able to create a much faster transition game. Moving into the attack is something that these boys were brutally good at. This all demands a lot of our girls and has a wonderful training effect.

OGM: About yourself: You’re actually from Southern Germany, where you spent the bulk of your playing and coaching career. Now you’ve been coaching the HSV since 2005. How did you land in this job?

Feifel: That’s a funny story. It came through the type of connections you make along the way. I had been working as an assistant coach with the women’s U23 team. This team had a certain management delegation. One of the members of this delegation was the decision-maker for the women’s team here with the HSV back at that time. We got to know each other, and he’s the one ultimately brought me into the fold here in Hamburg.

OGM: And I guess one can say that you’re satisfied with your life up here in the far North?

Feifel: I’ve now been here for seven years and really like it up here. I’ve since founded a family and really like my life here.

OGM: Let me just ask you about the Women’s World Cup last summer in Germany. It seemed to be such a big success in so many ways. Do you see it as such as well?

Feifel: Well, yes, but not with respect to the sustainability of the success. In my opinion, we’re now seeing what some predicted, namely that there’d be a drop in the sustainability of the popularity generated by the event. For the women’s world of soccer here in Germany, there’s still a lot that needs to happen in order for the game to continue developing.

OGM: Did the tournament perhaps lead to an increase in the participation of young girls who have now started playing organized soccer, at least in as much as you can decipher from what’s gone on here in this club?

Feifel: Yes, actually it did lead to an increase in participants, and that’s something we definitely have to build on and profit from. This will only be improved through dedicated youth work, an improved quality of the coaches, and in further developing the structure of our system. There are a lot of things that need to improve in order for the girls to develop better.

OGM: Speaking of further development, do you personally see a few future national team players right here in your current lineup?

Feifel: Well, we’ll definitely have to wait and see about that. We certainly have some players here who have that potential and room for improvement towards that goal, for example, a player like Carolin Simon who plays on our left side. Still, that’s something that’s hard to foresee or predict. Potential is there for a few, but a further development certainly has to take place for all possible candidates.

Originally from Virginia, Chapin Landvogt spent his childhood playing organized soccer everywhere from California to Florida to the greater Washington D.C. metro area and finally in high school a few hours south of Boston. A Siena College grad, he spent the better part of the past 15 years living and working as a professional translator in Germany, where he’s been able to remain more than just an avid observer of one of the world’s most passionate soccer cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @Csomichapin, where he enjoys sharing occasional commentary on primarily soccer, ice hockey and some of his favortie music.

Bundesliga, Matchday 16: Potsdam’s loss makes Wolfsburg the winner of the matchday

By Olaf Goldbecker – 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam suffered a shock loss against SG Essen-Schönebeck, yet remained atop the Bundesliga table. However, Wolfsburg’s win over Duisburg proves vital as Wolfsburg has a game in hand and came move into second place with a win over Neuenahr in a makeup game.

Bayer Leverkusen v Hamburger SV 2:2 (0:1)

It was an important game for Leverkusen, which always spoke about needing six points out of the games against Leipzig and Hamburg. When the guests scored by Aylin Yaren halfway through the first half, this seemed to be a long road. Katie Bethke tied the game early in the second period, but Maike Timmermann got the lead back for her team. A penalty kick by Johanna Elsig rescued one point for Leverkusen but this still has to count as wasted opportunity in the endeavor to stay in the league.

 

SC Freiburg v Lok Leipzig 3:0 (1:0)

Winter acquisition Sara Däbritz scored the lead for the hosting team in the first half, but it took Freiburg long to secure the win. In the final quarter hour, Gidion and Hegenauer marked the final goals.

 

SC Bad Neuenahr v 1.FFC Frankfurt 1:3 (0:0)

After a scoreless first half, the substitute players made sure that Frankfurt could collect the three points. Swiss Anna Maria Crnogorcevic scored the lead, while Swede Sara Thunebro added the second goal. Peggy Kuznik got her team closer with a quarter hour left to play, but Dszenifer Maroszan had a quick answer and sealed the deal.

 

SG Essen-Schönebeck v 1.FFC Turbine Potsdam 1:0 (1:0)                   

The big surprise of the matchday happened in Essen. The host team snapped a six-game losing streak while the visitors had a setback when they seemed to have overcome their winter problems. Isabelle Wolf marked the only goal of the game already after 21 minutes

 

FF USV Jena v FC Bayern München 1:3 (0:1)

The visitors in Jena saw an exciting final quarter hours but the fans of the home team won’t be happy with the outcome. Isabell Bachor took the lead for her team after 36 minutes but with 12 minutes left on the clock Amber Hearn tied the match. This only made Bayern Munich wake up, Rebecca Huyleur answered in minute 85 before Julia Simic scored the final goal in stoppage time.

 

VfL Wolfsburg v FCR Duisburg 2:1 (1:1)

Duisburg born Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann can be all smiles after this match. His team defeated a direct opponent and heard the news about Potsdam’s loss. This means that in their makeup game against Bad Neuenahr they can jump to place 2 and get as close as one point to the league leaders. Today they had to overcome a one-goal deficit after Alexandra Popp scored the lead for Duisburg after a quarter hour. Nadine Keßler tied the match 20 minutes later, and Anna Blässe cared for the win in minute 78.

 

Situation: After 16 games, Potsdam still sits on top with 38 points, two points ahead of Duisburg. Frankfurt is third with 34 points, followed by Wolfsburg with the same number – yet Wolfsburg has one makeup game to play. Freiburg leads the rest of the teams with 22 points, while Essen and Munich have 20. Bad Neuenahr 18, Hamburg 17, and Jena 15 follow. On the relegation spots are Leipzig (9) and Leverkusen (8). The next matches will be played in two weeks after the national team break.

Interview: Hamburger SV defender Friederike Engel

By Chapin Landvogt – German-born Friederike Engel currently plays for her hometown Hamburg Sports Verein (HSV), but her path to this point in her career isn’t one that many, if any, of her teammates have taken. After having played for the club’s Bundesliga team for several seasons as a teenager, she crossed the pond to earn herself a college degree with an excellent academic record at American University as well as a number of awards for the school’s women’s soccer program (2009 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, All-Patriot League First Team Star for three straight years, Patriot League Academic Honor Roll for three straight years, amongst others). After a recent 2-0 home victory against Lokomotive Leipzig, Our Game Magazine had the opportunity to sit down and chat about the life and challenges of a pro international athlete having taken this route in her sporting and personal career path.

Friederike Engel

Interview part one

Engel in action

Interview part two

About the author: Originally from Virginia, Chapin Landvogt spent his childhood playing organized soccer everywhere from California to Florida to the greater Washington D.C. metro area and finally in high school a few hours south of Boston. A Siena College grad, he spent the better part of the past 15 years living and working as a professional translator in Germany, where he’s been able to remain more than just an avid observer of one of the world’s most passionate soccer cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @Csomichapin, where he enjoys sharing occasional commentary on primarily soccer, ice hockey and some of his favortie music.

Players Abroad: SC Freiburg midfielder Chioma Igwe

This week, Chioma Igwe sat down with Our Game Magazine for our weekly installment of Players Abroad interviews. A former member of the Chicago Red Stars and Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), Igwe is now playing in Germany, in the top-flight league Bundesliga. She has played in five matches this season for SC Freiburg, which currently sits in fifth place in the Bundesliga table.

Name: Chioma Igwe
Age: 25
Hometown: Belmont, California
Current Team: SC Freiburg
Country: Germany

 

 

 

 

 

How did you get to Freiburg?

I visited my brother, who also plays in Germany, and my agent set me up with a tryout.

How long have you been there?

About 8 months

In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference between playing abroad and playing the U.S.?

You don’t have to be super athletic or fast to succeed here. Some of the slower players, for example, are the most effective players on the field. In America, the pace is much faster, but in Germany, it’s a more of a technical battle.

What do you miss most about home?

My family and my dog. And burritos.

What is the best part about playing overseas?

Having to figure things out on my own. Whether it’s adjusting to the new style of play, how to speak the language, culture, etc. It’s such a great life experience no matter how you look at it. I also love that I can travel.

What has been the most difficult adjustment so far?

Being ALONE. I’m the only American on my team, so it was really difficult to be thrown into a situation where I didn’t have someone to relate to. Once I got adjusted, I really started to enjoy the experience, but it was a rough road.

What advice would you give to other players trying to play overseas?

I know this sounds cliche, but really don’t ever give up if everything seems to be going wrong. Keep a positive attitude and work hard in whatever you do, and it will pay off sooner or later. Also, make sure to explore and enjoy life outside of soccer. Build a life wherever you are so that you are fully invested in the experience of living overseas.

Your brother is also playing professionally in Germany. What has that been like for you?

Probably the best part about being in Germany is the fact that my brother is here, too. We talk every day, and laugh about the awkward cultural encounters we have every day. He really helped me feel like I wasn’t on my own at times. He started playing in Germany a year before me, so all the difficulties I encountered, he had already gone through.

Is there a way for fans to follow you while you’re there? Blog? Twitter? Facebook page?

Twitter: @chiomaigwe

 

Bundesliga: Potsdam the big winner on top in a day filled with lots of surprises

Turbine Potsdam secured a significant win over Wolfsburg, distancing itself even further from the rest of the league. Frankfurt, meanwhile. continues to struggle, dropping a 1-0 decision to Hamburger SV. There was a battle at the bottom of the table with Leverkusen coming out on top against Lok Leipzig.

By Olaf Goldbecker

FCR Duisburg v SC Freiburg 2:2 (1:1)

It seemed to be a typical top against bottom match when Linda Bresonik scored after 14 minutes. Until then, not a lot happened in this match, and Freiburg had the luck of the right answer just three minutes later when Sonja Giraud tied the game – both teams converted their first chance. Freiburg delivered a big fight and required some luck to rescue the half time score. Bresonik failed with a penalty shot, young SCF keeper Laura Benkarth had a huge game in goal – and when she was beaten, defenders rescued on the goal line. Freiburg got more control of the game the longer it lasted. Bresonik hit the crossbar from the distance, but the road team took the lead when Juliane Maier scored after 77 minutes. Three minutes later, a distance shot by Laura Wensing surprisingly hit the back of the net, which rescued the draw for Duisburg.

1.FFC Frankfurt v Hamburger SV 0:1 (0:0)

Hamburg managed another surprise. The team of Coach Achim Feifel always is good when nobody expects them to deliver. Already the halftime score cared for a surprising roar in the other stadiums, but Aferdita Kameraj even scored the lone goal of the match a few minutes after the break. The top team from Frankfurt had no answer and suffered the second loss in just four days.

1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig v Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1:4 (1:2)

The game of the bottom two cared for lots of suspension. Bayer 04 did not hide that a win was needed, otherwise they would get relegated. The game started well for them when Eunice Beckmann scored an early lead, yet Katie Kelly tied just a few minutes after. Half an hour was played when Lisa Schwab cared for Leverkusen’s lead again. It remained an open battle until the final minutes. but within the last five of the game Audrey Knopp and Claudia Götte cared for the final result.

1.FFC Turbine Potsdam v VfL Wolfsburg 1:0 (1:0)

Two weeks ago, Potsdam looked like they would be struggling, and Wolfsburg appeared to be the strongest team at the moment. Yet now everything is always, Potsdam holds their heads high and wins the games you need to win. An early goal by Stefanie Draws after 10 minutes decided the game.

SC 07 Bad Neuenahr v FF USV Jena  0:1 (0:0)

Another surprise happened in Bad Neuenahr, which didn’t expect their streak of games without a loss and the current league season record of minutes without goals to be snapped in a home against Jena. Yet the East German delivered a good game and won deservedly on a goal by Carolin Schiewe in the 74th minute.

FC Bayern München v SG Essen-Schönebeck 1:0 (1:0)

The Bavarian team collected a win when it was necessary considering the other results, while Essen extends their losing streak. Swiss International Vanessa Bürki scored the only goal of the game right before halftime to decide this game.

Situation: Almost counted out, now smiling on top again – Turbine Potsdam made a big step today being the only winner of the top four teams. Duisburg trails two points behind, while Frankfurt and Wolfsburg (one game more to play) are already seven points behind the league leader. Freiburg now is fifth with 19 points, half of Potsdam. Bad Neuenahr with 18, Essen and Munich with 17, Hamburg with 16 and Jena with 15 follow directly after. It’s not looking good for Leipzig with 9 points on a relegation spot; they did not win a single point this year so far. Leverkusen celebrated the second win of the season and now has 7 points and desperately need another win against Hamburg next weekend. With the results of the other games, the rescue seems far away though. Next weekend features another top game between Wolfsburg and Duisburg.

Bundesliga: A conversation with Bayern Munich’s Niki Cross and Sarah Hagen

By Chapin Landvogt – Earlier this year, the women’s department of the worldwide famous German soccer club Bayern München (Bavaria Munich) acquired the services of forward Sarah Hagen and defender Niki Cross, both of whom hail from the United States. They are only the second and third U.S. players Munich has ever acquired, the first since Michelle Demko back in the ‘90s.

For Hagen, this is her first full-time pro engagement since having graduated from UWM (Wisconsin). She introduced herself to the German soccer scene by netting two goals against Freiburg in her first appearance for the red, black and gold.

Cross, on the other hand, is no stranger to the international scene and is already making her third stop in Europe after having previously played in Norway and Sweden. Due to an injury, she only just made her first appearance for the Bavarians to complete Wednesday’s 1-1 tie with the HSV in Hamburg. After the game, Our Game Magazine had a chance to chat with the two players.

OGM: Sarah, this is your first tour of duty outside of the States. How have things been going these first two months?

Sarah: It’s been a blast. Playing with some of the best players in Germany and in the Bundesliga, which is such a great league, it’s been a terrific experience. It was a hard, hard decision for me to decide whether I would stay in the States and play or come over here. The instability of the WPS played a crucial factor in my ultimately coming over here.

OGM: So do you feel a bit confirmed in your decision at this point?

Sarah: Yep, definitely in light of the league deciding to suspend operations. But after my first two months here, I have to say that I just love it and have no regrets.

OGM: That’s good to hear. Seeing as how both of you joined the team at the same time just a couple months ago, Niki, what has been your take on things so far?

Niki: So far, it has been interesting. Sarah and I have definitely taken different paths to this point. Coming into this situation after the Christmas break, I’ve actually been dealing with an injury for a little while now, so my substitution late in the game today was my first action of the season for Bayern.

Niki Cross, second from left, with the Boston Breakers

OGM: OK, so that was your first introduction to Bundesliga play?

Niki: Yep, and it was pretty exciting. It’s my fifth day back with the team, and it’s been good to get back into a regular practice rhythm and the swing of things. But “Apple” (Hagen’s nickname) here has really taken off and done well for herself.

OGM: Apparently, especially in light of those two goals in her first game with the team. Now you’re both technically coming into the league at the halfway point of the season. Has it been difficult joining a team that has pretty much already been constructed?

Niki: I think they were really looking for a bit of a change; otherwise they wouldn’t be bringing in players at this point of the season. Our team has been very welcoming and they’ve made it very easy to come in here and be part of it all. Everybody from management to our coaches to our teammates – it’s just been spectacular for us.

OGM: And Sarah, this has been your experience as well?

Sarah: Yeah, I mean the folks here have truly been very welcome, without exceptions. This is my first professional team, and I didn’t know what to expect, but they’ve accepted me here with open arms.

OGM: And what about a language barrier… have you encountered one?

Niki and Sarah: Oh, yes.

Niki: It’s been massive. For example, the letters ‘p’ and ‘f’ next to each other… that’s been a problem.

Sarah: Yep, and some of these ‘sch’ constructions. Those can be terrible.

Niki: But I think this has been an entertaining aspect to our joining the team, also for our teammates. They’ve been trying to teach us things along the way. They like to introduce us to words they think will sound funny coming out of our mouths.

Sarah: We’ve been trying to learn though. We’ve been taking a language course. It’s only once a week, so we’re definitely trying to speak as much as we can outside the classroom and with our teammates. But they usually just laugh at us.

OGM: So you’re both actively participating. That’s of course part of the process and experience. Niki, you’ve been in a number of countries to play ball. How would you compare the German Bundesliga to some of the other leagues you’ve experienced?

Niki: I think it’s right up there with the Swedish league. I’ve played in Norway and Australia as well. The lifestyle in Australia was quite different and not too shabby either. I lived about two minutes from the beach and enjoyed my summer there, but I think the quality of soccer is simply better in Sweden and Germany.

OGM: Um, pratar du svenska or snakker du norsk?

Niki: Uh, well, that’s a lot more difficult to understand.

Niki Cross and Sarah Hagen became just the second and third Americans to sign for Bayern Munich

OGM: Surely less common. But did you have a chance to learn parts of those languages while playing in Scandinavia?

Niki: To be honest, I found them to be extremely difficult to speak.

OGM: And surely the Scandinavians tend to speak English as well as anybody, so…

Niki: The Scandinavian countries definitely speak very good English and being so close and connected to their Scandinavian neighbors, who speak slightly different languages or of course Finnish, they place importance on English in order to be able to communicate with each other easily and on a regular basis.

OGM: Definitely. Now getting back to the soccer side of things, have you two been able to join this team and immediately recognize “Whoa, I can help this squad! There’s definitely a role for me to take on this team and I can help them achieve their second half goals”? Are these things you could identify right off the bat?

Sarah: Well, my role as a forward – and there’s only one to three of them at a time depending on the tactical formation – is to come in and make an impact. I think there are so many players on our team that can make an impact, so it’s challenging for me to come in here and feel I have a particular spot locked up, because that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve been fortunate enough to start the last three games, but it’ll remain a challenge for me to maintain that position.

Sarah Hagen
Sarah Hagen

OGM: What’s been your take on the level of play here? Niki, you’ve been around and played in as many leagues as anybody. Sarah, this is your first time in a pro league. Have you been surprised by how good the level of play is, or had you maybe thought it would have been better, seeing as how Germany traditionally one of the most soccer-strong nations on the planet?

Sarah: Oh, there’s definitely a good level of play here. The play here is comparable to my experience with the U-23 U.S. national team. I don’t see a drop-off in international play at that level and what I’ve been experiencing here. And the league is definitely a step up from my college team and the conference my school played in. We recently played against Wolfsburg, one of the stronger teams in the league, and already there I noticed a big difference to the first game against Freiburg.

OGM: So you are noticing a difference between the bottom-feeders in the standings and those at the top?

Sarah: Yep, there is a noticeable difference.

OGM: How about the individual players. Any you’re encountering now who you have encountered in the past? Niki, you told us you just saw your first action, but you’ve probably taken a look at the lineups around the league. With your experience, there must be some names you recognize there?

Niki: There are definitely some extraordinary players who dot the map of the German Bundesliga. Most of them are clustered onto teams like Potsdam and Frankfurt, but we’ve yet to really play those guys yet. We’re only three games in and our experience is that everything is new. We have to get to know the routines, the opponents, the travel, etc. It’s not just so much that any one player here or there sticks out. Everything is kind of just overwhelming.

OGM: But you’d say it’s definitely an adventure?

Sarah: Oh, of course.

Niki: Definitely. And it’s a different style of play, too. Things here are more technical than the American style of play.  It’s been a pretty good experience already.

OGM: In comparison, there’s WPS. Sarah, you were drafted, but you’re now here. Niki, you’ve had experience in the league. How do you feel about the developments that have been taking place?

Niki: I’ve always played for teams that have been pretty unstable. I started off with St. Louis and then they folded. I then played for the Bay Area and they folded. Then I played with Boston.

OGM: Well all that surely wasn’t your fault.

Niki (laughing): Uhhh, no, no. I’ve had the opportunity to play with players like Marta and Hope (Solo). Those are some higher end, highly recognizable players who deserve to get paid the way they do. They can be marketed well. Their names draw people in. There are lot more people going to the stadium to see Hope than to see someone like me. So they’re of course going to be getting more dollar bills in their bank accounts.

OGM: Sure, a player like Hope has some real star power.

Niki: Yes, and that’s great, particularly for the sport in general. It draws people and any kind of exposure of that nature that we can get the sport is simply great for the sport.

OGM: Most definitely. Now Sarah, again this is your first station in your pro career. It’s in another country to top it off. Has it been of great benefit for you to come over with another American player, particularly a veteran like Niki?

Sarah: It’s helped so much. I can’t really imagine what it would have been like without Niki. She’s helped me so much with not only soccer things, but in acclimating to a pro’s living style. It would simply be a totally different experience if it weren’t for her.

Originally from Virginia, Chapin Landvogt spent his childhood playing organized soccer everywhere from California to Florida to the greater Washington D.C. metro area and finally in high school a few hours south of Boston. A Siena College grad, he spent the better part of the past 15 years living and working as a professional translator in Germany, where he’s been able to remain more than just an avid observer of one of the world’s most passionate soccer cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @Csomichapin, where he enjoys sharing occasional commentary on primarily soccer, ice hockey and some of his favortie music.

Bundesliga: No surprises in makeup games

Three matches previously postponed due to poor weather and/or inadequate field conditions were made up on Wednesday, and when all was said and done, Duisburg moved into a first-place tie with Potsdam after a 7-0 win over FF USV Jena, yet Potsdam still leads on goal differential. Here’s a rundown of all three games played today.

By Olaf Goldbecker

Hamburger SV v Bayern München 1-1 (1-0)

After a quarter hour, Hamburg took the lead in the north-south game when Nina Brüggemann scored for the hanseatic team. It took Munich long to answer, but after 70 minutes it was Katharina Baunach who tied the game. Munich was considered to be favorite in this game but missed the chance to free themselves out of relegation worries

Lokomotive Leipzig v FCR Duisburg 1-6 (0-4)

Leipzig’s wall stood for about 20 minutes, then Duisburg cared for the decision within the same time by scoring four goals. Mandy Islacker (22′and 41′), Jennifer Oster (28′) and Kozue Ando (31′) got their names on the scoreboard until then. The scoring in the second half was opened by American Jenista Clark with her first league goal in Germany. Yet, Oster and Ando each added a second goal to give their team a comfortable win.

VfL Wolfsburg v FF USV Jena 7-0 (3-0)

Wolfsburg is on the run. Again, an early goal helped, and like on Sunday they profited from an own goal. This time not even 120 seconds were played when Kathleen Radtke put the ball into the own net. Half an hour later, Conny Pohlers and Nadine Kessler added for the halftime score. One minute before the break, Wolfsburg’s NT forward Martina Müller was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. This didn’t trouble her team at all; within 10 minutes after the second half was kicked off they added the final four goals. Anna Blässe, Lena Goessling, Zsanett Jakabfi, and Nadine Kessler did their part in the 7-0 win.

Situation: The standings are almost even now. Only Wolfsburg and Bad Neuenahr will meet later to fully fix the league; the other teams are at 14 games each. Potsdam still sits on top but now only due to goals ahead of Duisburg (both teams have 35 points). Frankfurt and Wolfsburg follow with 34, but as mentioned Wolfsburg has one game more to play. The midfield stayed the same with Bad Neuenahr, Freiburg, and Essen. Munich now has 14 points, Hamburg 13 points, and they can breathe a bit easier as they can’t drop to a relegation spot in the next match. Yet there is not too much safety. Jena stays clear with 12 at the moment, under the bottom line are Leipzig with 9 and Leverkusen with 4

This upcoming Sunday features two highly interesting matches, one at the bottom and one on top. Turbine Potsdam hosts red-hot VfL Wolfsburg, while last-placed teams Leipzig and Leverkusen clash.

Bundesliga, Matchday 14: No changes at the top as Potsdam, Duisburg, and Frankfurt all victorious

By Olaf Goldbecker - A seemingly easy Sunday for the top teams was scheduled, facing teams that all are in the relegation battle. Yet only Wolfsburg with the assumed most difficult task against Bayern Munich collected an easy win. The other three had to tremble long for their points. On the bottom, Hamburg was the winner of the matchday after defeating direct opponent Leipzig.

SC Freiburg v 1.FFC Turbine Potsdam 0:2 (0:1)

Southwestern tip of Germany against northeastern located Potsdam, the match with the longest travel distance in the league, featured the big question if top placed Turbine can find itself back on track. Potsdam’s performance still wasn’t great, but it was enough. Genoveva Anomna scored in the 12thminute of the game to give the team a lead. The insurance marker was scored with 10 minutes left on the clock by Patricia Hanebeck.

Hamburger SV v Lokomotive Leipzig 2:0 (2:0)

An important battle in the relegation fight was won by Hamburg.  Marie-Louise Bagehorn got her team on track early in the 2nd minute. Halfway through the second half, substitute player Maike Timmermann cared for the decision.

FF USV Jena v 1.FFC Frankfurt 0:2 (0:1)

This time Frankfurt also had a tough life beating a team from the bottom. After half an hour, Kerstin Garefrekes put her team on the scoreboard but Jena delivered a hard battle. With only four minutes left on the clock, Dszenifer Maroszan secured the three points.

VfL Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich 3:0 (2:0)

Wolfsburg took advantage of a major defensive mistake in the 5th minute to score an early lead by Anna Blässe, and then they got help from Munich, which scored an own goal by Sandra de Pol in a rather harmless situation after 17 minutes. Munich did not open up against the strong counter attacking team from Wolfsburg, which led to a midfield battle with rare scoring opportunities. In minute 69, Conny Pohlers wiped out all doubts, although nobody could really see how Munich would be able to get a point since it took until minute 78 until they created their first and only scoring chance.

SG Essen-Schönebeck v SC Bad Neuenahr 0:2 (0:1)

It always is the same old story. Games of Bad Neuenahr have a winning factor and that one carries Celia Okoyino da Mbabi. A penalty kick after a quarter hour helped the visitors get on track. In period two, it was Okoyino da Mbabi again after an hour, who cared for the goal – she has scored eight now with her team having a total of 15 goals. For Essen, it was the fifth straight loss and they are starting to get worried about losing their comfort zone.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen – FCR Duisburg 0:1 (0:0)

Almost another surprise by the last-place team, but Mandy Islacker rejected this. Only four minutes were left on the clock when the road team clinched the three points against the hard-battling relegation candidate.

Situation: No changes on top since all teams won. Potsdam still leads by three points over Duisburg, who has one game more to play. Frankfurt follows one behind Duisburg, and is one point ahead of Wolfsburg, which still has two games more to play. Leading the mid-table now is Bad Neuenahr with 18 points ahead of Freiburg with the same number and Essen with 17 points. Bayern Munich with 13 is not free of worries, but is still having an easier life than the bottom four. Hamburg jumps to 12 and has the best goal difference of the bottom teams. Jena also stands at 12. On relegation spots are Leipzig with 9 and Leverkusen with 4.

Coming up next will be makeup games on Wednesday. Leipzig hosts Duisburg, Wolfsburg hosts Jena, and Hamburg meets Munich.

Interview: Hamburger Sports Verein (HSV) General Manager Christian Lenz

By Chapin Landvogt - The German women’s professional soccer league, affectionately known as Frauenfußball Bundesliga, kicked off the second half of the 2011-12 season last weekend. After only having garnered two victories in their first ten games, the 10th-place Hamburger Sports Verein (better known as HSV) started off the second half with a surprising 1-1 tie against the league-leading ladies from Potsdam. The team played one of its most inspired games of the season and was just centimeters away from a possible win when a 20-yard shot hit the crossbar with less than three minutes to play. This moral victory nevertheless obviously took its physical and mental toll as the team dropped its next decision, 3-1, to second-place Duisburg, but there’ll certainly be no quitting in the club as the team approaches the stretch run of the season.

To gain some insight into the team and the goings-on of the German women’s soccer league at the management level, Our Game Magazine took the opportunity to chat with HSV General Manager Christian Lenz.

1) Herr Lenz, this past weekend marked the beginning of the second half of the Frauenfußball Bundesliga. As of Dec. 18, 2011, the HSV was ranked 11th amongst the 12 teams. What realistic goals do you have with respect to the final 10 games of the season?

A team’s spot in the standings can only be fairly evaluated once all of the cancelled games have been rescheduled and played (Editor’s note: two games where cancelled due to poor field conditions). Nonetheless, we are no doubt in a battle against a possible relegation. That is our reality. This threatening danger has our full attention and it’s our goal to remain in the top women’s league in Germany.

Aside from that, we’ve also got our eye on the German “Pokal” semifinal in Munich.

2) What expectations do you personally have of the team in its current shape and form? Are you primarily placing your hopes in the strength of continuity?

We know that our lineup has a great deal of potential. It is our foundational philosophy to face the challenges of this level with talented players who continually develop and improve with our program. For this, it is important to achieve sustainable results. We place a great deal of value on not only being a unit in a sporting sense, but also inter-personally.

3) In the winter break, you conducted a few test games against some local men’s teams. What advantages does a top league women’s team have from this type of competition and preparation?

To be more precise, they were male junior teams we played against. These teams were comparable to our level of play and provided our women with the necessary physical challenges. Athleticism, combativeness, and the ability to thinking quickly on one’s feet were the attributes that were best tested in these games.

4) Is the risk of injury in such test game not a bit too high for one’s own good?

We don’t think so. It’s our experience that these games tend to be very fair. When choosing our opponents, we definitely make sure that there’s a fair and sufficiently understood sports relationship between our club and that of the opponents.

5) What other types of preparation were made use of in the eight-week winter break in order to best prepare the team for the second half of the season?

We conducted a workshop with an emphasis on the mental aspects of being an athlete at this level. We very much feel that trusting in one’s own talents and capabilities as well as being confident in the strengths of our team are key factors for success.

HSV General Manager Christian Lenz

6) At the beginning of January, you added a new player to the lineup, the 22-year-old Aylin Yaren. What changes do you feel will come of this transaction?

With the acquisition of Aylin Yaren, we are looking to strengthen our attack while giving it more flexibility. Just a glance at our goal difference this season points out that we aren’t dangerous enough on the attack. But it’s not just her acquisition that should help us improve in this department. We naturally know that Aylin has to get used to this league after having just come up from the second Bundesliga.

7) Without taking a detailed look at all the other lineups in the league, it seems like the HSV has a relatively young team. No less than nine of the women are 21 or younger. Is this just by chance the case or did you put together this lineup with the thought that these young player are simply qualitatively better trained/developed or have better skill sets than older players?

When you take a look at our player additions in recent years, you can see that we have usually replaced departing players with younger players who lack experience in the women’s Bundesliga. But this corresponds to our already described philosophy that we want to achieve a common development towards success moving forward. Nonetheless, this cannot be interpreted to mean that older players possessed a lower playing quality or less skill.

8 ) With an eye on developing from within, you currently have no less than three women’s teams in your system. How helpful has it been to have this club depth and how do players get promoted or called up, possibly as fill-ins?

We had even more teams in the past. However, our competitive department only consists of this 1st Bundesliga team and two girls’ teams.

The HSV organization also offers recreational sports opportunities. It is naturally a regular part of our system that there are times when girls in our other teams have the opportunity to present themselves as options for the women’s Bundesliga team.

9) Do all of the local women who currently play in the 1st Bundesliga team initially spend time in at least the supposed B-team? Does that team fulfill a certain planned “farm team” function for the big league squad?

We are always very happy when a player develops in our reserve teams and reaches a point where she can play in the women’s Bundesliga. This is the goal we have for our competitive youth work. Nonetheless, we will continue to have to address a number of our team needs with external sources when it comes to player acquisitions.

10) Speaking of locals, almost the entire current lineup consists of players from Germany, most particularly Northern Germany. In recent years, the HSV has only had but a few foreigners on its team. Some opponents have quite a different acquisition policy when it comes to foreign players, for example, Frankfurt or Potsdam, and find themselves at the top of the standings. Is the HSV’s current lack of foreign players just the way things are at the moment or do the market constellation and conditions make the acquisition of foreign players very difficult for your club?

In the past, we too have had foreigner players in the lineup such as Antonia Göransson (Sweden), Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic (Switzerland), or Fata Salkunic (Slovenia). Thus, we’re not just scouting in Germany. However, the effort necessary for providing players who do not speak German with support, consultation and supervision should they play here is much greater than with our German-speaking players. In addition, due to certain rules and regulations related to residency permits, there are other financial aspects involved. For these reasons, it only makes sense for us to obtain foreign players when their skill sets and playing capabilities make them absolute top performers in our team.

Still, at the end of the day, the German women’s Bundesliga should be league and destination that is of great interest for international players.

11) You are surely aware that the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS) in the USA is taking a season-long break. What effects do think this will have? Will it lead to a possible flooding of the player market, and are there any players you may have your eye on for the HSV?

There are surely a number of players who could play for the HSV. For the upcoming season, we’ll surely keep an eye on North America. We will simply have to see how the player market develops in the meantime. As opposed to Russia and Sweden, the transfer period determined for the Bundesliga in Germany was already closed when the WPS made the decision to take a pause.

In addition, players are only of interest to us if they can imagine spending a longer period of time with our team and becoming part of the developmental process. If it’s a player’s goal to simply play somewhere to bridge the time until the WPS is up and running again, then that’s a situation we have a very hard time imagining ourselves getting involved with.

12) What is the general practice and policy when it comes to scouting and observing players when looking for new additions to your team? How did you go about acquiring your latest player, the aforementioned Miss Yaren?

Generally, it’s our goal to uncover players and talents before others do. For this reason, we keep an eye on what’s going on all over the place – even beyond German borders. Aylin Yaren was a player we had been observing for quite some time. We then established more intense contact over the winter and after conducting a personal meeting, we came to an agreement which led to her being signed to a contract.

13) How good do you feel the German Bundesliga’s current organization, level of play, and general financial ’health‘ are?

From an economic and sporting standpoint, the league is surely very healthy. I believe that the classic concept of how soccer is lived and breathed here in Germany is also the best thing for women’s soccer in this country. At the same time, there’s developmental potential at just about every level of the game. We cannot afford to get lazy or start slacking in this department.

Hamburger SV
HSV Frauen

14) What improvement would you like to see within the league?

The framework schedule could surely be better coordinated. This is however quite a challenge as it very much dependent on what’s going on with the national team and its international schedule. For a while now, we’ve had a committee called the ‘KFBL’, which handles the league’s strategic questions and issues. I feel very confident that this committee will continue taking the right measures.

15) Now to everyone’s favorite topic: Referees. Are you generally satisfied with the performance of the referees in the women’s Bundesliga?

The referees in the women’s Bundesliga have been developing very nicely in recent years.

16) A very diplomatic answer. Do the general managers of the 12 teams in the league remain in contact with each other? Are there certain forums or perhaps special conferences in Germany where the GMs get together and discuss the various topics and issues in the league or perhaps construct new rules and regulations?

Contact between the clubs does indeed take place. Since the introduction of the aforementioned KFBL, this contact has been very well-structured. We also have a league conference once every six months and there are other opportunities to discuss issues and share our experience in a constructive competition.

17) In the course of your business with the HSV, how much attention do you give to the national team? Do you also, for example, make business decisions that are directly influenced by the happenings surrounding the national team?

The national team is the flagship of women’s soccer in Germany and thus, has a direct influence on our realities. But the league itself does indeed play a critical role for the national team. As such, we naturally support the German Soccer Federation with all our might. The compromise made by the women’s Bundesliga before the World Cup in 2011 to end its season in March for the benefit of the preparation of the national team is a testimony to that supportive dedication. In daily business though, a correlation between my work and the national team is pretty difficult to establish.

18) A number of your players have recently taken part in training sessions or games with various German national teams (i.e. Ewers and Bagehorn with the U23, Simon with the U20 and U19, etc.) Do you feel the general public should see this as a direct sign for the good training and developmental work that’s been conducted in the club in recent years? Do you personally see some future national team members in your current lineup?

We are well aware of the quality of the players in our team and are always excited and proud when they are invited to partake in national team events. For a leading athlete in the team, the feedback between the club’s coach and a national program’s coach is very important from a sporting aspect in order to be challenged and developed in the best manner possible. As such, any nominations of our players also have a wonderful effect in making our work more noticed and visible. We profit from each other in this respect.

As for the second part of the question, there are a number of players in our club who we feel have just begun to show what they are truly capable of. There’s a lot of potential here in our locker room.

19) To conclude, how much did you enjoy the Women’s World Cup of Soccer last summer, which was of course hosted by Germany? Would you say that interest in the women’s side of this sport in Germany has increased after this event, especially with respect to young girls starting to play organized soccer?

The WC was a huge success as sporting event and we absolutely have to congratulate the organizers for their great work. It surely has had positive effects on women’s soccer and the women’s Bundesliga and we need to continue building on these effects. However, it’s never easy to keep the excitement of such an event alive over a long period of time once ‘everyday life’ is back in full swing. This poses a great challenge for us and the league.

Indeed it does. Thank you very much for your time and candidness! Best of luck to you this season!

About the author: Originally from the state of Virginia, Chapin Landvogt spent his childhood playing organized soccer everywhere from California to Florida to the greater Washington D.C. metro area and finally in high school a few hours south of Boston. A Siena College grad, he spent the better part of the past 15 years living and working as a professional translator in Germany, where he’s been able to remain more than just an avid observer of one of the world’s most passionate soccer cultures. You can follow him on Twitter @Csomichapin, where he enjoys sharing occasional commentary on primarily soccer, ice hockey and some of his favortie music.