KENYA BROWN - Sunday, June 28, 2020
It may not have been the way Pellegrino Matarazzo wanted to end the season, but he has to be grinning from ear to ear as VfB Stuttgart secured their promotion to the German Bundesliga.
The team, which is based in southwest Germany, entered the final round of the 2. Bundesliga season in second place with a very strong chance of moving up automatically. However, all was not guaranteed as third place Heidenheim was just three points back. Stuttgart had a far superior goal difference than their rivals, so that would have come in handy for them if results did not go their way.
Despite suffering a 3-1 loss to Darmstadt, Die Roten had little to worry about as Heidenheim was shutout in a 3-0 defeat to champions Arminia Bielefeld, giving Matarazzo's men passage to the top flight. The empty Mercedes-Benz Arena was full of celebration after the final whistle as the team completed its mission.
"I'm proud of the boys. We went through many ups and downs in the second half of the season. We kept getting up. Everyone has always believed that we can achieve our goal. I think that was also crucial," said the coach after the game in a statement on the team's website.
Matarazzo added that while it was a shame that the lost, they have achieved their goal of earning promotion and they can celebrate that achievement.
The story of the rise of the New Jersey native is one that will be repeated on end.
An alum of Columbia University in New York, the 42-year-old headed across the Atlantic Ocean to launch his professional soccer career. This saw him spend all of his time playing in Germany's lower leagues.
Following a 10-year playing career, Matarazzo turned to coaching and would get his start at Nurnberg. After a few years with the team, he was on the move, this time to Hoffenheim where he became the number two for Julian Nagelsmann, who is now the head coach at RB Leipzig.
Matarazzo's story may have been under the radar for some time, but he will certainly make headlines in the United States soon when he leads Stuttgart into the stadium for their first Bundesliga game in the 2020-2021 season.