Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts
Berhalter will be key for 1860
We've buffed our crystal ball and gazed upon the upcoming nine or so months in Germany for 10 American players spread out over eight teams in the top two divisions.

Hannover 96 Cherundolo[endlink], Zizzo[endlink]

Last season: 11th place, Bundesliga

In: Mike Hanke (VfL Wolfsburg), Thomas Kleine (Greuther Fürth), Gaetan Krebs (Strasbourg), Benny Lauth (Hamburg), Sergio Pinto (Alemannia Aachen), Sal Zizzo (UCLA)

Out: Christoffer Andersson (to Helsingborgs IF), Timo Nagy (Wacker Burghausen), Ricardo Sousa (Omonia Nicosia), Sebastian Stachnik (Kaiserslautern)

2007/08 Outlook:
Hannover spent €7 million this offseason in an attempt to boost the offense which historically has been a struggle in the AWD Arena, and head coach Dieter Hecking will be counting on his big signings Mike Hanke and Benny Lauth to create the goals.

Both newbies come with question marks, though, as Lauth arrived from Hamburg after three years of mediocrity, while Hanke has not panned out as many had hoped over the past two seasons at VfL Wolfsburg.

Should the offense improve, Hecking may well see an improvement over last season which fizzled out after an excellent midseason run. Hannover's forte has always been their strong team efforts, and with Steve Cherundolo captaining the defense, the 96ers will be one of the teams that no one wants to play.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Look for Sal Zizzo to be phased in slowly, but with Hannover having a relatively small roster, the former Bruin will feature at some point this season. Hannover will finish the season in eighth place.

Hansa Rostock Pearce[endlink]

Last season: 2nd place, 2. Bundesliga

In: Fin Bartels (Holstein Kiel), Ryan Gyaki (Sheffield United), Benjamin Lense (VfL Bochum), Addy-Waku Menga (VfL Osnabrück), Diego Morais (Villa Rio), Orestes (Naval 1º de Maio), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjaelland), Simon Tüting (VfL Osnabrück II), Stefan Wächter (Hamburg SV)

Out: Kevin Hansen (Erzgebirge Aue), Gledson (VfB Stuttgart), Kim Madsen (Aarhus GF), Anton Müller (Chemnitzer FC), Martin Pohl (Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Mathias Schober (FC Schalke 04), Maik Wagefeld (Dynamo Dresden)

2007/08 Outlook:
Not good.

After earning promotion following last season's second place finish, Hansa Rostock becomes the former East Germany's second Bundesliga team. However, like the rest of the region, the team face huge economic hardships and an enormous task to remain in the top division.

American Heath Pearce was the team's highest profile signing of the offseason following two-and-a-half seasons at FC Nordsjaelland, but the goals will need to come from somewhere and that task seems to fall to Enrico Kern who had a strong promotion season in 2006/07, but has no previous top-flight experience.

Stefan Beinlich, Rene Rydlewicz and Stefan Wächter will provide some strong veteran leadership for Frank Pagelsdorf's young team, but with only a €500K transfer kitty in the offseason, it will be tough to imagine much success.

Pearce says...
I think I have just matured more as a player, and I have gotten rid of all my little nagging injuries that I played with [at Nordsjaelland] and feel fit and healthy. My defensive game has gotten much better since I first moved to Denmark and over the last year.

I still have a lot to work on in every area...from finishing from long range, to defending on the fly. There are so many aspects to soccer its development that everyday I am learning something and improving.

Obviously our first goal is to stay in the top league, and on that note we would like to exceed all expectations from others as well as our own. We not only want to stay in the league but we also want to do well!

I am really looking forward to the level this season. The challenge of a young and inexperienced team in the Bundesliga will be exciting. My personal goals are to earn a spot in the starting 11 and after that keep it. Later on in the season I would like to become more of a leader.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Pearce is in for a rude awakening to German soccer.

While the American will hold his more than his own - kicker magazine rated him the highest Rostock performer in the season-opening blowout loss to Bayern Munich - the small club's lack of money and experience will see them doomed to relegation by the winter break.

VfL Wolfsburg Hill[endlink]

Last season: 15th place, Bundesliga

In: Abuda (Vasco da Gama), Andres D'Alessandro (Real Saragoza), Mike Hanke (Hannover 96), Kevin Hofland (Feyenoord), Marian Hristov (released), Miroslav Karhan (Mainz), Diego Klimowicz (Borussia Dortmund), Matthias Langkamp (Arminia Bielefeld), Tom van der Leegte (PSV Eindhoven), Steve Müller (VfB Lübeck), Julio dos Santos (Bayern Munich), Hans Adu Sarpei (Bayer Leverkusen), Michael Stegmayer (Carl Zeiss Jena)

Out: Daniel Baier (1860 Munich), Ricardo Costa (FC Porto), Ashkan Dejagah (Hertha Berlin), Edin Dzeko (FK Teplice), Christian Gentner (VfB Stuttgart), Alexander Laas (Hamburg SV), Sascha Riether (SC Freiburg), Vlad Munteanu (Energie Cottbus), Mame Cheikh Niang (Moroka Swallows), Sergiu Marian Radu (Energie Cottbus), Marcel Schäfer (1860 Munich), Jan Simunek (Sparta Prague)

2007/08 Outlook:
After a season in which Wolfsburg finish one place out of relegation, the powers that be gave Klaus Augenthaler the boot and replaced him with Felix Magath who was fired by Bayern Munich midseason, despite winning back-to-back doubles.

Magath convinced Marcelinho to remain at the Volkswagen Stadion after Mike Hanke bolted for Hannover, and later, pulled off a coup of sorts by nabbing high-scoring Munteanu and Radu for less than €5 million.

The trio will get the Wolves their share of goals, but the question mark will be the defense who lost linchpin Diego Klimowicz to Borussia Dortmund.

American Kamani Hill looks to be in limbo after seeing limited preseason action for both the Bundesliga and the Regionalliga squads, but should see at least third division action.

Hill says...
This season my goal is to get some playing time. I need to develop as a player and the only way to do that is on the field

I am not sure where the coach wants to play me. I want to play upfront, but I am not sure if I fit in to his plans. I have played right wing, and even right back, if I do play there, I want to be the first choice.

The club definitely wants to be in the top half of the standings this year. Yet with all these new players and a new coach, things will be difficult for us once more.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
We tend to agree with the former Bruin - it looks like another long season in Wolfsburg. They will manage to stay up yet again, but just.

1860 Munich Berhalter[endlink], Wolff[endlink]

Last season: 8th place, 2 Bundesliga

In: Daniel Bierofka (VfB Stuttgart), Mustafa Kucukovic (Hamburg SV), Nikolas Ledgerwood (Wacker Burghausen), Markus Schroth (FC Nuremberg)

Out: Nicky Adler (FC Nuremberg), Paul Agostino (Adelaide United), Daniel Baier (VfL Wolfsburg), Harald Cerny (retired), Patrick Milchraum (Alemannia Aachen), Philipp Pentke (FC Augsburg), Marcel Schäfer (VfL Wolfsburg), Roman Tyce (SpVgg Unterhaching), Nemanja Vucicevic (FC Cologne)

2007/08 Outlook:
Captain Gregg Berhalter has some work to do to complete his mission of returning to the Bundesliga after leaving promoted Energie Cottbus following the 2005/06 season.

Berhalter will oversee one of the youngest teams in the second division; 1860 has promoted six players from the Regionalliga and Under-19 teams, and with only four role players added to the mix, perhaps experience will be the key ingredient missing as Munich's other team looks to join Bayern in the top flight.

Josh Wolff will need to pitch in as both a provider and scorer this season, but can count on key contributions from Antonio di Salvo and 18-year old twin brothers Lars and Sven Bender in midfield.

Berhalter says...
They are calling it the hardest second division ever here in Germany...for promotion you could pick from about nine teams and not make a bad choice. The goal of our team is to stay in the hunt. I think the key is positioning ourselves so that in the latter stages of the season we can challenge for a promotion spot.

I think we have a talented bunch of young players. The Bender brothers are only 18 and will be playing considerably for us this year. These are two guys I could see playing for Germany in a World Cup one day.

It is exciting to be a part of this team especially considering of all of young guys have a year of experience under their belts.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Berhalter and Wolff will provide excellent veteran play and leadership for the Lions, and if the Benders and the offense gel a promotion push will be possible.

FC St. Pauli Joy[endlink]

Last season: 1st, Regionalliga Nord

In: Bjorn Brunnemann (Rot-Weiß Erfurt), Ralph Gunesch (Mainz 05), Alexander Ludwig (Dynamo Dresden), Rene Schnitzler (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Filip Trojan (VFL Bochum)

Out: Jeton Arifi (FC Energie Cottbus II), Hauke Brückner (Holstein Kiel), Michél Mazingu-Dinzey (Holstein Kiel), Jens Scharping (released), Daniel Stendel (released)

2007/08 Outlook:
The Pirates turned it on after a midseason coaching change last season, and will need to continue that run in order to stay in the second division.

Head coach Holger Stanislawski has brought in only a handful of players, and will look for veteran Fabian Boll and newcomer Rene Schnitzler to provide the scoring from up front.

Former Mainz 05 defender Ralph Gunesch has seemingly claimed the left back spot over Ian Joy, despite being right-footed. The Pauli defense does look to be a weak point in the team, with several natural midfielders thrown in to the defensive mix.

Oddly, Stanislawski will not start the season on the bench as an oversight led to the coach being forced off the bench by the German soccer authorities for not having the needed coaching badges. In his stead, Andre Trulsen will lead the brown-clad club.

With Carl Zeiss Jena, Erzgebirge Aue and FC Augsburg among the bettors picks for relegation in the new 3 Bundesliga - which is scheduled to begin next year - the Hamburg Kult club will need to take advantage of their insane home fans and grab maximum points at home as the team has struggled on the road in recent years.

Joy says...
We fought hard to get here so were going to really enjoy it. There are no goals for us, we're not frightened of any team in the 2 Bundesliga. Every game will be a cup final and we'll do our best to win them all. We are one of the favorites to go down, and I find it a great challenge to prove all these people wrong.

I want to stay clear of any injury and play as many games as possible this year. I suffered with a lot of injuries under the last coach and therefore missed a lot of games.

The new coach (Stanislawski) has given me a lot of confidence and belief that I can play at a really high level ,and with the training regime here, I'm fitter than I have ever been during my 10 years as a pro. Its like anything 'If you want it bad enough, you'll get it' and I'm desperate to be successful with this team.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
It's going to be close and we were unable to come to a consensus decision, but if a gun were held to our collective heads, we'd say that Joy and Co. will finish just above the relegation positions with Thomas Meggle and Boll's veteran leadership keeping the team up.

Mainz 05 Subotic[endlink]

Last season: 16th place, Bundesliga

In: Srdjan Baljak (FK Banat Zrenjanin), Felix Alejandro Borja (Olympiakos), Tobias Damm (Wuppertaler SV), Daniel Gunkel (Energie Cottbus), Tim Hoogland (Schalke 04), Miroslav Karhan (VfL Wolfsburg), Bo Svensson (Borussia Mönchengladbach),

Out: Otto Addo (Hamburger SV), Leon Andreasen (Werder Bremen), Mimoun Azaouagh (Schalke 04), Du-Ri Cha (TuS Koblenz), Bakary Diakite (SV Wehen), Manuel Friedrich (Bayer Leverkusen), Tom Geißler (Erzgebirge Aue), Fabian Gerber (OFI Crete), Ralph Gunesch (St. Pauli), Marius Constantin Niculae (Inverness Caledonian Thistle), Fatmir Pupalovic (Burghausen), Imre Szabics (Augsburg), Christoph Teinert (Burghausen), Benjamin Weigelt (Alemannia Aachen), Mohamed Zidan (Hamburg SV)

2007/08 Outlook:
Highly rated head coach Jürgen Klopp saw a mass exodus following last season's relegation, but the Mardi Gras boys have retooled with seven players being promoted from the second team and quality transfers over the summer.

Incoming right back Tim Hoogland will provide veteran defensive leadership alongside Klopp's 18-year old American defender Neven Subotic, while Miroslav Karhan and Daniel Gunkel will form the backbone of the midfield. Petr Ruman and Srdjan Baljak will pace the attack which was prolific in the summer friendly season.

Subotic, who has seemingly won the starting spot despite his tender age, will pair with veteran Nikolce Noveski as Mainz attempt to return after a single season down.

While Mainz has no big name players as do contemporaries Cologne or Borussia Mönchengladbach, Klopp's teams are known for overcoming higher quality with superior tactics and a fighting team spirit and this season should be no different.

Subotic says...
My goal for this season is to get as much playing time and experience as I can. I'm 18 years old, and the number three center-back for my team, which puts me in a real good situation this year to get chances to show what I can do.

My age is a small factor, but the thing that counts is quality and experience. Inexperience is the only little factor that can be held against me. The 2 Bundesliga is a real good level to test myself when I get the chance and to gain that experience that I need to make a bid for the starting 11.

Right now we are in not in a position to set our goal as getting promoted, we are going to take in one match at a time. Our goal is to win as many games as we can and see how far that takes us.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
If Mainz do well on the road, they should go up at the end of this season.

TuS Koblenz Grenier[endlink]

Last season: 16th place, Bundesliga

In: Branimir Bajic (Partizan Belgrad), Dragan Bogavac (Wacker Burghausen), Du-Ri Cha (Mainz 05), Ardijan Djokaj (Trabzonspor), Dmitrijus Guscinas (Holstein Kiel), Manuel Hartmann (Stuttgart Kickers), Marko Lomic (Partizan Belgrad), Matej Mavric (Molde FK), Tayfun Pektürk (Schalke 04), Artim Polozani (FK Makedonija Skopje), Sascha Traut (Karlsruher SC), Fatmir Vata (Arminia Bielefeld)

Out: Silvio Adzic (Oggersheim), Christof Babatz (Waldhof Mannheim), Domenico Cozza (Alemannia Aachen II), Dmitrijus Guscinas (Holstein Kiel), Christian Holzer (VfR Aalen), Salif Keita (released), Ralf Klingmann (TSV Buchbach), Filip Lovric (FV Engers), Stefan Maierhofer (Greuther Fürth), Emil Noll (SC Paderborn), Johannes Rahn (VfB Stuttgart II), Anthony Tiéku (released)

2007/08 Outlook:
Uwe Rapolder worked late season magic to help TuS Koblenz survive after promotion from the Regionalliga, and with Mario Basler now on the staff, Koblenz could be one of the better teams in the divsion.

Koblenz brought in 10 players in the offseason, notable signings Du-Ri Cha and Fatmir Vata will be looked to for some scoring punch, with Branimir Bajic and Marko Lomic also being counted on to bring some of their Champions League experience in from Partizan Belgrade.

Josh Grenier looks set for a struggle this season, as his late season appendix-related absence coincided with the arrival of Rapolder and his Houdini act.

Grenier says...
The team is now star studded, national team players from many countries and there's millions more in cash for the coaches and managers to play with. We have national team players from Slovenia, Macedonia and South Korea.

I think the main goal for Koblenz and the team is to establish themselves as a solid second division mainstay [and] as a team that plans to someday move higher.

Missing the last four games of last season has kind of made it difficult for me. The new coach came the last four games and never got to see me play.The new backline has played very, very well since then. I just have to wait and be patient and take my chance when I get it.

Soccer is funny that way...One day your a starter and a mainstay, and the next, you're watching from the stands.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Grenier will find playing time hard to come by, but with the American's fighting spirit and steadfast attitude, we won't count him out. Koblenz will surprise a lot of teams and will finish in the top eight.

VfL Osnabrück Enochs[endlink]

Last season: 2nd place, Regionalliga Nord

In: Tino Berbig (Dynamo Dresden), Pierre De Wit (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Uwe Ehlers (Erzgebirge Aue), Henning Grieneisen (Holstein Kiel), Matthias Heidrich (Alemannia Aachen), Rouwen Hennings (Hamburg SV), Gaetano Manno (Wuppertaler SV), Marcel Schuon (VfB Stuttgart II), Paul Thomik (SpVgg Unterhaching)

Out: Daniel Cartus (VfB Lübeck), Jonnie Guimaraes-Klausch (released), Dave de Jong (FC Babberich), Tobias Langemeyer (released), Addy-Waku Menga (Hansa Rostock), Christian Schiffbänker (VfL Osnabrück II), Marian Unger (FC Magdeburg)

2007/08 Outlook:
Joe Enochs has been a warrior for Osnabrück and could be using this season as a last hurrah of sorts after over 350 appearance for the Lower Saxony club.

After their miracle promotion in the last minute of the last game in May, the yo-yo team was not quiet in the market, bringing in 10 players on a shrewd €40,000 budget - among them former Benny Feilhaber teammate Rouwen Hennings from HSV II who will be asked to make a difference on offense.

Losing Addy-Waku Menga to Heath Pearce's Hansa Rostock will be a blow to the Osnabrück cause, but head coach Claus-Dieter Wollitz will hope that his emphasis on team play will help the club avoid the experts' relegation prediction.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Sorry Joe, it'll be back down for your team again.

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