By Olaf Goldbecker – On Saturday, Feb. 18, Bundesliga will resume playing action … maybe that is. Three games are scheduled, but since Germany is caught in winter weather for the past few weeks, and with temperatures expected to go up again in the next few days, it is very questionable if those games can be played on the expected muddy grounds. (Note, games were postponed the weekend of Feb. 18. One match was played on Feb. 22 – Potsdam drew 1-1 with Hamburger SV. The rest of Bundesliga resumes play Sunday, Feb. 26. Wolfsburg vs. Bad Neuenahr has been postponed due to field conditions. All other matches are on as scheduled).
This is the situation of the clubs:
Turbine Potsdam – #1, 11 games, 30 points. The champion of the last three years sits in the pole position and has the lead by a few points. The team allowed striker Anja Mittag to go to LdB FC Malmo in Sweden. With four goals, she was #10 in the league but only #3 on the team in the striker list. Goalkeeper Anna Sarholz broke her arm again, so American Alyssa Naeher is back in the net for Potsdam. Also new on defense is a second American – Alex Singer. The team is able to clinch the fourth straight championship, especially when you consider that they did not even convince in many games so far.
FCR Duisburg – #2, 11 games, 26 points. One of the positive surprises of the season since Duisburg had to let several players go prior to this campaign. Yet they played constant, and astonishingly are in the title race for this reason. It will be tough to keep this alive. For reaching this, Duisburg inked the 19-year-old Dutch talent Lieke Martens of Standard de Liege. You would think everything is positive with FCR after the first half of the season, but wrong – Wolfsburg announced the signing of Alexandra Popp and Luisa Wensing after the season, and 1.FFC Frankfurt followed with Simone Laudehr. The next major change has to be planned in Duisburg.
1.FFC Frankfurt – #3, 12 games, 25 points. Yet another disappointing season for Frankfurt, which is again trailing behind the own expectations. The team often proved to have problems with the playmaking skills, and the question has to be allowed if a top team with a high percentage of ball possession is well off when playing with one lonely striker up top. If Potsdam wins the game in Hamburg, they are already trailing by 8 points with just 10 more games – very doubtful that Frankfurt can still get the desired title. No roster change in the break though, but the same procedure as last every year can be expected: big investments in the summer break for finally winning the championship again.
VfL Wolfsburg – #4, 11 games, 25 points. It seemed to be like every year: after a bad start into the season another failed year of investments threatened. Yet VfL managed to get the turnaround and can now look back on a positive note. Having the makeup game in mind, they should be able to sit in the third position also until the end of the season. maybe they can even claim a Champions League spot. Only roster change is that Finnish NT player Katri Nokso-Koivisto left the club to Swedish Jitex BK, but she did not see major playing time anyway.
SC Freiburg – #5, 12 games, 18 points. Great surprise season for the newly promoted team. It was known that Freiburg has the quality to avoid getting down again, but nobody really expected them to lead the middle of the standings and be safe already after half of the season. In the winter break, they secured forward talent Sara Däbritz, who joins the team from a U17 boys’ team.
SG Essen-Schönebeck – #6, 12 games, 17 points. The next surprise. The low budget team was expected to have relegation trouble this year. Then they suffered several injuries to important players. Still they collected lots of points and stay clear in the standings. That way they could even afford to terminate the contract of their top defender Elena Hauer, who was injured, and according to the club lacked professionalism in the recovery process.
SC Bad Neuenahr – #7, 12 games, 15 points. The season start was everything but good. Bad Neuenahr remained at the bottom for quite a while. No coincidence that the team is always lacking success when Celia Okoyino da Mbabi is injured. At the end of the first half of the season, the team got on a roll and collected the points to probably stay away from relegation trouble. Only roster change is that the contract with forward Lydia Neumann was terminated.
FC Bayern München – #8, 11 games, 10 points. The negative surprise of the first season half is the team of the Bavarian capital. The talented squad for sure had some trouble with injuries but still they should have easily stayed away from relegation trouble. The disappointing situation led to signing two new players: American Niki Cross joins from Norwegian club Medkila IL for defense, and American top forward talent Sarah Hagen is the new center joining from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
FF USV Jena – #9, 11 games, 9 points. The top striker went, and trouble was expected before the season. This was to be solved by signing top coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg – but now she left to become the new head coach of the Swiss national team. A new official coach is not named yet, but considering that the team just scored five goals, the new coach will know what kind of work they have to do. Two players left – Cameroon’s Marlyse Ngo-Ndoumbouk (SC Sand, third division) and Fata Salkunic returned to Slovenia. New is Croatian striker Iva Landeka of the Polish club Unia Radibor, and in goal Tessa Rinkes (Arna Bjornar, Norway) is back with her old club.
Lokomotive Leipzig – #10, 11 games, 9 points. The second newly promoted team also stays over the bottom line in winter, which is a little surprise. Coach Claudia van Lanken was fired early, and Jürgen Brausse took over. Only with a strong team performance does the team have a chance to stay in the league. This will have to be done with some roster changes. Ann-Katrin Schinkel, Josefine Krengel, Kathrin Patzke, Jil Ludwig, and Anja Hädrich all left to minor league clubs. For them, Karoline Aulrich was moved up from the reserve team again, and besides they rely on international help. From Australia’s Adelaide United they are joined by New Zealand’s left back Anna Green. Coming from Sky Blue FC is defender Jenista Clark, and American Katie Kelly transferred from Swedish Hammarby IF to Leipzig.
Hamburger SV – #11, 10 games, 8 points. The major roster cut did not remain without effect. Expectedly, Hamburg found themselves in the relegation fight. The strongest asset still is coach Achim Feifel who led his team to several surprising positions in the past. If this can be repeated, this year remains to be seen. Hamburg can be dangerous in singular games, but the roster is not necessarily providing with the needed quality. In the winter break, they signed Aylin Yaren of 1.FC Lubars in 2. Bundesliga as only addition.
Bayer Leverkusen – #12, 12 games, 3 points. A little miracle has to follow to keep Leverkusen in the league. For sure they don’t have the worst roster in the league, but some injuries and trouble kept them on a bad run. They try to make the first season half undone by adding American forward Katie Bethke, who joins from Norwegian Arna Bjornar. Also new is Australian international Sally Shipard, who brings in her experience from almost 60 national team games and comes with the reference of just having won the Australian championship with Canberra United.