Bundesliga makes cautious return to play in Germany
by Noah Zimmerman
May 20, 2020 | 1484 views | 0 0 comments | 216 216 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photos courtesy of Bundesliga
Photos courtesy of Bundesliga
slideshow
The referee’s whistle echoed around an empty Signal Iduna Park as Borussia Dortmund kicked off against rivals Schalke 04. Soccer had finally made its long awaited return to Europe, seeing its first top-league play in two months.

For the first time ever, the Revierderby was held in an empty stadium, creating a never-before-seen atmosphere for a rivalry match between two of Europe’s most passionately supported clubs.

It wasn’t easy to ease the sports world back into action after it screeched to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic. Resuming play is a difficult task still faced by all other top sports leagues worldwide.

Germany acted swiftly and rigorously to control the virus. Largely thanks to high testing, medical availability, and strong social distancing initiatives, the nation has seen under 10,000 deaths despite over 150,000 cases.

On the pitch, Dortmund attacked with an empty southern stand behind them, typically occupied with 25,000 singing supporters in the famous Yellow Wall.

In the heart of Schalke’s midfield stood American youngster Weston McKennie. McKennie came to the Bundesliga in 2016, making the move from the FC Dallas academy where he turned down a chance to sign as a homegrown player.

After just one year in the Schalke academy, McKennie found his way onto the first team, where he has settled into a key role for Schalke.

Dortmund newcomer Giovanni Reyna is another young American to follow a similar path. The winger made the move this winter from NYCFC’s academy where his father, Claudio Reyna, was the MLS club’s first sporting director.

Like his father, who made his senior debut with Bayer Leverkusen, Reyna turned to Germany to kick off his career.

He made his debut in January at the age of 17 and was set to make his first career start in the derby, but a leg muscle injury in pre-match warmups sidelined the youngster. Still, at such a young age and with a recent contract extension through 2023, there will be plenty to see from Reyna for Dortmund.

Norwegian phenom Erling Haaland was the most fascinating young star on the field. After a strong season at RB Salzburg, the 19-year-old found his way to Dortmund.

Haaland immediately continued his prolific goalscoring, netting nine goals in his first eight matches, with another two against PSG in the Champions League. In a flash, Haaland brought his Bundesliga goal count to ten.

At the end of a relatively quiet first 30 minutes, a fancy flick by Julian Brandt sent Dortmund on a quick counter attack. Thorgan Hazard sent a ball into the box, knocked home by the foot of the Norwegian striker. Keeping in line with Bundesliga and FIFA requests, Haaland danced six feet apart from his teammates, celebrating separately.

The Dortmund attack was relentless, holding their foot to the gas with quick attacking play and counter attacks on every lost Schalke possession. Just minutes from halftime, a turnover caused another Dortmund counter.

Under pressure, Schalke goalkeeper Markus Schubert surrendered the ball with a weak clearance. Quick passes allowed Raphael Guerreiro to sneak behind the Schalke defense and tuck his first goal of the night past the young German keeper.

The barrage continued right after halftime, with another quick Dortmund attack. Haaland sent the ball forward before being brought down by a hard challenge. Julian Brandt fed the ball to Thorgan Hazard once again, who fired the ball into the net.

One more goal from Guerreiro put the game away, and it was Dortmund walking away 4-0 winners in the derby.

Dortmund kept their pressure on league-leading Bayern Munich, who defeated Union Berlin to maintain a four-point cushion. Borussia Mönchengladbach moved into third with a win in Frankfurt and a RB Leipzig draw against SC Freiburg.

Hopefully a successful restart to the Bundesliga can offer a roadmap to a sports world waiting for a chance to safely take the field once again.

For sports fans eager for live action, Bundesliga matches air on the FOX family of sports networks.
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