1. Striker Woes in the Bundesliga
It's one of the perils of joining a lower-table first division club. There are big opportunities for minutes at a club likely to be fighting relegation, but there's also great volatility with the managerial position. Overnight, a head coach can be fired and the new coach will have different ideas and different opinions on personnel. If you were starting before, you might be viewed as part of the problem. Such is the case for two Americans strikers in Germany.
Aron Jóhannsson began the season as a feel-good story. Returning from a long-term injury, he reclaimed the starting job at Werder Bremen by opening day. He scored a goal from the penalty spot in Week 2, and things looked good. Week 3 was a turning point. AronJo received a late red card in a 4-1 defeat at Gladbach. After the loss, manager Viktor Skripnik was fired. With both bad luck and bad timing, Jóhannsson hasn't started since, having been usurped by 19-year-old Gambian striker Ousman Manneh.
Bobby Wood arrived at Hamburger SV after a prodigious scoring season at Union Berlin. Wood claimed a starting role with HSV and started quickly with two goals in his first two career Bundesliga matches. The scoring dried up from there, not just for Wood, but the entire team. Manager Bruno Labbadia was dismissed after the club earned just one point through five games. Changes were made, and Wood has found himself on the bench for the last two league matches. HSV's results still haven't improved, and shockingly, Wood's two goals still account for the teams's entire season total thru eight games.
(UPDATE: Wood makes his case with a brace in the DFB Pokal)
2. Bob Bradley's Home Debut
After the fanfare of last week's historic Premier League managerial debut, this week Bob Bradley appeared on the sideline in front of Swansea City's home fans for the first time.
The result was better, and the quality of play, at least on the defensive side, was already markedly better. Swansea kept a clean sheet for the first time since opening day, claiming a 0-0 draw vs. Watford. Bradley fingerprints were already evident. The team was better organized, and even missed some quality chances that could have taken three points. A step in the right direction for a club still stuck in the relegation zone. Next up: Monday 10/31 at Geoff Cameron's Stoke City.
3. Brian Span lifts trophy with "Finnish Leicester"
Unless you happen to be a diehard follower of the Veikkausliiga, you probably missed this one. But anytime an American wins a title overseas, it's cause for celebration.
Brian Span, a winger who had a brief tenure at FC Dallas without making an MLS appearance, has been a regular part of the starting lineup for Finland's IFK Mariehamn for the past two seasons. The Finnish top flight has long been dominated by HJK Helsinki, winner of 27 league titles. Mariehamn is a small club that had carved out a decent mid-table existence in the 12-team league, and had never been a real championship threat.
All that changed on Sunday, when upstart Mariehamn claimed the Finnish title with a 2-1 home win vs. Ilves on the final day of the season. One former player dubbed the side the "Finnish Leicester," citing numerous similarities to the Foxes' surprise Premier League title.
Brian Span (pictured fifth from the left in the celebration photo above) has been a key part of the club's success and has developed into one of the team's leaders. Span scored just two goals in 27 starts, but was an essential part of an overall defensive shape that only conceded 25 goals in 33 games.
4. Wooten Heating Up
Andrew Wooten went a long time without scoring a goal. After beginning the 2015-16 season with a scorching six goals in his first eight games, Wooten went nearly a year without scoring again. Now he's finding his touch again. On Saturday, Wooten scored his fourth of the season, and third in four games, in a 3-0 win vs. FC St. Pauli (skip to 2:02 of the following video):
Wooten's 72nd minute strike was an impressive effort to create space with a strong finish, and put the game on ice for SV Sandhausen. SVS is heating up as well, now unbeaten in its last five, and into the top half of the 2.Bundesliga table.
5. Pulisic Equalizer
What'd the kid do this week?
Let's start with another start in UEFA Champions League. Christian Pulisic put in a full 90 minutes in an important 2-1 victory at Portugal's Sporting CP. Dortmund continues to lead Group F, ahead of Real Madrid on goal differential. That's impressive enough, but we don't stop there.
On Saturday, Pulisic began the day on the bench at Alfredo Morales' winless Ingolstadt. With BVB trailing by a shocking 2-0 score, Pulisic came off the bench at halftime to help kickstart the offense. And yes, he most certainly did that. Trailing 3-1 in the 69 minute, Pulisic was credited with a fortunate assist on an Adrian Ramos goal.
Then two minutes into stoppage time, BVB needed a hero, and found one:
Pulisic's 4th career Bundesliga goal (in just 729 minutes) saved Borussia Dortmund from an embarrassing result and rescued a critical away point on a very competitive table. Dortmund sits in sixth place after a 4-2-2 start, still disappointing by its own standards. But Pulisic continues to make a huge impact and one of the world's biggest clubs.