1. FC Köln Return From Berlin Empty-Handed, Lose to Hertha 2:0

A brief run-throuh 1. FC Köln’s 2:0 English-week loss in Berlin to Hertha BSC Tuesday:

How We Got There and What it Means

Despite Hertha BSC missing a pile of players to injury, the 1. FC Köln started with a very conservative approach, looking to stay somewhat compact and wait for the right chance to strike with a counterattack.

Once Vedad Ibisevic put Hertha ahead late in the first half, it was down to the effzeh to find some offensive solutions to get back in the match, but possession was plagued by rushed passes that were either completely off-target or too easily defended. As Köln grew more desperate late in added time, Hertha was able to turn a Jonas Hector throw-in into a quick succession of passes and Ibisevic’s second goal of the night after going 20 months without a single score.

The loss comes as a huge damper to the post-derby excitement, just three days after Köln achieved a somewhat-rare victory over rival Borussia Mönchengladbach. Even though it was the host that was playing with several second-choice players in its starting formation, it was the visiting squad with no changes from Saturday’s victorious starting eleven that looked a bit disjointed, both in defending and in moving forward into attack.

Whatever adjustments are to be made for Friday’s home match against surprising FC Ingolstadt will necessarily include a new face in the midfield. Kevin Vogt, who’d started the last four matches, will be indefinitely unavailable following the broken nose and concussion he suffered in a collision with Vladimir Darida a bit past the hour-mark.

Get well soon, Kevin!

It may not have been quite as shocking a loss as the 6:2 in Frankfurt, but after the highs of beating their most-hated rival, which saw that rival’s head coach resign his post the next day, falling to an under-manned Hertha squad while posting such a disappointingly ineffective performance serves the purpose of reminding Köln fans of the work remaining to achieve even the modest goals of avoiding a bottom-three finish by season’s end.


As the game plan continues to increasingly resemble that of last season, it’s clear that Dominique Heintz and Frederik Sørensen are not yet the stable rock on which a sturdy defense can be founded. Sørensen’s positioning and effort on the first goal left much to be desired.

Yet, the primary problem in surrendering the first goal of the game was not in the central defense, rather it was born in an area that seemed to have been turned into a position of strength last year when Pawel Olkowski supplanted Miso Brecko at right back. When Marvin Plattenhardt received a ball deep along the left flank, Olkowski was slow to close the distance between the two men. Plattenhardt capably utilized that space to send a low, sharp ball into the area for Ibisevic who, as we noted, could have been greeting with a bit more sturdy a defensive presence.

Of course, a 2:0 loss would indicate the issues were not only in the defensive end.

Connecting the defensive and offensive thirds of the field was very problematic for the 1. FC Köln. Marcel Risse’s appetite for providing a big moment continues to exceed his ability to make the long connecting passes he’s so fond of attempting lately. There wasn’t much better coming from Vogt and Matthias Lehmann in the middle, either.

Perhaps most-frustrating of all was how rushed everything was once Köln achieved possession deep in the Hertha end. The hosts were not conceding egregious amounts of space, but neither were they aggressively pressing. Even so, it was rare to see a Köln player in the offensive end utilize the space and time given to make considerate plays, preferring instead to attempt a lot of one-touch passes on give-and-go situations. It was the wrong approach for the opposition, but also for a team that isn’t showing it has the precise touch on the passes to make it a great first choice in attack.

Stock Watch

Falling – Pawel Olkowski

It might be time for a Denkpause (thinking break) for the man who justifiably was handed the right-back job last season.

Is it because he missed a chunk at the end of last season through injury that he’s trying to re-affirm his worth? Or could it be because long-time presence at his spot and former team captain Miso Brecko left for another club leaving Olkowski a legacy to fulfill? Whatever the cause, it seems obvious that Olkowski is a victim of his own ambitions. He seems to want to bring so much added value to his role that he’s failing to deliver on his primary job, which is to keep opportunistic balls from originating on his side of the defensive area.

While Olkowski showed a strong defensive presence early in his playing days here, the biggest praise was heaped on him when he delivered two goals and an assist in a 4:3 win at Hoffenheim last November.

It’s time Olkowski was reminded that the defensive responsibilities must take priority. If that can’t be made obvious to him by showing him how much room Plattenhardt was given to send the game-winner to Ibisevic Tuesday, then maybe 90 minutes watching from the bench can help him see the light.

Falling – Marcel Risse, midfielder

As much as I love Risse (and dont’ we all?), I have to admit that he’s at his best when he’s either playing conservatively in a more-defensive posture or carrying the ball into the attack.

So why is he trying to create offense by launching the ball repeatedly over great distances?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but would be a much more appropriate thing to get from a right back moving into midfield than from a right midfielder who seems to be stuck in the midfield.

Besides, shifting Risse into the right-back role gives a chance to maybe reset the posture of Olkowski and give one of the excess number of midfielders a chance to contribute.

Falling – Yuya Osako

There was a brief period of time toward the end of last season when it appeared Osako had finally figured some things out and was ready to make a big step in his effzeh career.

None of that has been seen in the early going this season, neither before nor since the knee injury that sidelined him for a pair of games before the international break.

Osako too frequently is unable to keep his feet when he’s deep into the offensive end, which is likely why he’s often deployed a bit more deeply than is Anthony Modeste. On occasion, Osako does get control of the ball in the offensive third and shows the presence to take his time to find the right opportunity, but his passes into the area are simply too soft to be of much danger.

Again, Peter Stöger has several alternatives available to him to find the right solution to an ineffective offense. Replacing Osako with one of them would at least provide a different look Friday.

Man of the Match

Not unlike trying to find a most-valuable player in the Eintracht Frankfurt match, there weren’t any performances in this loss that stood out as being good.

Timo Horn made a few big saves to keep his side in the game, and that’s true enough of him very often. He really is the most-valuable player we have on most days, win, lose, or draw.

I suppose I might note that Leonardo Bittencourt may have been the only other player wearing red Tuesday to not provide a “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?!” moment, so a tip of the cap toward him, but if it weren’t for a few outstanding efforts from our man between the posts, the match might have been well out of reach before the improbable return of zombie-Ibisevic.


It’s “Friday Night Lights” at Müngersdorfer Stadium when the 1. FC Köln meet promoted side FC Ingolstadt in a battle of the last two champions of the 2. Bundesliga.

The game will be broadcast live in the United States on Fox Soccer Plus at 2:30 p.m. EST/11:30 PST. American Geissbock will also be providing live American-English and very-biased commentary via RabbleTV .

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