1. FC Köln Player Ratings: Effzeh at Eintracht Frankfurt (in English)

Because I will never have a perfect opportunity to share this pic of an Effzeh scarf at Everest base camp. (Thanks Boris Thoenissen and good luck!)

I mean, why not?

Once upon a time as I delved further into the sport and its coverage, I started to regularly see match ratings for players (or Einzelkritik). 

Rather, I should say that I noticed they were fairly common to see, but eventually I learned they were a ubiquitous part of how matches are covered, probably going back to the days before statistics were finally embraced as something interesting and/or useful.

Even so, much as how German is not my native language, nor even something with which I’m comfortable enough to use freely, I don’t really have a good grasp on the player ratings when I read them. I even asked for help once and received it, but it never really came into clarity for me.

So, of course, as a wannabe football writer and stubborn American, I started keeping my own rating system for players in matches as I watched them. It’s a completely subjective system, but not too arcane, in that I simply give a plus for plays I deem to be of above-average value and a minus for plays that are sub-par. This does have some drawbacks as someone who simply lingers without engaging play could end up with a similar rating to someone who is strongly engaged in the match, but is bested in spots. It’s far from perfect, but it works for me.

Hence, my ratings are essentially based on the observations of someone who grew up thinking the sport was silly and never played it, except for that one time in Wuppertal, half-drunk, with some English friends against some Turkish pre-teens. It didn’t go well.

Take them for what they’re worth, but here are my player ratings for Saturday’s 3:2 loss in Frankfurt:

Timo Horn – 2

Was a bit of a mixed bag for young Timo in the week where his name was being tossed around as a member of the wider circle of keepers potentially in line to eventually step into national service for Germany. There was an outstanding save on a Haris Seferovic shot, but there were also a few less-thrilling moments, the worst being the way he spun around the ball on the match-winner as it trickled into goal. I can’t bring myself to blame him for that one, but I also can’t quite erase from my mind the confused way the whole event unfolded. That said, we have a really good future as long as Horn wears the Geißbock on his chest.

Pawel Olkowski – 1

All in all, it was a pretty good debut for Olkowski in place of Miso Brecko at right back. He was able to be present in the effort going forward, much as Brecko often has been, but was not as easily beaten on the defensive end as Brecko has been recently. If this switch was intended to test long-term readiness of the defense with Olkowski as a new presence, I think we’re going to be seeing a lot less of the captain going forward.

Dominic Maroh – 1

Maroh made at least one crucial salvation tackle after a poor back-pass from Jonas Hector nearly led to trouble. You also got to see Maroh a few steps behind Alexander Meier as the man with the creepy-80’s-guy ponytail glided toward his second goal of the match.

Kevin Wimmer – 3

I love Kevin Wimmer. Don’t you love Kevin Wimmer?  He’s going to take a little hit for deflecting the corner kick past Horn for the deciding goal, but I’m not sure he didn’t make a great tackle on Takashi Inui on the play that preceded and otherwise earn a goal kick rather than a corner. The corner was awarded, whether in error or no, and the problem is in what happened after. That said, Wimmer continues to impress. I don’t know if anyone was sure he was still going to shine at the Bundesliga level, but I think we can now safely say that we found ourselves a stud in the central defense.

Jonas Hector – 4

For me, as for many, Hector was the man of the match, which is something when you consider it was his area from which both Seferovic crosses were launched toward Meier for goals. More interesting, though, was how Hector bolted behind Eintracht’s high line, pulled down a long ball from Kevin Vogt, and scored an equalizer with touch frequently missing in our attack this season. It was a goal-scorer’s goal from a left back, who also made a lot of solid plays in the midfield and defensive ends. You can have your Kevin Großkreutz or Antonio Rüdiger. Give me eleven Jonas Hectors, or at least call him into national duty for Germany. Rising star, in my view, which will soon be shared by all of Germany. Bank it.

Matthias Lehmann- 2

Matze was his typical field-general self, calmly directing efforts from the pivot and generally maintaining a cool demeanor while taking the captain’s armband in the first Bundesliga match without Brecko in the starting eleven. Clearly noting that Eintracht was playing with high defensive line, he was part of the effort to go over and through it, nearly winning an assist for one of his efforts. He’s a good presence to have on the field, whether Brecko is out there or not.

Kevin Vogt – 2

If this were hockey, Vogt would be getting one of my three stars. Okay, so his “2” rating isn’t as shiny as that of others, but that’s a failing of my system being able to capture the way Vogt inserted himself into matters rather than his being less-valuable overall than others. He had a few stumbles which took away from the number, most-notably getting tunneled near the corner flag and being left standing to watch as the ball went toward the Effzeh goal, but the really was a dynamic force, not unlike how Hector was, making it appropriate that he assisted Hector’s goal with a long pass. His delivery on Marcel Risse’s 1:0 showed he can draw attention and play the ball off to a teammate running with him in an intelligent play-making style. He’s not always pretty, but he’s giving a lot of effort, which is a treat for the less savvy observers among us.

Marcel Risse – 4

MY MAN! WHERE YOU BEEN?! This was as close to a redemption match for unapologetic fans of Risse as you could have requested. The more-offensive spirit of the side seemed to be more freeing for Risse than anyone else, which may help enlighten people like me on just how critical his defensive contributions can be. Risse obviously got the first goal, though he was set up perfectly by Vogt. He also got a few other shots on target and dispossessed Frankfurters in the midfield area to help the Effzeh attack continue. This was vintage Risse, and I hope you got to see it.

Yuya Osako – 3

There is no way Osako outplayed Vogt. Again, my system . . . ain’t great. Osako is still having trouble asserting himself into the offensive thrust, and when he does the results are mixed. He wastes chances far too frequently, making me wonder whether it’s a talent issue or a game-intelligence issue. He embarrassed the utterly embarrassible Carlos Zambrano on the flank to run free into all the space in the world on the left side, but then . . . the opportunity evaporated. He clearly can play, but when will that result in better decision-making in the final third of the pitch?

Daniel Halfar – -2

I hate to even put this here, and if I weren’t so stubborn, I’d change the number I have on my notes for Halfar (and maybe for Vogt and Osako). But, I AM stubborn. It seemed like the only time I noticed Halfar during the match was when he was making a mistake. I don’t remember seeing him be vital in the offense ever, which is odd because he’d been maybe the only consistently interesting player in attack all season. I’m hoping it’s a bad run of form, because my sense is that a trio of Nagasawa, Risse, and Halfar will be problematic for many teams, as long as all three of them are playing at the top levels they’ve shown since joining the club. But he was the worst of the Effzeh in my notes from watching the match. My personal appreciation for him has to step aside for the moment as I try to be honest, even if it’s likely I’m just poorly informed.

Simon Zoller – 1

In Klartext (speaking plainly), is there a better-than-average chance that this match plays out a lot differently if Anthony Ujah starts in place of Zoller? In the first half, Zoller was seen only as the player arriving a step or two too late to convert a chance, most notably when he slid to attempt to put a delicious cross (was it Hector? Risse?) into the unguarded part of the goal. Otherwise, you might not have noticed him whatsoever, which is pretty much a sin for a striker-type, especially with the team FINALLY playing forward more-aggressively than it had. I might have hoped for Ujah even if Zoller had played well, but he didn’t play well at all, which makes me question even more the decision to go with him over the more-proven commodity.

Slawomir Peszko – 2

Peszko nearly got one. That’s what I remember. He definitely was better in limited time than the guy he replaced (Halfar), even with just half an hour to show something. I tend to like how Peszko plays, and he did not disappoint in his time, except maybe he could have spent a bit less time on his knees regretting his missed chance and a bit more getting on the ball as it deflected back toward the corner. Keep playing when the ball is alive!

Anthony Ujah – 1

Ujah also nearly got one. Well, maybe it wasn’t that great a chance, but he was quick to make something happen, which triggers more resentment toward his being relegated to the bench for the match start in favor of a guy who showed little in his stead. I’m not sure why our Tönn whiffed on his headed clearance attempt of the Basitan Oczipka corner that decided the match other than maybe he’s shown that the air is not his strongest place, but he did whiff, which resulted in it travelling past him to Wimmer’s thigh, below Horn, and into goal. I really, really want a highlights package from the alternate universe where that game is played out with Ujah next to Osako in attack rather than Zoller.

Kazuki Nagasawa – 1

I was going to start with an apology for being such an unabashed Nagasawa fan, but then realized I’d have to do that for most of the roster. I can try to be objective in some ways, but this club is what turned me into a fan of the sport, in large part. The players reap the benefit of my perception, for the most part. Nagawawa had quite a bit less than ten minutes of actual game action to say hello after missing the season start to injury, but he had at least one moment where he reminded everyone why he rose to “fan favorite” status fairly quickly on Planet Effzeh. All I can say about Nagasawa’s return is, “Yes!” and “More please!”

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