Wendepunkt – Koln vs. Mainz: The Kunde is Always Right?

Wendepunkt (noun) – turning-point, a place where a turn is made. Examples: the turning-point in the race, a turning-point in his life.

The concept of a ¨turning point¨ should be familiar to most sports fans, as should be the fact that Germans have been very good at forging a single word for a concept that we in English require at least two to say.

By definition, there can be multiple turning points in any sporting contest, but some have a greater impact on final result than others. Some are also much more tangible and/or obvious than others. It won´t take many readers of this before one will find fault with my choice of the definitive turning point of this contest and maybe go to Twitter to tell everyone how little I understand about the game. All I can say to that is, ¨We are open to new contributors, pretty much always.¨

Anyhow, if you watched 1. FC Köln blow their two-goal lead Sunday, you probably know the choice here is so obvious that itś hardly worth pointing out. Again, fair enough . . . but then how about you write something?

Pierre Kunde delivered the 2:2 in the 72nd minute to complete a comeback bid for 1. FSV Mainz. The goal was enough to ultimately secure an important point to boost Mainz to four points above the relegation-playoff spot.

Through the magic of blurry screencaps, touch-screen technology, and horrible handwriting, let´s review what happened!

Everything good here, yeah?

We start with what looks like a relatively harmless scenario. You have a defender, Jeremiah St. Juste, with the ball still in the middle third of the pitch and no options that would obviously turn dangerous for the defense. The least-marked man in the picture is Jean-Paul Boetius (center), but even if that would not require an unnecessarily risky pass, he would still have some work to do to create a chance.

Can you believe that St. Juste will not only make the final pass before a goal is scored? Not only that, but that he will make is from about where he is and it will be an even-safer ball than anything he could deliver to anyone currently in the frame?

Mystery Shadow turns into Pierre Kunde!

So, the ball was dropped back to Pierre Kunde, who had been providing cover at the center line. This could NOT be a more-innocuous situation, by all appearances.  As you can see, every FC defender between the penalty area and the ball is making a visual check on Kunde. You can see Kingsley Schindler on the far left also waving his arm in the direction of a Mainz player off the screen, but he´s still got a visual on the man with the ball.

Now, I already intimated that there will not be another pass between now and a goal being scored. Would you bet on a wonder-strike from distance or a zig-zag run through those defenders, maybe with some eye-opening technique? (Viewers of the match will recognize this is a slightly tricky question).

Here comes Kunde!

 

¨I had the ball and saw that I had space.”

So, zig-zag run then?

Not so fast, my friend!

Kunde has begun his run toward goal. As my seven-year-old son noted early in the second half, ¨Most of the Mainz players are literally fast!¨ You could not help but notice that, but speed alone is not getting him through this, even if he asks nicely.

¨Kunde¨ happens to be a German word for ¨customer.¨ This Kunde is looking for something, but that does not mean you give it to him. ¨The customer is always right¨ is a cliche, but most in the service industry will correct that to, ¨No, the customer is always the customer,¨ which means sometimes you find a way to, as politely as possible, correct that customer. The Kunde here would like a clear path to goal, and you never know if you don´t ask.

Here, Mark Uth is too far away and behind to be of much use unless Kunde is forced to cut to his left. That leaves Jonas Hector, who had seen a yellow card in the first half, as the first in position to address the customer issue, with Ellyes Skhiri standing by in case he is needed.

Köln´s first line of ¨resistance¨

In just a few steps, Kunde has put Hector in a position of being unable to stop him without risking a second yellow, which makes Skhiriś intervention somewhat urgent. Should he step to the ball or drift back a little to potentially interrupt the forward momentum?

Skhiri with the whiff!

From this angle, itś obvious that Skhiri could have helped out a lot better had he dropped deeper. The irony here is that the FC had been playing pretty deep for much of the match, so why challenge there? Especially if you could get no closer than that?!

That foot-jab is the bane of every U10 coach I know. You surrender your ability to stay in motion for a one-time crack at the ball, which often leads to the opponent just going around you the moment you have gone stationary. I realize there is more complexity here than there is in my kid´s games, but the symptoms are there. Skhiri never got close to the ball here while also taking himself out of the play, as Kunde has no problem evading the attempt.

Now Toni Leistner has to ask himself ¨what do I surrender to help here? Meanwhile, Seb Bournauw looks like heś thinking, ¨No way does he get this far. None.¨

STOP BALL!

I know this is not remotely like basketball, but those of us who played basketball can relate to the reality of needing to ¨STOP BALL!¨ And, though it is not basketball, this play absolutely shows what happens when you do not ¨stop ball.¨

Leistner sees both holding-midfielders are beat. He HAS to make the stop at this point and trust thkat when he releases the attacker to his left (Taiwo Awoniyi, I think), his next-closest teammate (Noah Katterbach, I think) will jump in. And, initially, it appears that Leistner is going to go directly at Kunde.

Right this way, sir!

Here´s where things get even dicier.

Benno Schmitz entered the scene from the left flank, which may have made Leistner gamble that Schmitz would force Kunde to give up the ball. He had already made quite a run after all. Certainly, he was looking to dump it to an attacking player, especially with Awoniyi, who had already scored a goal, running with him?

Whatever the reason, Leistner drops back rather than going at Kunde, which means if Schmitz does not make the play . . .

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events

and Schmitz does NOT make the play! The challenge doesn´t really interrupt Kunde´s run at all, which means trouble, because Leistner hedged the wrong way & Bournauw has no chance of salvaging this mess.

The Aftermath

Kunde slots his shot between the near post and Timo Hornś effort rather cleanly and the match is tied for good.

Mainz players are pretty excited, for obvious reasons. Schmitz, Bournauw, and Horn are all doing pretty much what most FC fans watching from home must have been doing, which is giving the universal signal for, ¨HEY, WHAT WAS THAT?!¨

The answer is, ¨five seconds of effort from a determined player, aided by some questionable decisions, half-hearted challenges, and maybe some miscommunication from his opponents.¨

In any case, applaud Pierre Kunde for his initiative and drive. He earned it.

 

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