Losing the goals provided by Taiwo Awoniyi was always going to be a big loss for Union Berlin going into the new season, but in US striker Jordan Pefok, they already look to have found the ideal replacement. Here we take a closer look at Union Berlin’s big goalscoring hope.
Union moved very early at the end of last season once it became known that 15-goal top scorer Taiwo Awoniyi was going to be lured to the Premier League with newly promoted Nottingham Forest for €20.5 million. The Eisener quickly turned to the Swiss league and paid Young Boys Bern €6 million for Pefok, who had just finished as the league top scorer.
Union’s new striker was born in Washington DC to Cameroonian parents and moved to France when he was just two years old. Siebatcheu is his father’s last name and Pefok is his mother’s maiden name, and he has used both surnames, but the player has made it clear he wants to use Pefok (although he wears ‘Jordan’ on the back of his Union shirt).
He joined Stade de Reims when he was seven and moved up through the youth ranks. His league debut came in January 2015, and he scored in just his second appearance for the club. The 2017-18 season saw him help Reims gain promotion to Ligue 1 scoring seventeen goals and adding seven assists in that campaign.
Ligue 1 side Rennes snapped him up, however he was unable to maintain his goalscoring feats in the topflight hitting just three goals across two seasons and was loaned out to Young Boys in Switzerland. Success quickly returned at the Wankdorf Stadion with twelve goals in thirty-two appearances helping the Bern side to the league title. Last season saw him increase his goal tally to twenty-two in the league with a further five added in Europe.
He bagged three goals in a 6-2 aggregate victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 in 2020/21, and in September 2021 he grabbed the limelight with his 95th-minute winner against Manchester United in the Champions League group stage.
What have Union got?
First things first, Pefok is not a like-for-like, direct replacement for Taiwo Awoniyi. Awoniyi preferred it when he had space in front of him and he could start from deep. Pefok showed with his goal in the DFB Pokal and his Bundesliga opener that he is more a penalty box striker, who is going to use his physicality (1,90 meter, 90kg) to effective use. His bicycle kick against Chemnitz and his debut header against Hertha showed this. Two goals in two games is the ideal start for the 26-year-old.
He is not blessed with blistering pace, but he’s aerially strong and will hold the ball up well for teammates. He has a nose for goal and is not afraid to mix it with defenders inside the box.
Playing with two wide forward partners as Union did in the Pokal (5-2-3) or in their Bundesliga opener (4-3-3) looks to suit him perfectly. His relationship with Sheraldo Becker will be a very interesting one to keep an eye on.
Pefok vs Pepi: The World Cup showdown
Internationally, Pefok has committed to the USA and with the World Cup coming up at the end of the year, an impressive start in the Bundesliga could push him into coach Greg Berhalter’s thoughts. He is clearly behind the likes of Jesus Ferreira and Haji Wright, but nothing is set in stone for the US in the striking department. Last season it looked like Augsburg’s Ricardo Pepi had the jersey within his grasp, only for a poor season to see him slip back from contention.
Could we see a direct Bundesliga confrontation/ goals showdown between Pefok and Pepi this season for a seat on the plane to Qatar- watch this space.