Borussia Dortmund II suffer fourth straight loss but contributing factors are beyond the control of Enrico Maaßen

Enrico Maassen. (Photo by Matthias Kern/Getty Images)
Enrico Maassen. (Photo by Matthias Kern/Getty Images) /
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Borussia Dortmund II players after a game in the 3. Liga. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)
Borussia Dortmund II players after a game in the 3. Liga. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images) /

Borussia Dortmund II’s struggles in the 3. Liga

As outlined in the season preview in August, the challenge of competing in a 3. Liga filled with former Bundesliga clubs such as 1860 München, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Eintracht Braunschweig, Waldhof Mannheim, MSV Duisburg or a Viktoria Berlin newly minted with the undisclosed ‘multi-million’ investment was always going to be a trial.

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund II lost to third-placed SV Meppen in a game they would have been expected to win in front of a record crowd for the current season of 2960 at the Stadion Rote Erde. The results of the last few weeks are mainly due to the strained personnel situation, which is a factor that is beyond coach Enno Maaßen’s control.

With the enormous injury crisis being faced by the professional squad, players from the U-23s have been called up time and time again. Most recently, defensive players like Antonios Papadopoulos and Lennard Maloney have been called up to help out, in addition to the usual suspects striker Steffen Tigges, winger Ansgar Knauff, and even midfielder Tobias Raschl.

Borussia Dortmund’s third division team has also not been spared injuries. Marco Pasalic and Immanuel Pherai were also missing from the line-up at the weekend. The latter at least took a seat on the bench against Meppen. While goalkeeper Luca Unbehaun is also dealing with an injury at the moment.

Quizzed about the recent string of poor results by Reviersport, Enrico Maaßen commented, “Basically, everything is insanely tight. You can also see the results. If you look at how the defeats came about we are just making too many individual mistakes. The last game (at Viktoria Berlin) was similar. I think it’s a combination of a lack of experience and nerves.”

The demands are likely to persist with injuries in the first team particularly in defence continuing. Raphael Guerreiro, Nico Schulz and Mateu Morey are all sidelined at the moment. Also, Emre Can, as well as Gio Reyna, Erling Haaland, Mahmoud Dahoud and Marius Wolf are all absent with injuries.

New signing Donyell Malen has also failed to make an impact in the first team so far. BVB II players like Antonios Papadopoulos, Ansgar Knauff or Stefan Tigges, who scored his debut goal for the first team in the 2-0 win over FC Köln last month, will continue to be in demand for the first team till the injury situation eases up. And that in turn means pressure on the U-23s side.

A second factor that may be affecting the young team, which has an average age of 22, may simply be nerves or a lack of experience. In the Regionaliga-West the average gate was 2300, half of that if you take 1955 German Champions RW Essen out of the equation. In the 3 Liga, gates at former Bundesliga clubs like 1. FC Kaiserslautern who currently average 13,000 are vastly bigger and that brings additional pressure with it for the young players.

The big guns of the third tier were always going to mean vastly bigger crowds for Enrico Maaßen’s inexperienced team. On Saturday, the guests from Meppen were accompanied by a large number of spectators, estimated to be 1,000. And they made their presence felt with a pyrotechnic display which led to a short delay to kick-off.

The lack of experience at this level will only be resolved with growing playing time as the season progresses. But what strategy does Maaßen want to implement to tackle the challenge on the pitch? Further in conversation with Reviersport the 37-year old coach said, “We are conceding too many goals, we need the necessary clarity at the back.” For that BVB II will need all their defensive options available.

BVB II’s coach also however showed his discontent with the team’s mental game, highlighting passivity. “Of course we also have to be more combative, the pitch at this time of year is always going to be harder to play but to solve it football-wise we also have to fight and go in harder for second balls”.

With 19 goals conceded so far, Borussia Dortmund II are in the bottom third of the table in terms of goals conceded. The issues in defence appear to mirror those of the first team, who have conceded 17 in 11 games.