Editorial — The number one goalkeeper in the USMNT pool is back.
Per his Instagram on Monday, USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen has returned to Fortuna Dusseldorf training following a myriad of injuries that’s kept him out since December.
With news of Steffen’s return to training, what does this mean for Dusseldorf’s relegation battle?
A Chance of Survival for Steffen and Dusseldorf
In the Bundesliga, the bottom two clubs in the table are automatically relegated into the 2. Liga. Meanwhile, the third from bottom playing in a relegation playoff fixture vs. whoever finishes 3rd in the 2. Liga.
As it stands currently, Fortuna Dusseldorf sit in 16th place (3rd from bottom) with only four matches left to play. Die Fortunen’s run of form has seen an uptick as of late as well, only losing one match in their last six fixtures, their best this campaign.
Grabbing your first-choice goalkeeper for the home stretch may prove vital to stay in the playoffs. Dusseldorf could even jump over 15th place Mainz all together.
Wolfsburg into 6th 🔺
Augsburg leapfrog Union 🔺
Crunch time for Werder ⚠️#BundesligaMD30 pic.twitter.com/fSqYYsWYEe
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) June 7, 2020
That said, Dusseldorf’s upcoming matchups are one of the most brutal in the Bundesliga.
An Onslaught of Fixtures
Fortuna Dusseldorf has four matches remaining this season. In order, Dusseldorf plays second place Borussia Dortmund, third place RB Leipzig, 13th place Augsburg and closes the season out with 14th place Union Berlin away from home.
Per advanced metrics, that’s statistically the second hardest end to the season schedule of any Bundesliga club.
#Bundesliga Table with:
– Remaining Fixtures
– Fixture Difficulty Ratings
– Form since restart
Home – Upper Caps & Bold
Away – Lower caps
Inspired by @TDLFantasy #BundesligaFantasy #FBL #FantasyBundesliga #BLFantasy pic.twitter.com/5unqRXMuPI
— FPL⚽️Tez (@FPL_Tez) June 9, 2020
With two tough fixtures on the front end — and Steffen clearly not 100 percent — Dusseldorf’s chances of survival can easily meet an avalanche if they don’t steal points from the champions league spots.
Against the Bundesliga top five, Fortuna Dusseldorf has yet to secure a point in eight matches played. No other club has been unable to snatch at least a point vs. the same competition this season.
Can the addition of Steffen change that fact?
About Florian Kastenmeier
There is also the small case of Steffen being sidelined for the rest of the season in favor of backup goalie Florian Kastenmeier. While not passing the eye test, Kastenmeier has actually been the slightly better goalkeeper statistically this season.
|Player Name||Goals Against (Per 90)||Save %||Clean Sheets||Penalty Saves|
Stats via FBref.com
Add on to the fact that Dusseldorf’s uptick of form came with Kastenmeier between the sticks, and you could make the case for the 22-year-old German to get the nod for the rest of the season.
Last Words on Steffen
In terms of the national team pool, it is clear that Zack Steffen has the most amount of pressure to succeed than any other American. Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller and Tony Meola all have built a legacy that the U.S. produce goalkeepers better than any other country in the region.
For the next in line, 25-year-old Steffen already has so much more to prove. To play a factor in keeping Fortuna Dusseldorf would be one of the biggest accomplishments in recent USMNT history.
From watching him in MLS, and in-person while he was with Columbus, you could tell that Zack Steffen would grow to become something special. Steffen now has the chance to make the entire soccer world see it as well.
For more on Steffen, and other American’s in the Bundesliga, check out my American’s Abroad series.