Union had a dreadful start to the season; if Neuhaus' men don't thump Regensburg on Friday evening at home, they risk creating a neat narrative for sports journalists. A season of promise decimated by two book-ends of worthless point gathering. The two draws against Dresden and Paderborn have been book-ended themselves by two pastings on the road. Both Frankfurt and Aalen put three past Union without reply. Union were dispatched far too easily and the result on the message boards has been the rumbling of discontent. Will we take this form into next season some Unioner are wondering?
Whilst it is difficult to second-guess 'Eisern' in the transfer market, they clearly won't be lavishing large sums on new players. Acquisitions will be frugal and loan signings key. Gallegos netted two for the reserves during the week. That is possibly more his level than with a team challenging for the top end of Liga 2. Union will be hoping that if they do manage to sign a decent player on loan they see more of him than they have of the injury ravaged Chilean.
To defend Union's start to the campaign is easy. They were beaten by Hertha and Braunschweig - the top 2 - and managed a point at Kaiserslautern who will finish 3rd and were playing in the top tier the previous season. In the same way Union are unable to defend away from the Alte Försterei, it is difficult to defend an away record that has yielded a feeble 2 points from 18. The fact one of those points was at the home of the Champions is some consolation; it also beggars the question, why can't Union find that form more often?
There is the theory that Union have found their level as a mid-ranking Bundesliga 2 side. No shame in that. The history books tell us that is what Union were striving for. Many will tell you they'd rather Union continue in the current division. That's a lovely concept. A team that has a destiny of being placed between 6th and 10th every season. They have the odd cup run, flirt with a play off spot but ultimately the fans can go every week safe in the knowledge that nothing will change. The awaydays change as the top tier spit out the dross each season. The home form is a constant. The away form likewise as Union continue to rely on the atmosphere the Alte Försterei magically generates.
Football does not always go according to plan though. What is the plan anyway? To become less reliant on the club captain Torsten Mattuschka must clearly be at the forefront of Neuhaus' mind. How do you do this though? When Mattuschka is on form Union can often appear unstoppable at home. His touch, vision and dead ball skills are second to none. However, progress is paramount. One could argue that to build a team around one man is not to build a team at all. A tautology if ever there was one.
Should Union fear next season or write the end of the campaign off as simply players with an eye and a half on the summer holidays and not having to run up and down the concrete steps at the ground during training? The mid-season effort was supreme. Union lost only 1 game in 13 between the end of September when they beat Köln to early December when they rightly collected all 3 points against Kaiserslautern. 7 wins and 5 draws meant that the festive optimism reverberating around the Weihnachtssingen was not simply fueled by the drink. It was fueled by facts that not even a 4:3 reverse against Braunschweig could dampen.
The run was important though as Union's momentum slowly took them away from the relegation scrap and eased the pressure on the players. Nemec in particular seemed to benefit as Union's points tally increased. The effort that was expended may have been too much for Union to hope to maintain throughout the later stages of the season. Recently the team as a unit have lacked the bite that Suarez showed with his feet and mouth today. Perhaps a direct effect of the mid-season efforts.
Union welcome Regenburg to Köpenick on Friday and will be expecting to add to the goals for column against a side who leak on average almost 2 goals per game. Perhaps with only two home games left, the Friday night fever restored with the sale of alcoholic beer the team will give the fans something to shout about. The Dresden atmosphere has been much discussed. A full-house means more 'part-timers' so lets blame them. I reckon a few beers, an early goal and another 3 points will have everyone looking at the positives again.