How have the FC Bayern youth teams developed so far this season? This is part three of our festive triptych review series, finishing off with the Reserves.
Strong finish by the reserves team
In our report at the beginning of the season, we explained why promotion had not been set as the main goal for this season. SpVgg Unterhaching was expected to be strong favourite for the top spot after making high-value purchases during the summer, and that assumption proved to be true. The league leaders are headed into winter break with an impressive 57 points. To put that number into context: last season, 64 points were enough to win the entire season for Jahn Regensburg.
Bayern reserves had a good start into the season with four wins and two draws from the first six games, which would be considered a good run either way, but especially considering there was only one home game in those six matches.
September and October, however, brought a weaker phase with only one win out of eight games; a phase when games against the two weakest teams in the league brought only one point. The offensive problems in the team became more and more obvious, but it also became clear that the coaching team worked on those issues during training, as four of the five games ahead of the final game against Unterhaching were won, with a surplus of twelve points. But points weren’t the only noticable change, the style of play and engagement of the team were also vastly improved.
The end of the year brought the top game away against overpowering Unterhaching. Bayern played true to their form of the past few weeks and got slight advantages early in the game. However, Unterhaching scored the opener out of thin air after a set piece and an obvious foul play against Bayern’s centre-back Nicolas Feldhahn. As the game went on, the team coped better and better with the shock and finally got the well-deserved equaliser with a Karl-Heinz Lappe goal (57′), after Unterhaching missed a penalty earlier. But as the game drew to a close, the home team’s experienced offensive players increased the pressure and got the decisive winning goal with the very last play in the game, a win that was a little flattering considering both teams’ performance over 90 minutes.
The game showed, however, that Bayern’s team can keep up with an opponent who would likely be in the top third of the third division, a league above where both teams currently stand.
One of the most interesting aspects of this upswing in the reserves team’s performance is that is has been achieved in the absence of several key players: Niklas Dorsch (Pfeiffer’s disease) and Milos Pantovic (fracture of a lumbar vertebrae’s transverse process) were out with injury, and Erdal Öztürk has not been first choice anymore. Fabian Benko, so well-known to the public, has been stagnant recently and hasn’t been able to give impulses to the team. While he played in all 21 games of the season, his average playing time of only 57 minutes (seven substitutions in, eight substitutions out) shows that he is replaceable.
Next to the three routiniers Lappe, Oehrl, and Feldhahn, it was mostly down to Marco Hingerl and Raphael Obermair to carry the team. Especially the latter, a transfer from Rosenheim in the summer, and never before part of a youth academy for a professional football club, has to be the biggest surprise of the season. The only player likely to take the next step into the Bundesliga is Niklas Dorsch, the majority of the team will likely not make it past the third division.
In the second half of the season, the reserves will have to work towards keeping their second place in the league, and to hope that Unterhaching will get promoted and at the same time, Jahn Regensburg won’t get relegated. That should free the way to play for promotion themselves next season. There will only be few personnel changes: Christian Früchtl will likely move up from the Under-17s to the reserves and become first-choice goalkeeper there, and three players could return after cruciate ligament ruptures: Alex Gschwend, Marcel Leib, and Valentin Micheli.