Eintracht Frankfurt have long been one of the more enigmatic teams in German football. Despite hailing from a city of nearly 3 million people, the second largest in Germany and the major commerce center of Europe, the growth of the club has never matched the growth surrounding them. They boast only five trophies, including just one Deutscher Meisterschale, in their 120 year history.
Nico Kovac’s disciplined play style
If there is one thing that defines Eintracht Frankfurt under Niko Kovac, it is discipline. Kovac took over at Frankfurt in March of 2016, leaving the Croatian national team and leaping into the deep end of a relegation battle. While Kovac was unable to make immediate headway, his focus on organization eventually paid dividends as Frankfurt rattled off a late 3-game win streak and squeaked into a relegation playoff match that they won handily.
It was the 2016/2017 season where Kovac’s Frankfurt shone, riding high in the Champions League places until well into the Rückrunde, behind a league 2nd-best defense and a strong attacking verve. Sadly, it was a defense that succumbed to the injury plight losing Jesus Vallejo in addition to Marco Russ. Coupled with injuries to many of their core attacking players, Frankfurt went into a dramatic free fall, finishing the season 1-9-3 (W-L-D), tumbling from 3rd down to 11th on the final matchday of the season.
Expect Frankfurt to be disciplined deep in their own half and expect the Sounders to have all sorts of fun trying to break down a disciplined defense. In many ways, this is a great test for both teams. Can Frankfurt find their structure again? Will the Sounders be able to break down a defensive power despite their numerous offensive struggles?
Key Players to Watch
Marc Stendera - The 21-year-old attacking midfielder is one of Frankfurt’s rising stars. Having registered 70 appearances before the age of 20, he’s a potent creative force. Stendera missed almost all of the 2016/2017 season with an ACL tear, so the Sounders should represent one of his biggest tests on the way back to being one of the brightest talents in German football.
Marco Russ - Marco Russ is the unsung hero of Frankfurt football. Russ has missed most of the past 14 months in a battle with testicular cancer. Before that, he was Frankfurt’s defensive rock on the backline. He hardly featured in the disappointing final four months of last season, and is another of Frankfurt’s talents that will benefit greatly from an extended run out against the Sounders.
Timothy Chandler - There’s nary a Sounders fan who probably isn’t familiar with the trials and tribulations of US Men’s National Team rightback Timothy Chandler. For Frankfurt, Chandler brings to bear all the talent he has never been able to harness for the national team. Chandler, along with Marco Fabian — who will miss this match following Confederations Cup duty with Mexico — run rampant on Frankfurt’s right, forming a potent offensive pairing.
Makoto Hasebe - Makoto Hasebe is one of the little sung Bundesliga journeymen. The Japanese international midfielder has kicked around Germany over the past 10 years, quietly performing as a slick passing metronome in midfield. He was part of the exciting Wolfsburg team that ran to a title in 2008/2009 and has amassed over 200 career Bundesliga appearances to go along with over 100 caps for Japan. Along with Omar Mascarell —absent from this match due to injury — he is one of the key lynchpins in Kovac’s defensive-to-offensive transition.
Branimir Hrgota - After kicking around Borussia Mönchengladbach for a couple season’s, Branimir Hrgota found his home with Kovac last season. While not a goal scoring threat, he’s a no nonsense workhorse up front that pairs marvelously well with the more creative Alexander Meier and Fabian. Hrogta will present an interesting challenge for the likes of Roman Torres and Chad Marshall with his physical play.
Eintracht Frankfurt US Tour Roster: Abraham, Besuschkow, Blum, Chandler, Da Costa, Dadashov, Fernandes, Hasebe, Herzig (GK), Hrádecký (GK), Hrgota, Jović, Kamada, Knothe, Mbouhom, Medojević, Oczipka, Ordóñez, Russ, Stendera, Stirl (GK), Tawatha
Sadly, Sounders fans will miss Frankfurt’s best and brightest
Between injuries and a lone national team callup, the Sounders will miss facing off against some of Frankfurt’s most potent weapons. Meier — think low-rent Thomas Müller mixed with apex Chris Wondolowski — is a lethal goalscorer and has been the face of Frankfurt for the past decade. Frankfurt will miss his presence up front as he has been injured for the last several months.
Dutch midfielder Jonathan de Guzman just joined Frankfurt on Thursday and it is unlikely he will fly halfway around the world to show up for a Sounders friendly, while Frankfurt's marquee offseason signing, Sebastian Haller, will miss the Seatle trip for personal reasons.
In addition to the absent Fabian, Mexican international Carlos Salcedo will also miss this match after ungergoing surgery earlier this month. Midfield talisman Mascarell, formerly of Real Madrid, will also be out due to injury, while last season’s defensive standouts, Jesus Vallejo and Michael Hector, have departed following the end of their loans.