1. FC Union Berlin U19: Season Review

Overview of U19 campaign

Wed, 23. May 2018
1. FC Union Berlin U19: Season Review

After promotion to the Bundesliga North/North-East in the 2016/17 season, the aim for 1. FC Union Berlin’s U19s this time around was clear: avoid relegation back to the Regionalliga.

Easier said than done. Whilst the majority of the squad had experienced Bundesliga football in the U17s North/North-East division in the previous season, most found the transition into the older age group difficult. For those players who had been in the U19s the year before, and were now the older of the two year groups, the difference in quality to the Regionalliga was also noticeable. These two factors combined to create a difficult start to the season; the first point came in the sixth game of the season against Eintracht Braunschweig and the first win came three games later at home to Holstein Kiel.

‚Eisern Union‘ had particular problems in front of goal against the leaner and meaner defences of the Bundesliga. A meagre three goals from the first eight games embodied the lack of chances created, let alone goals scored. Whilst Union ended up on the losing side on more occasions than not, the scorelines belied the closeness of the encounters. The Red and Whites stayed in games for long periods but were often punished for small lapses in concentration and goals would be conceded in clusters. One goal conceded would soon turn into two inside the space of 10 minutes and gaining something from the game points-wise was suddenly much further away.

At the end of the first half of the campaign, the U19s only had seven points to their name and sat in 13th position, six points and two places from safety. Having said that, two wins from the last three games in 2017 against Wolfsburg and St. Pauli proved that survival was more than possible, and, despite the lowly league position, the unity amongst the squad was still high and the quality was beginning to show.

With manager André Hofschneider moving up to coach the first team just before the Christmas break, his assistant Willi Weiße took over the reins and enjoyed a very successful start to life as manager, with three points from his first game in charge against Pauli. This positivity carried over into the new year, as the boys from Köpenick turned around a 2-1 half-time deficit against Chemnitz in 15 blistering second-half minutes to win 5-2.

A 3-2 win from 10-man Union away in Osnabrück in the very next game put the winning streak at three games and was without doubt one of the highlights of the season. Along with the self-confidence taken from the win, the three points gained also took Union out of the relegation zone for the first time and gave the Red and White’s survival hopes a real boost.

On a roll in mid-February, nobody would have guessed that the win in Lower Saxony would be the last three points of the season for the boys from Köpenick. Two strong performances against title contenders HSV and Hertha Berlin saw the U19s pick up two points and enter the Easter holidays three points above 12th-placed Holstein Kiel; a second successive season in the Bundesliga was within touching distance.

In mid-April the squad had the opportunity to display their talents in the Stadion an der Alten Försterei during their crunch match against Dynamo Dresden. The incredibly loud atmosphere generated by the 1,200 supporters in attendance couldn’t will the team on to victory however, and a 4-1 loss coupled with results elsewhere meant points were needed from the three remaining fixtures.

The season ended with a tense finale in Wolfsburg. With Union 2-0 down in Lower Saxony and Holstein Kiel 1-0 up in Dresden in the 50th minute, Willi Weiße’s men had one foot in the Regionalliga for a good half an hour. The determination and never-say-die attitude that had served the team so well throughout the season came to the fore once again, as the boys fought back to gain a point from a game that seemed lost. With Kiel eventually succumbing 3-1 in Dresden, survival was confirmed and the celebrations could begin.

Despite a difficult start, the aim of staying in the Bundesliga was achieved right at the last. In the final league table, Union sat in 11th position with 21 points, having scored 34 goals along the way. Playing in the highest league possible again next year will help to prepare the players best for a potential step up to the pros, the aim of any academy. With the core of the squad being retained for next year, we are already looking forward to what looks to be a successful 2018/19 season!

We would like to thank the players‘ parents and fans who came along to support the team in strong numbers both home and away. The encouragement in tricky periods was rewarded by the shared joy at the end of the season when survival was confirmed; the team couldn’t have done it without your support!