How Borussia Dortmund is reminding me why I fell in love with this sport

Like most Americans, I didn’t grow up with soccer but rather it was something I discovered later on in life. Sure I played it as a kid but I didn’t really enjoy watching it.

Then one day when I was 13 years old I heard that the goalkeeper of my local MLS team, Tim Howard of the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, had been signed by Manchester United. Even someone like me who never watched soccer had heard of Manchester United and I decided I would pay close attention to Howard’s progress in England. I decided when Manchester United games were on I’d watch, even if it was a rerun, just to see Howard.

And that’s when it happened.

While tuning in to see Tim Howard, I was captivated by United’s new 17 year old superstar Cristiano Ronaldo dazzling and toying with defenders. A year later, 18 year old wunderkind Wayne Rooney joined him and I was hooked.

It wasn’t before long where I was searching the internet every Saturday for illegal streams so I could watch my Manchester United. Gone were the days of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, instead I was happily up early as it was my one chance a week to see the boys go out there and entertain.

But these days it’s different. Waking up early on Saturday mornings (or mostly Sunday mornings, yay Europa League!) is now a chore. It’s become something I power through simply because I always have, and not so much because I enjoy it. This isn’t because the team no longer wins – I’m fully aware that the team had a prolonged period of success and the pendulum has to swing back the other way, plus I’m a Jets and Mets fan, I’m very used to my teams losing – but because of the style of play.

The first three years I supported the club they didn’t win either, but at least they were fun to watch. In the years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired they simply haven’t been. David Moyes was an overmatched manager with terrible tactics. Louis van Gaal’s insistence on his players being robots sucked all the fun out of the game. And Jose Mourinho? Well no one has ever accused his teams of playing attractive football.

That’s where Borussia Dortmund come in.

I started following the Black and Yellow’s in 2014 for the simple reason that United weren’t in the Champions League and I wanted to follow a team so I stayed interested. I needed a team that wasn’t a rival of United’s so Barcelona, Real Madrid, the English teams, and Bayern Munich were out. Since Dortmund had almost never played United they were selected.

That season wasn’t their best, they went into the winter break second from the bottom of the table and by the end of the season Jurgen Klopp was gone. Last season was much better, but they weren’t in the Champions League and my weekends were primarily reserved for the Premier League.

But this season is different. This season the team has reminded me why I’ve fallen in love with this wonderful sport, and I’m finding myself watching them over the Premier League more and more often and it doesn’t even have to do with Christian Pulisic.

BVB replaced Jurgen Klopp with a manager just like him in Thomas Tuchel. Maybe he’s not as charismatic and doesn’t display the same touchline antics as Klopp but the way he looks at the game is very similar.

In his two years at Dortmund, Tuchel has built a team with a fantastic mix of World Cup veterans, as well as young attacking studs. The tactics have led to mixed results. Dortmund’s inexperience has led to them dropping points that shouldn’t be dropped and BVB currently sit 7th in the Bundesliga, nine points behind the leaders.

Despite the mixed results there have been no changes to the way Dortmund play. Tuchel likes to attack, no matter what. It doesn’t matter who Dortmund are playing or where the game is, you know you are going to get a team that tries to score goals, which they often do. It’s protecting their own net where they have problems.

There’s no doubt Dortmund’s weakness is their very inexperienced back line which has a tendency to leak goals. One of the reasons for this is that Tuchel often leaves his back line relatively unprotected as he usually starts the uber-talented 19 year old Julian Weigl as his lone holding midfielder, which allows to get as much of his attacking talent on the field at once. Tuchel could easily play with a more defensive set up to help his shaky defense out, but he doesn’t, which is what I love about him.

These days, the Premier League is filled with too many pragmatic managers who feel the best way to get three points every week is bunker down and defend. You’ll score a goal or two but the bulk of the game is spent making sure the other team doesn’t score. Tuchel is the opposite, he’d rather try and outscore his opponents and win 5-4 than win 1-0. If that leads to a few more losses along the way, so be it. His team is young and their learning.

Watching Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund reminds me of watching Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United teams. He has plenty of players at each position so not only is everyone fresh, but you never know who is going to start. Therefore every week you’re getting to watch attacking football with various styles.

After spending the past three and a half years watching managers suck the life out of games, watching Tuchel’s Dortmund is a breath of fresh air, and it’s a great reminder of how much fun this beautiful sport is.

About Pauly Kwestel

Pauly is a Producer for WFAN in New York and the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has been writing about the beautiful game since 2010 and can be followed on twitter @pkwestelWFAN

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