In this DFB-Pokal matchup, Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin defeated 2. Bundesliga’s Heidenheim 2-0 to advance to the third round. Heidenheim played a wide counter attacking style 3-4-3 to try and take advantage of Union Berlin’s possession-based play, but chances were few and far between. Union Berlin dominated possession with mistake-free football and turned that into break downs of Heidenheim’s left side of defense for their biggest chances. Meanwhile, sitting back and allowing possession did not maximize opportunities for Heidenheim against a club that were clearly better than them in all phases. Even their slow buildup could get nothing going and Heidenheim never truly tested the Union Berlin back line captained by Julian Ryerson who had a good display at right wingback.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: United States
- Age: 23
- Date of birth: 08/10/1999
- Club: 1. FC Heidenheim
- Career: Köpenicker SC (Y), Blau-Weiss Mahlsdorf (Y), Union Berlin, Chemnitzer FC (Loan), Borussia Dortmund II
- Position: Right Center Back
- Preferred foot: Right
- Other Position(s): Central Midfielder, Right Back
Lennard Maloney is an American summer signing from Borussia Dortmund that played the full match, starting at right center back. This was also a return to his youth club, having graduated from Union Berlin’s academy. The right-footed center back stands at 187 cm tall and has an above average overall build for a center back. Maloney is a physical player with agility and quick reactions. In recovery, he showed decent pace for a center back and did not let attackers expose him with pace. Additionally, he communicated clearly throughout the match and
Maloney was a rock at the back for Heidenheim in a match where the rest of the defense seemed lost at times. There were few negatives for Maloney in defense against Union Berlin. On the first goal, he followed his marker to the front post from his right side and the back post did not get a recovery to stop the goal. This is not necessarily his fault, but worth noting he did have some role in what became the winning goal. Other than that, Maloney had a couple clearances that did not quite clear, but he found himself clearing the ball so often I cannot fault him too much for a couple mistakes in high volume. In reality, his clearances and aerial duels were his biggest asset in this match. Maloney won a dominant amount of headers, clearing a good portion of them out of danger or maintaining possession for his squad. He used his physicality and jumping ability to win in the air and get the ball out of trouble with ease. Maloney used this physicality in 1v1s and duels as well. He would always attack the body of the defender well to get in on the ball with a stand tackle after making sure to start in good position to keep in front. Maloney’s hip and knee bend do not just contribute to his defensive positioning but to his reactions, as well. He has naturally quick reactions as is, but his bend and readiness allow him to explode toward ball as it moves toward him whether by dribble or pass. Maloney paired his reactions with timeliness, best showcased in his tackles. There were a few occasions where he put in stand tackles right on time, especially as the attacker was readying to engage the box. Maloney did well to mix these tools together and stand firm at the back.
Maloney was not just the best defender on his back line in this match, he was the best distributor, too. This was evident especially when he was trusted to move into central midfield with half an hour left. Maloney has previously played right back for Heidenheim, so manager Frank Schmidt trusts his ball-playing ability a fair amount. He was the buildup starter many times in this match and provided a few long passes to advance the ball. The first couple were cleared away and never really threatening, but he had one later that was received well and dished off to start a dangerous chance. It was good to see Maloney not be discouraged by previous failures and keep with his creativity, those are not easy passes to complete. He did have some troubles with inaccuracy under pressure, though, even on short passes where he was most comfortable and generally accurate. Maloney showed he could hold his own against Bundesliga attackers, but his buildup play did need growth that he is certainly capable of.
Rating – A2
Maloney is a well-rounded, no-nonsense center back that is still growing as a player. He has the athletic quality and technical ability on defense to compete with Bundesliga level attackers based on this match. Although his game as a ball-playing center back is still a work in progress, Maloney showed quality and potential as distributor for suitors to feel encouraged about. Maloney was the only defender in this match that seemed to handle the attacking quality he faced, and he stood out a lot for it. Heidenheim is not someone I would bet on being promoted, so if Maloney can keep it up, he could be on the move again this summer. He is also a player that should be competing for senior international minutes soon. Maloney may not be the best option, but his ball playing ability is already better than some of the options heading to the World Cup for the United States and his defense is on par with Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman’s, too.
- Nationality: Germany
- Age: 23
- Date of birth: 04/01/1999
- Club: 1. FC Heidenheim
- Career: VfL Mark 1928 (Y), Hammer SpVg (Y), Borussia Dortmund (Y), Werder Bremen, FC Emmen (Loan), Jahn Regensburg (Loan)
- Position: Left Winger
- Preferred foot: Left
- Other Position(s): Left Wingback, Right Winger
Jan-Niklas Beste is another summer signing, but this time from Werder Bremen. He played left winger in this match before being subbed off an hour in. Beste is a slim 174 cm on the wing but is quick, agile, and active. His work rate and effort were obvious as he flashed around the left flank searching for opponents to press or teammates to provide an outlet to.
Beste did not have the best time on the attack against a Union Berlin back line that allowed few chances and was difficult to break down. Beste played mostly in the wide left area where he made dashing attacking runs to stretch the wing. His timing of the runs were inconsistent but a couple of them did prove fruitful. There were instances where he ran under a through ball down the left and hit a cross in from around the edge of the box. His crosses were mainly blocked in this game, though, and Beste found it difficult to work inside whether via distribution or through his dribbling. As a distributor, Beste had those moments with the crosses, but he mainly played short passes with his dominant left, not showing much interest in his right at all. He had a creative lifted through down the left intercepted with a header that took a big leap, with just a little more lift the pass would have created something dangerous. Beste could not get as many touches to affect the match as he would have liked, though. Ryerson made sure Beste’s left side was marked well, not allowing many angles for an advancing pass, even with Beste showing for the ball in midfield, drawing a foul from behind after receiving once.
Creativity behind him would have made Beste’s job a lot easier in this matchup. One moment where this creativity would have helped was on a loose ball in Union Berlin’s final third. Beste made an explosive cut to make an inside run to the box, but the play was uninspired by his fellow attackers, and it fizzled out without him getting a chance. With the ball at his feet, Beste’s pace was evident, and he could beat players with just that. His technical dribbling was not a priority for him as his pace and diminutive size afforded him space or a foul on most ball carries. Beste had good control with his left and was hard to put off the ball.
On the press, Beste had good positioning to keep his man in front, although not always asked to apply a hard press. His quickness and willingness to be physical helped him pester players attempting to buildup on the wing. Beste’s activity helped him crowd both the attacker and passing lanes he dropped deeper on defense. When asked to drop in and defend, Beste looked comfortable and stuck to his position in midfield, still applying principles from his press. While in defense, Beste made a good clearance at the top of the box on a corner and on a loose ball sitting near the top of the box again.
Rating – B1
Jan-Niklas Beste did not have a good match but flashed why he was sought after in the summer and tracked back on defense well. With his defensive ability, I see why Beste has played in less advanced positions in previous matches. Watching him play at left back or wingback is the next step because it seems there are other pieces to this player than he could display against Union Berlin. The step up to Bundesliga level play may have been too steep not just for his club, but Beste, too. Although not a negative piece for Heidenheim, Beste had periods of anonymity, so 2. Bundesliga will be his home for at least the near future. Beste does seem to have the tool kit to make the jump to Bundesliga, just not soon based on this performance.