In the recent past, German football was represented in the North American professional league by the two former internationals Torsten Frings (Toronto FC) and Arne Friedrich (Chicago Fire) along with the Bundesliga player Christian Tiffert, who was on the books at Seattle Sounders. None stayed any great length and none enjoyed any great success with their clubs. Now in the 2015 season, there’s once again a German professional applying his trade in the Major Soccer League (MLS) - Leonard Stolz, a former U-18 international who was the captain of the U-19 juniors at TSV Munich 1860. He has been in the New York Red Bulls squad since the season started in March. The German television channel, WDR3, broadcasted a report they had devoted to the 24-year old in the “Sport Inside” programme on 13 April.
The Red Bulls, who as of the third weekend in April is the only undefeated team in the Eastern Conference, signed up Stolz at the January draft when the clubs sift the talented college football players. He therefore follows the ex German international Frank Rost who, as the last German, turned out 11 times in goal for the New Yorkers in 2011 and 2012. Whilst Stolz didn’t come with the recommendation of having played for Germany’s senior side, Stolz is anything but unknown in USA.
In December 2014, the Bavarian was awarded the Hermann Trophy for the best college footballer and then was even named the best footballer in the USA only a few weeks later. For two and a half years, the midfielder had shone as a playmaker and goal-scorer for UCLA Bruins, the team belonging to the Los Angeles based University of California. He spent two of those years as the captain of the four-time US collegiate champions who only lost the final of the 2014 student championship against Virginia in a penalty shoot-out. Aged just 20, Stolz left for America even though he had been offered contracts at a number of German second division clubs.
“I was unsure whether to embark on an academic career or become a professional footballer,” said Stolz in an interview with WDR reporter Marc Schlömer. “I debated whether to concentrate on football or study.” He decided to do both and left Munich for the George Mason University in Fairfax close to the capital city Washington and played for the college there. In summer 2012, he moved to California and the top college club, UCLA Bruins where he recommended himself for a professional contract in the MLS. Red Bull immediately decided to take him in the first round of the draft when the best college players are up for grabs. Stolz was given the No. 19 jersey but got injured after arriving in January and has not yet been able to force his way in to the Bulls team although he has been in the squad. He trains with his teammates in the club’s academy in the enormous Melanie Lane grounds in the Whippany district of East Hanover, a township in New Jersey 30 kilometres away from the Red Bull Arena.
1-1 at Kansas City, 2-0 at home and 2-2 away to DC United as well as a 2-1 win at Columbus Crew, then a 2-0 win against San Jose Earthquakes – Red Bulls’ record for the first five games of the season of which three were on the road. It left them top of the eastern section of the 20-team MLS ahead of DC United. The Western Conference table is headed by Vancouver Whitecaps (16 points/8 games) in front of FC Dallas (13/7 games) and champions Los Angeles Galaxy (11/7).
Two newcomers to the expanded MLS are raising a few eyebrows in the eastern division.
Orlando City FC (8 points/7 games), whose team includes the top Brazilian star Kaka, is currently lying third behind the Red Bulls and DCU. Manchester City’s sister club, New York City FC (6/7) is seventh with just one win. 62,510 spectators in the Orlando Citrus Bowl watched the two newcomer’s inaugural MLS appearances the start of the season on 8 March.Kaka equalised late on for the home team after Norwegian Mix Diskerud had put the away side 1-0 up. New York City FC’s first home encounter on 15 March attracted a 43,507 crowd to the Yankee Stadium and saw a 2-0 win with goals from World and European champion David Villa and Patrick Mullins against MLS runners-up New England Revolution.
The Red Bulls have now got strong rivals right on their own door step. Their own home game against DC United from Washington was only watched by 21,036 spectators, half the number at City’s match. It may be down to the more convenient location and naturally to the stadium’s capacity. The Yankee Stadium lies in the Bronx bordering on Manhattan whilst the Red Bull Arena, which was specially was built for the club in 2010, is situated in Harrison in the state of New Jersey on the outskirts of the metropolis. It only holds a maximum of 25,000 fans. Opened in 2009, the Yankee Baseball Stadium is a super arena that cost 1.5 billion dollars and is on the site of the old stadium. There are seats for 49,642 spectators for the New York Yankee’s baseball matches but for New York City games, the capacity is limited from 27,528 to a maximum of 33,444 as parts of the stands are cordoned off. Exceptions have been made for the club’s MLS debut and other top matches.