DORTMUND, Germany — On Saturday, last year’s Bundesliga runner-up Borussia Dortmund defeated visiting Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich 2-0 in front of 81,365 spectators at the Signal Iduna Park to lift the German Supercup.
Similar to England’s Community Shield, the DFL Supercup is the curtain-raiser for the upcoming 2019/20 Bundesliga season — a season that will feature several players from North America, including Canadian national team winger Alphonso Davies, who is heading into his first full season with Bayern Munich.
Brought on in the 66th minute of Saturday’s match, Davies once again featured as a left back in manager Niko Kovač’s 4-3-3 formation. Dortmund was already up by a goal, which Paco Alcacer scored after a pass by Jadon Sancho. Three minutes after Davies was brought on, Sancho once again took the spotlight. The English teenager overran Bayern’s right side to make it 2-0 for Dortmund.
The morning before the game, Pro Soccer USA sat down with former Bayern Munich and Germany legend Lothar Matthäus to discuss Davies’ development at Bayern and the expectations surrounding him this upcoming season.
Now an ambassador for the Bundesliga and an expert for the German television station Sky, Matthäus played 410 games for Bayern Munich (100 goals, 50 assists). He won the Ballon d’Or in 1991, the World Cup with Germany in 1990 and seven German championships with Bayern. Matthäus, now 58, also spent a season in Major League Soccer with the New York MetroStars, the predecessor of the New York Red Bulls.
“He has to learn,” Matthäus said. “Coming from MLS to one of the biggest clubs in the world is a big step, but Bayern Munich really believes in him.”
That step includes playing various positions to improve his positional and defensive play.
“I was in the U.S. when he played left back,” Matthäus said, referencing Bayern’s participation in the International Champions Cup held in America this summer. “I think it is good. I used to do the same with players when I was a coach to teach them how to play defense. He has to learn how to play in defense, and this is good training for him.
“I think he is the fastest player at Bayern at the moment. Sure, he makes two, three mistakes in defense, but he will learn from it and they will push him to have another option for left back. But on the other side, Niko Kovač knows that he is not a left back and that he prefers the left wing position, like Kingsley Coman.”
Matthäus did not understand, however, Canadian national team head coach John Herdman playing Davies on defense at the Gold Cup.
“That is a waste. He is so fast. Canada needs him as left winger,” Matthäus said.
Matthäus reiterated several times that he sees Davies further up the pitch.
“When Coman has a problem, Davies plays on that position further up and he is very good. Sure, he has to improve his passing, but he is only 18 years old,” Matthäus said. “I believe he can be a future player for Bayern for sure, he just needs to wait a bit. He is in a group of 15 to 16 players at the moment.”
Bayern will see some tactical changes this season. Kovac wants to change a team that was at times too slow and reactionary last season into one with quick vertical play in which the wingers and wingbacks can make quick overlapping runs.
This was sometimes evident during the ICC, but also Saturday night against Borussia Dortmund when Renato Sanches and Davies often switched positions on the left. Ultimately, the plan did not work Saturday, but it was successful against Real Madrid and Milan at the ICC and earned 3-1 an 1-0 wins, respectively.
Gesturing with his hands, Matthäus described the way Bayern will try to play next season.
“You will have two players on the right and two players on the left, and with Robert Lewandowski, you have the top striker in the box,” Matthäus said. “It is a bit of a different style than last year, more speed.”
For Davies, that means his decision-making needs to get better.
“He has to get a feel for the right moment, for the right direction when you make the pass,” Matthäus said. “But he has potential. I see a lot of potential, but he has to learn.”