For decades, German soccer team Borussia Dortmund has lived in the shadow of its more successful rival in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich is the unquestionable titan of German soccer, having won the Bundesliga, Germany’s top soccer league, 23 times since 1980 and in each of the last six seasons. Dortmund has occasionally come close to challenging Bayern’s glory and dominance. Its most notable opportunity to upstage Bayern came in 2013 when the two teams met in the Champions League Final, a game that still holds the record for most television viewers for a Champions League match with 360 million. However, thanks to a late goal from Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Bayern bested Dortmund 2-1 in the match. After years of second place finishes, this season’s Dortmund team is finally playing better than its wealthier domestic counterpart. Eleven league games into the season, Dortmund sits four points ahead of Bayern in the Bundesliga and holds a plus-20 goal difference compared to Bayern’s plus-seven differential. Additionally, Dortmund has had a strong start to its Champions League campaign, winning each of its first three games. Although Dortmund lost an away game to Atletico Madrid this week, it did not have much to play for since it is nearly guaranteed a spot in the knockout stage due to its strong performance in the first three games. Dortmund’s overall success this season is a result of strong team cohesion as well as talented skill players who are in top form. Forward Marco Reus has been the centerpiece of Dortmund’s attacking play, notching nine goals and seven assists in 15 appearances this season. Reus has also shown his versatility by contributing defensively, adding 1.2 tackles and 0.6 interceptions per game. At 29, the team captain is not only performing at his best but is also supporting the development of Dortmund’s younger players. Among the youngsters is 18-year-old English winger Jadon Sancho, who said he looks up to Reus as an idol. Sancho chose to leave Manchester City, the defending champion in his home country’s Premier League, to “express himself” abroad. By scoring five goals and eight assists for Dortmund this season, Sancho’s statement has been delivered emphatically. Sancho’s speed and dribbling skills make him extremely dangerous on the edge, opening attacking options for Dortmund’s other forwards and midfielders. He is supported on the other wing by 20-year-old American sensation Christian Pulisic. The native of Hershey, Pa., has added three goals in 10 appearances for Dortmund this season and continues to show why many believe he could become the best American soccer player of all time. Dortmund manager Lucien Favre deserves credit for the success of his team’s young players. In his career, Favre has developed the likes of goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen, who later joined Spanish giant Barcelona, and midfielder Granit Xhaka, who later joined Arsenal, a club with a storied history in England’s Premier League. Favre’s tempo-changing attacking style, combined with strong organization in the midfield and defense, has Dortmund playing as well as almost any team in Europe. This Saturday, Dortmund will host Bayern in front of a surely electric crowd. The team has the chance to take control of the Bundesliga, since a win would put them on top of the table by a sizeable margin of seven points. More significantly, Dortmund has the chance to show the world of soccer that it is no longer second to its consistently more decorated archrival.
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