Five Things to Know: Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Werder Bremen

While we normally focus on MNT players as teammates, this weekend’s club schedule holds numerous matches featuring our guys suiting up against each other [MNT on TV].  Today we take a more in-depth look at the clubs of Fabian Johnson and Aron Johannsson ahead of Saturday’s match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Werder Bremen (12:30 p.m. ET – Fox Soccer Plus, foxsoccer2go).

Scene Set: Fabian Johnson at Borussia Moenchengladbach

Now in his third season at ‘Gladbach, Fabian Johnson was a key contributor in helping Die Fohlen (The Foals) to a fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season. That resulted in the club earning a UEFA Champions League qualifying place, where they easily bypassed Swiss side BSC Young Boys last month to gain entry to the tournament proper.

Having kicked off the Bundesliga season just before the recent international break, Monchengladbach comes into Saturday’s match with a win and a loss from its first two contests, while they experienced a rocky start to their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday when they fell 4-0 at Manchester City.

Scene Set: Aron Johannsson at Werder Bremen

Kicking off his second season at Bremen, Aron Johannsson hopes to put his lengthy injury struggle aside and play a bigger role in the squad’s fortunes. The MNT striker transferred to the north German club last summer from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, but only played six matches before hip and groin problems ended his season prematurely.

A prolonged and successful recovery period has helped Johannsson get back on the field, now having started both of Die Werderaner’s league matches thus far. After scoring his first goal for Bremen from the penalty spot in the club’s 2-1 defeat to Augsburg last Saturday, Johannsson will look to get back on the score sheet as Bremen seeks its first win of the new campaign.

Club History: Borussia Moenchengladbach

Founded as FC Borussia in 1900, Borussia Moenchengladbach survived through the different German league setups of the last century and most notably rose to prominence during the 1970s. Referred to as the club’s “Golden Era”, ‘Gladbach won all five of its Bundesliga titles during that decade, as well as two UEFA Cup championships and a German Cup crown.  

Relegated to the 2.Bundesliga in 1999 and 2007, the club returned to the top-flight in 2008 and has been revitalized in recent years, finishing in the top six each of the past three seasons.

Club History: Werder Bremen

Werder Bremen can trace its roots back to 1899, when it was founded by a group of 16 high school students. Though the club was disbanded following World War II, it didn’t take long for the organization to reestablish itself and would eventually become a charter member of the new Bundesliga when it began in 1963.

The club won the second-ever Bundesliga crown the following season, which was the first of four top-flight titles, the last of which came in 2003-04. Adding six German Cup titles as well as the 1991-92 UEFA Cup Winners Cup to their trophy case, Bremen has only once been relegated from the Bundesliga - in 1980-81 -  but under the direction of legendary manager Otto Rehhagel returned the next season where they finished as runners-up.

MNT Connections

Beyond just having Johnson and Johnannson, the MNT has other past ties to the two German clubs.

Current assistant coach Andi Herzog had two stints at Werder Bremen during a nine-year span, most notably scoring 10 goals in 33 appearances as he helped the club to its third Bundesliga championship in 1992-93. Herzog was also part of Bremen’s German Cup championship squads in 1993-94 and 1998-99.

Describing the north German outfit as a tight-knit, family club, Herzog told “Bremen is my second hometown because I had such a great time there. My first three years before I signed with Bayern Munich we were really successful. We won the German league and the German Cup, and we played the European Super Cup Final against Barcelona. I played there under Otto Rehhagel, who was the best coach I ever had and someone I learned a lot from.”

Having played his entire club career with Borussia Moenchengladbach from 1965-1979, MNT Technical Advisor Berti Vogts is considered a legend with Die Foalen (The Foals). Nicknamed Der Terrier for his tireless work ethic as a right back, Vogts was a part of the club in its peak years, winning two UEFA Cups, five Bundesliga titles and a German Cup. With 419 league appearances to his name, Vogts is so highly thought of around Moenchengladbach circles that he was given one of the championship shields from the run of league titles during the 1970s.

MNT goalkeeping legend Kasey Keller also spent two and a half seasons at ‘Gladbach from 2005-2007. Taking up residence in a castle during his stay in Germany, Keller became a fan favorite at Borussia Park not only for his strong play, but also his antics with the club’s mascot Junter, who he had different run-ins with during his time there.

Most recently, MNT captain Michael Bradley also played two and a half seasons at Borussia Park from 2008-11. The U.S. midfielder scored 10 goals in 76 league appearances, with his first coming as a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw vs. Bayern Munich on Nov. 15, 2008.