For the second game in a row, Borussia Dortmund scored half a dozen goals against their opponent, this time with Darmstadt 98 on the receiving end. It was a performance very similar to the 6-0 win against Legia Warsaw, with Raphael Guerreiro once again stealing the show.
Despite dominating the first half, Dortmund found themselves only up by one goal. The performance had been strong, but the slim lead still left a lot for the black and yellows to do in the second half. Darmstadt are usually tough customers and have been known to nick games at the last minute, making it crucial for Dortmund come out for the second half on the right foot.
However, Darmstadt showed none of those traits from the previous season, and absolutely capitulated in the second half in a similar way to Legia Warsaw. Dortmund were already up 3-0 when Peter Niemeyer was shown his second yellow in the 57th minute, but no breaks were applied by Dortmund’s attack.
xG map for Dortmund – Darmstaft.
Raphael Guerreiro is your new favorite player btw. pic.twitter.com/BR4Qao2boa
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) September 17, 2016
In the pregame press conference, manager Thomas Tuchel said it was only a matter of time for Raphael Guerreiro to become a starter. After two rough games to start the Bundesliga campaign, Guerreiro has provided an impetus that had been noticeably absent when Sebastian Rode and Gonzalo Castro were on the pitch. Playing in the “8” position that had once been Ilkay Gündogan’s, the 22 year old Portuguese man is now claiming his right to that throne. Guerreiro once again takes the Yellow Wall Game Ball honors for the second game in a row.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of Guerreiro’s success is also his teammates’ success. The most improved player against Darmstadt was definitely Gonzalo Castro. After struggling on the wing against Leipzig and at the 8 against Mainz, Castro looks likely to be a rotational player for Thomas Tuchel this season. But today, Castro was deployed further forward today in the center, with Guerreiro behind him. As a result, Castro’s positioning was flawless, scoring two goals and assisting one. If the creativity wasn’t flowing through Guerreiro for a moment, it was going through Castro.
Another stud on the day was 17 year old American Christian Pulisic. It was his second straight start, deservedly keeping his place after an impressive display against Legia Warsaw. Pulisic exploded into life in the second half of this game, scoring a goal and assisting two. His run early in the second half set up Dortmund’s second goal, and he made many more creative moves throughout the rest of the half. Despite all the rumors of Pulisic leaving this summer, he looks to be right at home in Dortmund, with lots more playing time to come if he continues to perform like that.
Send get well soon baskets to Sirigu. pic.twitter.com/XQ6HNNk9xW
— J.R. Eskilson (@JREskilson) September 17, 2016
Pulisic’s goal featured an incisive pass from Ousmane Dembele, who also picked up an assist on Castro’s opening goal. The 19 year old Frenchman didn’t have the best performance and was probably Dortmund’s least impressive player with many inaccurate passes and failed attempts to dribble past defenders, but he did have a few bright moments. He’ll likely have to improve if he wants to keep his spot when Schürrle and Reus return, as both players will be ahead of him along with Pulisic being a much more effective player.
Dembele's ball, pt 4 pic.twitter.com/Jtc9v4CMLI
— DAVID PATRON (@1GAFC) September 17, 2016
This dismantling took even took place without four surefire starters for Borussia Dortmund. Marc Bartra, Mario Götze, Andre Schürrle, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all sat out. The latter’s replacement, Adrian Ramos, was a huge candidate to leave the club this summer, but no move was ever made, and he figured to make little impact on the team this season. However, just like last season when he outscored his superior in the second half of the league season, the Colombian took full advantage of his opportunity. Ramos deputized fantastically for the struggling Aubameyang, creating the first goal for Gonzalo Castro and scoring the second one after setting it up. He’s a more effective striker against deep sitting teams like Darmstadt, and could be called upon more often to spare Aubameyang in these types of games.
Even the substitutions were spot on from Thomas Tuchel, as Emre Mor and Sebastian Rode both scored their first goals for Borussia Dortmund. Mor linked up with fellow teenager Christian Pulisic to score his goal, with an age combination of only 36 years. The 19 year old Turk was a popular candidate to start after another impressive 15 minute cameo against Legia, but found himself on the bench again. He came on in the 63rd minute this time, and delivered quite a few special moments, dancing through defenders and coming close to scoring another goal or two.
As Tuchel said in his post match interview, Dortmund delivered a great performance in all aspects of the game. Even though Darmstadt only saw 20% of the ball, Matthias Ginter didn’t put in a wrong foot in his second appearance at center back for Dortmund over the span of a year.
One could make the argument that Legia Warsaw and Darmstadt are two of the weakest sides Dortmund will face all season, which isn’t incorrect. But the team is clicking in all the right places at the moment, even with Tuchel’s rotations. Bigger tests lay ahead, though, as Dortmund take on Wolfsburg on Tuesday.