Last week, Christian Streich’s SC Freiburg travelled north to under-achieving Werder Bremen. Aside from the show of Freiburg’s chase for the coveted fourth Champions League qualification place, the fixture saw Freiburg’s Max Kruse make only his second return at the club where his professional career began.
An open affair allowed Kruse to show his former employers the scrupulous attacking exploits that perhaps they’re missing out on. Jan Rosenthal came close to opening the scoring on two occasions, both originating from the exactness of Kruse’s delivery. Kruse was repaid for his consistency, when Rosenthal headed down for him to half-volley a stupendous strike that silenced the Weser crowd. After a flurry of goals, the scoreline read two goals each on 64 minutes.
The catalyst of the winning goal epitomized the games stand-out performer; Kruse’s dangerous in-swinging corner resulted in Karim Guede hitting the bar, only for Matthias Ginter to grab Breisgau-Brasilianer three vital points on the rebound. Freiburg tightened their grip on fifth place, still in the race for European qualification; hoping to end their eleven year wait for European football, since their qualification knockout at the hands of Feyenoord Rotterdam.
Kruse has been a driving force behind Freiburg’s lofty ambitions this season, after signing a three year deal with the club in the summer from former Bundesliga side FC St. Pauli. Born in Reinbek at the northern tip of Germany, Kruse began his footballing career playing for humble Oberliga Hamburg outfits TSV Reinbek and SC Vier und Marschlande. In 2005 Werder Bremen took note of the midfielders talents and immediately integrated the Oberliga youngster into their youth set-up.
Kruse progressed into Werder’s second team making 68 appearances and scoring 7 goals, however he failed to make the step up from Regionalliga football to the proximity of Werder’s Bundesliga team; only making one first-team appearance during four years at the Weser Stadion. His summer 2009 move to FC St. Pauli was when his development as a player truly began, gaining a seasons experience in the Bundesliga(2010/11) as well as scoring 13 goals in his final season at the Millerntor that so nearly gained FC St. Pauli a bounce-back promotion. Despite the disappointment of not making a swift return to the German top-flight, it wasn’t long before elite clubs came calling for the midfielders services.
The sought-after midfielder was approached by Freiburg coach Christian Streich and sport director Dirk Duffner, Kruse admitted to transfermarkt.de website reporters that it didn’t take long for them to ‘completely convince’ him that the Dreisamstadion was correct next step in his career. Although the 24-year-old northern German was making the big transition to living in the south, it seemed to take secondary importance to him; regular Bundesliga football is what Max desired most.
It wasn’t long before Kruse was making a return to his native city, getting on the scoresheet for Freiburg in their pre-season friendly match at SC Victoria Hamburg. Kruse was swift in his repayment of faith to Christian Streich, his pre-season goalscoring continued into to first Matchday of the new Bundesliga season; scoring Freiburg’s only goal in a 1-1 draw with Thomas Tuchel’s Mainz 05 – soon to be one of Freiburg’s Bundesliga rivals in the race for Europe.
Kruse’s contributions to the Freiburg side have stretched well beyond the opening day of the Bundesliga campaign. Matchday 3 saw Freiburg bear the fruits of a Baden derby goal-fest, Kruse didn’t take long to become a fan favorite; his goal on 27 minutes ensured Freiburg went into half time 2-1 to the good. Another milestone to not only Freiburg’s so far successful season, but also Kruse’s maiden Freiburg season was the significant 1-3 away victory at Champions League competitors Schalke 04. Jan Rosenthal and Kruse displayed similarly to the Bremen performance on Matchday 22 that they’re both on the same footballing wavelength.
After cancelling out Jefferson Farfán’s 20 minute opener, through Rosenthal’s volley on 26 minutes via a Kruse cross; Freiburg then took the lead, once again through the well-acquainted delivery of Kruse. His cross by-passed the oncoming Joël Matip for Jonathan Schmid to convert past the well-beaten Hildebrand. Prior to Rosenthal completing a Breisgau-Brasilianer 1-3 rout in Gelsenkirchen, Kruse came extremely close himself. His venomous free-kick was only denied by the Spurs-bound Lewis Holtby. The victory ensured Freiburg 5th position going into the winter break, just four points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in 4th; Kruse’s emphatic start to his Freiburg career was rounded off nicely with a man-of-the-match performance to conclude the first half of the season.
Eintracht Frankfurt, another surprise package of the Bundesliga campaign faced the team below them: Freiburg, on Matchday 23. Of what expected to be an enticing clash, the game did unfortunately disappoint; ending 0-0 with not a great deal of action to feast upon. However, results elsewhere in the division, mainly Hamburg’s 5-1 loss at the AWD-Arena and Mainz’s home draw with VfL Wolfsburg, did go in favour of Streich’s men. Heading into the business end of the season, Kruse’s decision to settle at the Dreisamstadion looks as though it’s benefiting both parties. Kruse’s consistently good Bundesliga performances are helping pave the way for Freiburg’s road to European football.
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