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Americans Abroad

Enochs, Osnabruck outplay Cherundolo, Hannover, but must settle for 1-1 draw.

By Christopher Courtney

HANNOVER, Germany (Tuesday, February 26, 2001) -- Two American players from California faced each other last night in the Niedersachsen Derby between German Second Bundesliga teams Hannover 96 and VFL Osnabruck. It was the first time in many years that two field players have played against each other in the First or Second Bundesliga.

San Francisco Bay Area product Joe Enochs turned in a solid performance for Osnabruck, while San Diego native Steve Cherundolo and his Hannover teammates looked flat in a game that ends in a 1-1 draw.

" Iím happy with the way we played but disappointed that we could not get the three points." Enochs said.

Cherundolo started at left midfield for Hannover while Enochs opened at defensive midfield for Osnabruck in the nationally-televised game. Both players were seen talking with each other as the teams left the tunnel and were soon challenging each other on a cold Hannover field that had just been cleared of snow.

Enochsí Osnabruck side is in the midst of a rebirth without a loss in the six games since the winter break. After spending the entire first half of the season deep in the relegation zone, the VFLers, with a win on this night, would become tied with the 14th place team, but still in the relegation zone only by goal differential.

Cherundoloís Hannover side, after a strong start and several weeks in the promotion zone, is trying to get out of a midseason slump that dropped it from second to eighth place. Just nine weeks ago, Hannover was a fast and aggressive side that carried itself with a swagger and dominated its opponents with a smothering defense and quick attacking style. Lately, however, it looks like a team of strangers on the field.

Cherundolo, since returning from his long term injury, has been used everywhere except where he is strongest: at right back. The young American, while starting every match, is being used by coach Horst Ehmantraut much like a Swiss Army knife as solution to every problem position. While Cherundolo is able to display his versatility, he has been unable thus far to show his best stuff at his natural position.

In the early going, Osnabruck dominated possession with a few well-constructed attacks on the Hannover goal. Several shots missed the posts by a few feet as Osnabruck applied pressure for the first 30 minutes.

Enochs began by tightly marking Hannover playmaker Jan Simak as Osnabruck won nearly every challenge in midfield. In the 35th minute, Hannover keeper Jorg Sievers parried away a pair of shots. On one rebound, Enochs takes a 23-yard one-touch shot which flies just over the bar.

After this flurry, Hannover begins to build attacks up the left side and for the last 12 minutes of the first half showed some signs of life. A long ball is sent forward to an on-running Cherundolo who arrives a half step to late to cross it back to the middle before it squibs over the end line. Several combinations are run through the left side as Cherunolo and his teammates tried to crack the Osnabruck defense.

"Steve was one of the better players for his team making great runs and being good and quick on the ball," Enochs said. "He has a really strong left foot even though he is a right-footed player. He has a great work rate which is something some of his teammates could learn from him."

The second half was also dominated by Osnabruck and Enochs denied Simak in the middle as his teamís offense continued to attack a lifeless Hannover. Cherundolo, while showing well for the ball, managed few touches in the second half as his team continued it futile attempts to push the ball up the middle.

"I think (Enochs) played very well and he took our guy Simak right out of the game," Cherundolo said.

Osnabruck striker Oskar Brinkman scores in the 68th minute to put the visitors up 1-0. A minute later, Cherundolo, replaced by newcomer Salif Keita, left the field looking somewhat frustrated. "We did not click at all last night," Cherundolo said. "We couldnít string anything together and we are not playing like a team. Iím disappointed in myself overall. I think I did well on defense but did not get a lot of touches on the other end."

Enochs continued his role in the middle, disrupting the Hannover offense and denying free run to Simak.

Enochs took the captainís armband for his team in the 80th minute and Osnabruck moved the ball at will against a lethargic Hannover team. In the final 10 minutes, Osnabruck almost scored an insurance goal, but Sievers prevented it with a good save.

The visitors came to reget this minutes later. Twenty seconds from the end of regulation time, Keita lofted a ball just over Osnabruck keeper Uwe Brunn who, with better positioning, could have made the stop. The late score leveled the score at 1-1 and Osnabruck had squandered another chance to earn three points on the road. Weeks earlier, a 90th-minute strike allowed at Saarbrucken made the Men in Purple settle for a point.

Christopher Courtney is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany, where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe. He can be contacted at yanksgermany@yahoo.com.

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