Bayern Munich's Americans: Landon Donovan, Julian Green and Wolfgang Sühnholz
Over the course of Bayern Munich's illustrious history, only three American players have ever donned the club's famous red strip in a competitive fixture: Landon Donovan, Julian Green and Wolfgang Sühnholz.
That's right, as strange as it may seem given the recent rise in the number of young Americans flocking to Germany - Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent and Tyler Adams are among the success stories – Bayern have been somewhat underrepresented in the Stars and Stripes department.
Alphonso Davies is as close as a North American has come in recent years – the Canadian making his first-team debut in 2018/19 – while USA youth international Chris Richards will be hopeful of breaking through in the near future. But just who are Sühnholz, Donovan and Green and what impact did they have with the Bavarian giants?
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Born in Berlin in 1946, Sühnholz represented both Hertha Zehlendorf and Rot-Weiß Oberhausen before moving to Bayern in 1971. The striker would spend two years with the club and enjoyed a fine debut campaign in 1971/72 as Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions.
Sühnholz, who held dual nationality thanks to his American ancestry, scored six goals in all competitions that year in a side that included Bayern legends Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Uli Hoeneß and Rudi Voller. The Bavarians ended that season 22 points clear of Schalke and reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Sühnholz featured in the 0-0 first leg draw of that last-four tie but missed the second leg as eventual winners Rangers saw off the Germans 2-0 in Scotland.
The next season was a disappointing one for Sühnholz, who did not play a single game for Bayern before moving first to Grasshopper Club Zurich in Switzerland and then back to Germany with Tennis Borussia Berlin. Sühnholz then headed for America and was named the 1976 North American Soccer League MVP after clinching the league title with Toronto Metros-Croatia. He was reunited with former teammate Beckenbauer in the NASL All-Stars game the following year, with Der Kaiser by then turning out for New York Cosmos.
Widely regarded the greatest player ever in USA history – at least until Pulisic burst onto the scene with Borussia Dortmund - Donovan began his professional career in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen as a 17-year-old in 1999, having been spotted by the club at a youth tournament in Europe earlier that year. At the BayArena, he featured seven times in the Bundesliga, twice in the UEFA Champions League and once in the DFB Cup either side of a three-year breakout loan spell in Major League Soccer in which Donovan lifted two MLS Cups with the San Jose Earthquakes.
By the time Donovan made the permanent move from Leverkusen to Los Angeles Galaxy in 2005, he was an established star of the USMNT and well on his way to becoming the most decorated player in MLS history. Four years later, Donovan was back in the Bundesliga and this time on a short-term loan assignment with Bayern, whose coach Jürgen Klinsmann tasked the 27-year-old with breathing life into their title-race during the Galaxy’s MLS post season.
It didn’t quite go as planned, however, Donovan ending up goalless in six Bundesliga appearances as Bayern finished runners-up to Wolfsburg and exited both the DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League at the quarter-final stage. Donovan eventually returned to LA and cemented his status as a seminal figure in the history of American soccer.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Green moved to Bayern’s youth academy as a 15-year-old in 2010. Three years later, the American striker made his debut as an 88th minute substitute for Mario Götze in Bayern’s 3-1 UEFA Champions League Group D victory at CSKA Moscow. He went on to feature 23 times for Bayern's reserve team, scoring 15 goals and notching eight assists. The same year, Green was an unused substitute in both the semi-final and final of the FIFA Club World Cup as Bayern followed up their 2012/13 UEFA Champions League glory with yet more continental silverware.
Despite a lack of playing time for Bayern’s senior team, Green was called up to the USA’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad by Klinsmann at the expense of Donovan. He didn't feature in the group stage of the tournament but announced himself to the world in dramatic fashion, scoring in the 107th minute of extra-time in the USA’s last-16 defeat to Belgium just two minutes after being brought on. It would be a good year for Green, who made his Bundesliga debut the following season - but for Hamburg rather than Bayern after signing a season-long loan deal with the club.
The former Germany Under 19 international returned to Bayern the following year, but with Robert Lewandowski the undisputed first-choice striker, Green was restricted to just one Champions League and two DFB Cup appearances over the next two seasons before leaving for Stuttgart in 2016. There, he helped the club to the Bundesliga 2 title in his one and only season with the Swabians. Bayern lifted one Bundesliga title, a DFB Cup and the DFL Supercup in Green’s time at the club. Still only 24, the 15-time USA international now laces his boots for Greuther Fürth in Bundesliga 2, with Green scoring four times last term.
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