As first seasons in the Bundesliga go, American Joe Scally has had one to remember in the colours of Borussia Mönchengladbach and now back in top form for the Foals, the 19-year old has his sights set on keeping his place for Saturday's Rhine derby against Cologne.
Following a topsy-turvy campaign, Adi Hütter's team are in the process of finishing 2021/22 on a high, with Die Fohlen unbeaten in their last four games, of which they have won three. Scally has featured fully in two of those victories, namely against Hertha Berlin and Greuther Fürth. While finishing among the European places could just prove a step to far for 11th-placed Gladbach this time around, victory against derby rivals Cologne at Borussia-Park this weekend would nonetheless go a long way to keeping a distant dream alive. If called upon, a certain New York State native will be doing his utmost to help the cause.
Almost ever present in the first half of Borussia's campaign, versatile full-back Scally was an integral part of Hütter's team. Incredibly, the American's top-flight debut came in his club's admirable 1-1 draw at home against defending champions Bayern Munich back in August. Subsequent wins against Borussia Dortmund and a thumping 5-0 triumph against Bayern the DFB Cup all added to a whirlwind few months for the player signed from New York City FC in January 2021. Several heavy defeats along the way tempered the mood, but the assured Scally was well and truly up and running and in contention for a senior bow with the USMNT.
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Of the trust his coach Hütter placed in him, Scally noted in an interview with Transfermarkt back in February, "He’s always given me confidence since the preseason started back in August."
Yet testing times would ensue. A viral setback in January meant the 19-year-old would miss out on the Bundesliga return encounter against Bayern, a match the Foals would win 2-1 without their trusted flying full-back. With Hütter then sampling slight variations in formation and later favouring players like Ramy Bensebaini and Stefan Lainer, Scally's on-field time since his place in the Hinrunde sun has been less consistent. Yet it's not a situation the six-footer is unaccustomed to and he has been more than happy to wait for his moment to shone again.
“When I was playing at New York City FC, I was also dealing with [selection uncertainty] for two years straight," Scally told Transfermarkt. "It's definitely a different feeling when you are on a high. The low part I would say it isn't unfamiliar because I have dealt with it before. Every player has dealt with it, and I just have to get back on the right track.”
With Cologne and the Rhine Derby coming quickly down the line, Scally is very much back on the right path and a solid showing in his 90 minutes on the aforementioned 2-0 win against Fürth last Saturday will have given his coach food for thought, particularly with Bensebaini back in full training and set to compete with Scally for a starting berth against the Billy Goats.
For the record, in Fürth, the former US U17 international played on the left side of midfield in a Gladbach 3-4-2-1 formation and ran just over 7.3 miles during the game, more than any of his teammates. Hitting 29 sprints and taking possession 51 times, Scally - who was making his 25th Bundesliga appearance - also attempted 12 tackles as the visitors beat the division's basement team to pick up their 10th point in four outings.
Eighth-placed Cologne will represent a level up for Gladbach this weekend, especially with Die Geißböcke well in the hunt for a European finish as we reach the last five games of the Bundesliga season. Steffen Baumgart's team will also be on a high having come from two goals down to beat Mainz 3-2 on Matchday 29. Added to that, Cologne hold another slight edge having won the corresponding fixture 4-1 last November.
It's a challenge for Borussia but one they will look to rise to, as will Scally as he seeks to impress USMNT coach, Gregg Berhalter, who has some thinking to do in terms of choosing his Stars and Stripes squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November and December. The U.S. have been drawn in Group B alongside England, Iran and a yet to be decided qualifier and although Scally has yet to make his senior debut on the international front, he has received several call-ups to Berhalter's squads over the qualifying campaign.
Selection would represent the culmination of an incredible few years for Scally, who not all that long ago was admiring the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Leroy Sane from afar. When he lined out against them in the opening match of this season, it was the culmination of a dream for Gladbach's Mr. Versatile.
"I went into a tackle with Lewandowski and he stepped on my foot and the whole crowd started chanting my name. It was crazy. It was sick," Scally told CBS Soccer of his Bundesliga debut. "But, it was great. It was a great game and was able to show what I could do." he added. "To be playing against these guys, to be going up against Sane one-on-one the whole game, it was crazy."
Crazy but true, as Scally gets set for his next big performance under the Bundesliga spotlight.
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