Competing in only their fourth season in the Bundesliga, Union Berlin had a memorable spell at the top of the table during the first half of 2022/23.
The story so far
Having witnessed Union finish fifth last term, Bundesliga observers could be forgiven for thinking the capital club's efforts were just a flash in the pan. Unfancied teams have upset the applecart before, only to suffer domestically as a result of their resultant continental commitments. Not Urs Fischer's men.
Union moved top of the Bundesliga for the first time in their history with victory over Cologne on Matchday 6 - a position they held until Matchday 13. They took points off Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig along the way - beating the latter two - whilst finishing second in their UEFA Europa League group to set up a last-16 play-off tie with Ajax. They're also still in the DFB Cup.
Watch: Union Berlin - riding high
A three-match winless end to 2022 - coupled with a resurgent Bayern - has nudged them off top spot and out of the top four for the first time since Bundesliga Matchday 2. Union, though, are right in the mix to show the watching world that last season's club-record finish was no fluke.
Key player: Sheraldo Becker
Sheraldo Becker's team-leading seven goals and four assists translated into 16 points over the course of Union's odds-defying Hinrunde. The electric Surinamese forward continues to leave opposition defenders trailing in his wake, while his finely tuned nose for goal already has him in career-best territory for single-season goals. Union are yet to lose this season when the Bundesliga's Player of the Month for August has scored or assisted. Of the eight games in which Becker hasn't managed either, they've won just three (D1, L4).
Union have beaten city rivals Hertha, drawn with Bayern and overpowered Dortmund this season, but their comeback win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 12 will live long in the memory. Trailing to a first-half Nico Elvedi goal, substitute Kevin Behrens restored parity in the 79th minute. Captain Christopher Trimmel - who extended his contract in January - then had a fine headed effort ruled out. With 97 minutes on the clock, however, Danilho Doekhi crashed home a header from a Jamie Leweling cross. The Dutch defender's first goal for the club moved Die Eisernen back above Bayern at the summit.
Watch: Union leave it very late to down Gladbach
One to watch: Jordan
Jordan started his debut Bundesliga season with a bang, registering three goals and two assists across his first six appearances. However, his returns in those categories slowed as a hectic schedule took its toll. The US international lasted 90 minutes only once between October and mid-November - producing an assist in the 2-0 win over Dortmund - and he was benched for Union's final two matches of the year. Suffice to say the extended winter break - the Union striker was not included in the USMNT's World Cup squad - will have done him the power of good.
View from inside the camp
"What the team has accomplished this year is crazy. It's fantastic, but you're only as good as your last performance. We went into the break with a loss, and that's what you take with you." - Fischer
Watch: The Bundesliga is back!
All 2022/23 season reviews:
Augsburg | Bayer Leverkusen | Bayern Munich | Bochum | Borussia Dortmund | Borussia Mönchengladbach | Cologne | Eintracht Frankfurt | Freiburg | Hertha Berlin | Hoffenheim | Mainz | RB Leipzig | Schalke | VfB Stuttgart | Werder Bremen | Wolfsburg
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