It was the best of times for Aron Johannsson. It was the worst of times for Bobby Wood.
For Johannsson, the past few weeks have seen him emerge from the depths of the Werder Bremen bench to claim an unlikely place in the starting XI. Johannsson struggled last week in the loss to Freiburg, however, conceding the penalty that resulted in the only goal of the game.
While Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt was kind to Johannsson after the game, he ultimately decided to drop him from the XI for a Nordderby clash with Hamburg, with relegation implications on the line for both teams.
Johannsson was not called upon until the 84th minute, with the match still scoreless, but he did not wait long before making an impact.
Played in on goal just two minutes later, Johannsson tried blasting a shot at a somewhat narrow angle on Hamburg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia. Mathenia got a piece of it, but only enough to slow it down. That led to a race to the goal line for Bremen’s Ishak Belfodil and Hamburg’s Rick van Drongelen, with the ball ending up in the back of the net.
Belfodil got the credit initially, but replays showed he never touched it — a good thing for Bremen considering he was in an offside position when Johannsson took the initial shot. Thus Van Drongelen was credited with the own goal — though in his defense, the shot was nearly over the line when he got to it and would have gone over if he did nothing.
While Johannsson missed out on credit for the goal, he was obviously instrumental in creating it. It marks the third goal in Bundesliga play he’s been a part of in this recent stretch since he came on as a substitute against Schalke, even if he has not actually been credited with a goal or assist yet.
It’s possible Johannsson’s place in the starting XI may rotate in the coming weeks as Bremen fight for survival. But it certainly looks like he’ll have a place in the rotation each week, which remains an impressive turnaround from where he stood just a month ago.
On the other side, Bobby Wood also began the game on the bench. He came on as a substitute in the 77th minute and played a role in the Bremen winner as well.
With Bremen coming toward goal, Hamburg attempted to clear. The ball came to Wood, who failed to hold up play, and instead had the ball knocked free of his control by Philipp Bargfrede. It was then Bargfrede who picked up possession just outside the area and fed the wide open Johannsson for his run on goal and the eventual winner.
Perhaps it is unfair to fault Wood entirely there — it was not an easy ball to control and he had little time on it — but had his touch and positioning been a little better, he doesn't lose it.
So while Johannsson appears to be playing himself into a Bremen side that is slowly creeping away from potential relegation, Wood may well be playing himself out of a Hamburg side that is falling deeper into it.
Bremen sits in 14th place on 26 points, just two above the relegation playoff spot of 16th, but nine above 17th place and an automatic trip to the 2.Bundesliga. Sitting in 17th place? Hamburg.
Green helps secure big three points
Down a level in Germany, Julian Green was also making contributions to his team’s survival hopes.
The on-loan attacker delivered the assist on Greuther Furth’s opener against Eintracht Braunschweig. While it was not the winner as the hosts went on to a 2-1 victory, it still helped the side pick up a crucial three points in the race to escape dropping out of the 2.Bundesliga.
Greuther Furth now sits on 27 points. That’s still in the relegation playoff, but the club is level on points with Bochum, which sits in 15th, and is within three points of 13th.
It was only Green’s first assist of the season to go along with one goal. He hasn't lit the world on fire there, but he’s started 15 of the team’s 24 contests and missed time with injury. So he’s managed to play consistently, getting valuable experience.
Since Green is on loan from Stuttgart, relegation for Greuther Furth would not be the end of the world for him, but helping the side stay up as a regular starter, especially given the rough spot for the club when he arrived, certainly wouldn’t look bad on the resume.
Things could be going better for fellow U.S. international Terrence Boyd, however. Darmstadt 98, which dropped from the Bundesliga last year, is looking like it may do the dreaded double drop this season. The Lillies are on 23 points, and in 18th place. Boyd has not found his way into the XI much, but has been appearing as a substitute.
Carter-Vickers earns praise from manager
Cameron Carter-Vickers' loan move to Ipswich may not have seen the defender secure the team results he and his teammates are looking for, but he is turning heads with his play.
February saw the club pick up two wins, two draws and a loss in five games. Though that’s not a terrible spell, it won’t help Ipswich get into a playoff promotion spot. The club sits on 48 points, six back of sixth-place Bristol City. But more damaging perhaps than the points difference is that there are six teams between Ipswich and Bristol City.
Carter-Vickers has earned plaudits from the coaching staff in the meantime. Initially lining up in a back four, the club has been using a back three in recent weeks, similar to what the defender saw with Sheffield United.
Regardless of the formation, right now Ipswich manager Mick McCarthy believes Carter-Vickers needs to be in the XI.
"Cameron played in a back three at Sheffield United [on loan earlier in the season] and [Luke Chambers] organizes them well," McCarthy said in quotes published by the East Anglian Daily Times. "If I play three at the back then Adam [Webster] is in the team, but if I don’t then Cameron Carter-Vickers deserves to play because he’s been excellent.”
While Carter-Vickers faces a battle to get into the first team at his parent club of Tottenham, playing well on Ipswich will give him more options this summer.
Diskerud nets second time in two weeks
Mix Diskerud certainly looks to be pleased to be back in Sweden.
One week after getting IFK Goteborg off to a winning start in the group stage of the Swedish Cup with a goal against Varberg in a 1-0 win, Diskerud helped his club secure a result.
The midfielder found the back of the net in the 68th minute of his side’s cup clash with Oster, leveling the scoreline at 1-1. The result was enough to keep Gothenburg top of the group with two games played.
Mixed fortunes in Belgium
In Belgium, Kenny Saief had a direct hand in one of Anderlecht’s five goals this weekend, providing an assist on Lukasz Teodorczyk’s second goal of the game.
Saief delivered a cross into the area that the striker put home to give the club a 3-0 lead. The game ended in a 5-3 Anderlecht win, leaving the club on 49 points, just one point back of Sporting Charleroi — though still 12 back of first place Brugge.
Saief has started seven games since his January move, scoring a goal and adding two assists during that span. While the winger is a consistent starter for his side, other Americans in Belgium are not currently as fortunate.
Youngster Erik Palmer-Brown took a step in the right direction with Kortrijk, making the gameday squad for the first time since his loan move in January. He has yet to play for the club, which sits in sixth place, just inside the playoff positions.
Ethan Horvath, meanwhile, seems to have a good chance at picking up silverware this year with Brugge, but he doesn’t appear likely to play much more of a role in it. While Brugge’s goalkeeper situation has been a mess this season for a team doing as well as it has — the club is now on its fifth starter of the campaign — Horvath appears no closer to reclaiming the No. 1 role.