Bayern leave NYC for stars in Portland
Despite the initial visa hiccups suffered by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and some of Bayern's television crew, the club's three-day stay in New York proved to be fruitful for both fans and the team alike.
For the fans, it was a chance for many to get up close and personal with the club they love. As I walked through the Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, supporters from all over the eastern half of the United States stopped me along the way to share their excitement; many saying that it was their first time seeing Bayern Munich play live.
The team -- less the World Cup-winning Germans, Arjen Robben and Dante -- went out of their way to sign autographs and take selfies throughout the city, during training and at sponsorship events.
The New York leg of the trip provided another preseason test against a club in midseason form -- Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara -- after their recent success in winning the Telekom Cup. "It's not easy to fly six, seven hours and suffer from jet lag," Pep Guardiola said in the prematch news conference, "but we're not here just for fun."
There would ultimately be disappointment from many U.S. men's national team fans as German-American Julian Green was unable to get minutes on the pitch against Chivas after suffering a slight knee injury. "It's a shame, because I know how much the crowd was looking forward to seeing him," Guardiola said.
But the charming youngster in his heavy German accent was upbeat about the upcoming Bayern Munich season. "I want to show the people that I can score goals," he said when asked about his place on the first team this year.
"I played 15 minutes and scored once," said Green, talking about his experience on the world's biggest stage, with the Bayern coach adding, "He showed in the World Cup, he takes one chance, and he created a big goal, and so that's why we're so proud he's here and can help us win."
Without Green and nine first-team regulars, Guardiola has been forced into promoting the brightest from his reserves to flesh out competitive sides, with the sons of two former Bayern stars -- Gianluca Gaudino and Lucas Scholl -- seeing significant minutes before the season gets underway. While Maurizio Gaudino's son is just 17 years old, Guardiola is effusive about the young man, saying he is a "huge talent. It would be hard for a young player to do better than he's done in our friendly matches."
Against Guadalajara, Bayern turned out -- once again -- in a three-man back line featuring Javi Martinez as sweeper, giving newly fit Holger Badstuber a rest. Rafinha earned a starting berth on Martinez's right flank, and with unlimited substitutions at Guardiola's disposal, Xherdan Shaqiri amassed his first minutes since returning to training last week, and confidence in his future at Bayern Munich.
Rumours ran rampant this summer about Shaqiri's move away to either Juventus, Roma or Liverpool. Such speculation has been nixed by sporting director Matthias Sammer and the player himself, telling a group of reporters Friday, "I have a contract until 2016, and I will give my best at Bayern," continuing, "I cannot talk about the future after that. The club believes in me, and I believe in this club. I will stay."
The star on the evening at Red Bull Arena, however, would be Claudio Pizarro. He'd be employed in the front line with Robert Lewandowski, and the pair -- fluid in their movements -- created for each other during their time on the pitch together. But captain Franck Ribery would ultimately be the provider for the only goal of the match when his corner kick on 10 minutes found Pizarro, whose glancing header beat Guadalajara keeper Jose Antonio Rodriguez.
In Bayern's mind, this was a friendly, but the Audi Summit was taken much more seriously on the other side of the pitch with the fouls coming in hard and fast as the match progressed. "It got a bit tasty from time to time," said Pizarro post-game, as yellow cards were handed out to Chivas' Jair Pereira, Jesus Sanchez and Edgar Solis, as well as Bayern's Javi Martinez.
"We were tired, and it wasn't easy because of jet lag," said Guardiola. "I'm proud of my lads."
Bayern will be buoyed upon their arrival in Portland for their match against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday with the arrivals of their German contingent and Dante -- Robben had quietly joined the squad in New York.
The first part of the USA tour can be considered an unqualified success for the team as they look to capatalise on their recent successes and the growing popularity of German football as a whole. And the second part of the journey gives them an even bigger platform on which to operate.
Susie Schaaf is longtime blogger for ESPN. She co-hosts the only English-speaking Bayern Munich podcast @Rekord_Pod and talks Bundesliga on BBC World Service and SiriusXM FC. Follow her on Twitter @fussballsusie.