Let's face it; the chances of Borussia Dortmund challenging for the Bundesliga title are slim. Not only would BVB have to climb out of an eight point hole from second to first, they would also have to knock off one of Europe's most in form teams in Bayern Munich, and then hope Pep Guardiola's men stumble down the home stretch. Possible, but not likely. Not to say the comfortable second place spot occupied by Thomas Tuchel's team isn't an achievement, after all, it is his first year as manager, the first year playing a new style of play, and more or less the same team who found themselves in the relegation zone this time last year. But I'm just being realistic.
So your team won't challenge for the title, where else can you look for silverware? The DFB-Pokal is certainly an option, BVB have easily secured a spot in the Quarter-finals against VfB Stuttgart, a tie they will probably win. And hey, maybe even the Europa League! BVB have a rough second round tie versus FC Porto, but do possess a squad of a high enough caliber to possibly win the whole thing. But if cups aren't your style, and you think you're a real Borussia Dortmund fan, there are big things happening down the ranks that are sure to get the blood pumping.
Borussia Dortmund's U19 squad are taking the A-Junioren Bundesliga West by storm. To date, they are the only undefeated team left in all three regions* (Quick contextual knowledge drop: the U19 Bundesliga is divided into three regions which operate as regular leagues with 26 games each, the winner of each league, plus the runner-up of the south/southwest region, play a championship round where the winner is crowned A-Junioren Bundesliga champion) with 11 wins and one draw. They have the most points from the fewest games played, with 34 from 12, and have scored the third most goals at 43. The squad has accomplished all this, while obviously leading their own region in every aspect, with two games in hand. Impressive.
So what's their secret? Manager Hannes Wolf, 34, and balance, in its simplest football form; they score goals, and they barely concede any. In fact, Dortmund have let in the least amount of goals in the entire A-Junioren Bundesliga, a very, very cool five. That's right, five goals in 12 games. This mind-numbingly low number is due to a well drilled and deep back line, with two very consistent full-backs in Captain Till Schumacher, 18, (LB) and Dario Scuder, 17,(RB), a great midfield shield/pseudo centre-back in Lars Dietz, and excellent goalkeeper Dominik Reimann, 18, slotting in between the posts. A solid partnership of Amos Pieper, 18, and Patrick Fritsch,17, in the center of the back line was cut short by a rupture to Fritsch's cruciate ligament but thanks to Dortmund's midfield depth shuffling around Dietz hasn't been an issue.
At the other end of the pitch its goals galore. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Dortmund's front four have been ruthless. Up in the centre-forward position is Janni Serra, 17, a tall, left-footed, heartless goal scorer, whose movement on and off the ball and willingness to press the defense, have seen him score 10 goals in 12 games also racking up five assists. Keep an eye open for Serra in those first team training sessions. Right behind him in the #10 role is America's sweetheart Christian Pulisic. After being promoted from the U17 squad at the end of August, Pulisic, 17, has cemented his place in the squad by scoring four goals and assisting three more in eight appearances. To the right of Pulisic is the player who accompanied him to Dubai over the winter break, Felix Passlack. Passlack, 17, is a brilliant and pacy winger, with a cannon for a foot. On average he's scored a goal every 85 minutes, bringing his total to 10 in 11 appearances with three assists. His opposite on the left-wing, Jacob Bruun Larsen, 17, has been just as effective, only scoring six, but setting up six, as well as appearing in every game. These four talented 17-year-olds have scored 30 of Dortmund's 43 goals, and none of them show any sign of slowing down.
The way the team plays is gorgeous, the apple doesn't fall far from the first team in terms of their link up play and tenacity in front of goal, but perhaps the most important reason you should care about the U19 team is lineage. This is more or less the same team that won the B-Junioren Bundesliga title as U17s last year, but better. It has same style and same brilliant mind behind it, with Hannes Wolf being promoted along with most of his players. This isn't a coincidence, the higher-ups at Dortmund obviously believe in this team and are no doubt being vindicated by the title challenge they are putting together. It makes a BVB fan ponder the future; of course this tight-knit team is meant to supplement the currently dreadful second team at some point, but then what? Dreams of a first team filled with diehard dortmund youth may not be so far-fetched.