American Exports: Joe Gyau finds higher stakes, greater belief at mighty Borussia Dortmund
AMSTERDAM – When young Hoffenheim winger Joseph Gyau made a switch to Borussia Dortmund in June, some observers may have questioned the wisdom of moving to Germany's runners-up from a Bundesliga also-ran whose attack rotation he was threatening to crack.
At first glance, it might seem like the 21-year-old had picked quite the uphill battle to break into a considerably better first team, one already loaded with flank stars such as Jakub Blaszczykowski, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus.
And being that Dortmund has bagged two league crowns, a DfB-Pokal victory and consecutive German Super Cup wins over Goliath-esque champs Bayern Munich since the spring of 2011, the doubters who envision him making up the reserve team numbers at BvB while his potential dries up might seem shrewd judges.
There's just one problem with that pessimistic view of Gyau's ambition. The US youth international has indeed started his time with Borussia Dortmund II, that squad plays in Germany's 3.Liga, or one level above the second team of Hoffenheim. But more importantly, Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp is expecting the American to excel and play his way into the senior side, which has seen a steady stream of front-liners depart in recent transfer windows.
"The club believes in me," Gyau told MLSsoccer.com by e-mail. "They have told me that they see large amounts of potential in me, and they want to help me bring that potential."
After a couple years of struggle, Gyau – a shifty winger on the dribble who is also capable of finding the net – began to show his promise last season. The Tampa native finished second on Hoffenheim II with seven goals in 27 games, production that earned him a couple of healthy sub shifts for their Bundesliga side near the end of the season.
The second of those top-flight outings came against Dortmund, who had already been in contact with Gyau's reps for months. Not only was this a great transfer opportunity to seize, but the winger's comfort level at Hoffenheim was headed down to nil.
Now, he is happily being mentored by BvB II manager and former US international David Wagner after spending much of the preseason with Klopp's first team.
"I was very excited to know Dortmund was interested in signing me," Gyau told MLSsoccer.com. "From the outside looking in, things looked great with Hoffenheim, playing a couple Bundesliga appearances at the end.
"But there were a number of things going on in the club that were not right, so when I had this chance I really wanted it to happen. And on top of that, coach Wagner really believes in me, so it was a no-brainer."
Having making strides last season, Gyau is at it again. He drew some local raves for his preseason friendly appearances and opened his account for the new employers with a double in Dortmund II's weekend rout of Jahn Regensburg. He says it's no accident that he is gaining even more confidence, despite entering a tougher fight for playing time.
"My transition game has improved a lot," stated Gyau. "Coach puts a lot of emphasis on tactical awareness and speed of play. I have picked it up fairly quick, which has helped me fit into the system. And we also play counterattack football, which is exactly my game. Being more direct and my movement off the ball has improved."
So with mighty Borussia Dortmund asking him to rise to their level, what is the youngster demanding from himself? Actually, nothing more than to carry out orders.
"I try not to put pressure on myself with expectations," said Gyau. "I just try to execute what coach Klopp and coach Wagner have told me, and when I do that I should be fine."
Of course, the closer he is to fine at Dortmund, the more likely it is he can get back in the US national team frame. Gyau has not played in red, white and blue since March of 2012, when the young Yanks leaked a stoppage-time equalizer to El Salvador to crash out of Olympic qualifying in stunning fashion.
While he would love to help correct that letdown and help the Under-23 team reach the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil, Gyau says registering on the radar of US boss Jurgen Klinsmann during the new World Cup cycle can wait until he's earned it in the Bundesliga.
"That would be great to represent the country again, especially in the Olympics, seeing as how we didn't qualify for the last one," he declared. "As for the World Cup, that's not for another four years, so I have a little bit of time. I'm just trying to use the opportunities I have right now in Dortmund."