AMSTERDAM – The Bundesliga will crack champagne on the bow of a new season this weekend, with six Americans and a host of reserve team prospects hoping for smooth sailing over the next nine months.
As we did with the English Premier League last week, let's head straight to the dining room and dig into the main course.
JOHN BROOKS - HERTHA BERLIN
The US defender really matured while helping to save Hertha Berlin from becoming a sinking ship over the back half of last season. Much will be expected of Brooks this term; if he doesn't finish top 10 in the league in both clearances and interceptions, something went wrong.
It's also worth nothing that he has two years left on his contract, so watch that winter transfer wire if he picks up where he left off. And even if he doesn't, it's very possible this will be his last season with Hertha.
Best make it a good one, which Hertha will try to do mainly through continuity. A couple of decent new additions are on board, but the real task lies in getting an offense that woefully underperformed last season through an early season injury crisis.
In the forecast: Right now, Brooks seems on a healthy trajectory that will see him star several times throughout the season Hertha have enough quality to run mid-table if everyone applies themselves.
TIMMY CHANDLER - EINTRACHT FRANKFURT
Well, isn't it ironic? Often hounded for a perceived lack of emotional intent behind his US national team play, Chandler now finds himself in hot water with the club boss over a Gold Cup commitment. As such, he will begin this season on the bench, at best.
Chandler was not even dressed for the team's cup opener last week, but it's probably too soon to go searching out Eintracht II lineups. The senior side has a rollercoaster defense and he'll get the nod sooner or later.
The good news in Frankfurt these days is that the club have enhanced the attack with some young talent, with Netherlands youth international striker Luc Castaignos the big summer catch. He bagged 14 goals in each of three season with FC Twente and is exactly the type of forward that can help this side cross the line of being a true threat for a Europa League berth.
In the forecast: When Chandler gets his chance, he will likely respond because that is what he's done in the past when benched temporarily. Look for him to end up with fewer starts than last year's 29, but the waiting lights a fire and the right back chalks up a career-high five assists for a team finishing just shy of Europe.
JOE GYAU - BORUSSIA DORTMUND
The US winger is back in strength training after a cartilage injury that set him back in his recovery from a knee injury. Originally hurt last October, he may have returned for a BvB II fitness-building stretch a little too soon.
The club won't let that happen again and this injury is easier to come back from, so a good hope is that Gyau is appearing for the reserves some time in the late fall or winter. Meanwhile, there are only a few roster changes under new manager Thomas Tuchel, with locals feeling this group can do better than last season's seventh place finish. They are likely correct.
In the forecast: Let's just say he is finally back to being a bench option for the first team by the end of the season. Dortmund manage another Europa League ticket, giving Gyau an exciting true rookie season for the famous club in 2016-17.
ARON JOHANNSSON - WERDER BREMEN
After several successful seasons with AZ forward Aron Johannsson moved to Werder Bremen recently and was instantly anointed as the replacement for departed top gun Franco Di Santo. Boiled down, the learning curve continues for a talented 24-year-old.
The club are unsure if Johannsson will start the opener against Schalke this weekend, but it's merely a fitness race. Former Toronto FC midfielder and current Bremen assistant coach Torsten Frings told reporters on Tuesday that the new No. 9 was clicking with fellow summer recruit Anthony Ujah in training.
In the forecast: As this space opined last week, 10 Johannsson goals this term would set a new standard for single-season scoring by an American in the Bundesliga. Neither Eljero Elia's departure since then or the resulting realization that Bremen will stick with 4-4-2 formations hurt that prediction. It still seems both a reasonable and encouraging goal total, as would an eighth place finish by the club.
FABIAN JOHNSON - BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH
The eternal debate for those inside the USMNT bubble about where Johnson is best utilized rages on, but that issue has been well-settled at 'Gladbach. Unlike last season, the 27-year-old ace will open the new slate as a left winger.
Andre Hahn, Thorgan Hazard and Patrick Hermann offer plenty of competition in the two wing slots. Johnson's goal and five helpers during the 9-0-2 late-season run that boosted the Foals into the Champions League group phase has him currently ahead of Chelsea transplant Hazard for now. The squad also has added new partners in crime, with Lars Stindl brought in to spray outlet passes to the flank and Josip Drmic there to munch on center backs.
In the forecast: In every sense of the word, Johnson is in a great position to set a new record by becoming the first American to notch double-digits in assists over a single European top flight campaign. He is in a stinging attack on a team loaded for action in three competitions. How does an even dozen helpers to go with three goals sound?
Look for 'Gladbach to show a bit of league weariness during their narrow Champions League group stage, but rebound to finish strong again. A fourth-place finish in the league books their return. At the cost of a quarterfinal exit from the DfB-Pokal, Johnson & Co. reach that same stage of the Europa League.
ALFREDO MORALES - INGOLSTADT
The US midfielder has eight games of Bundesliga experience to draw on when he lines up against Mainz 05 on Saturday. There will probably be days this season when that's not enough, but Morales is a fighter and the manager loves him. He will have his advanced placement course in corralling worldly attacking midfielders and it will not be easy.
On the team transfer front, Ingolstadt have stuck to a few thrifty buys. Sorry to say, but one has to wince just a little bit from imagining their nasty fate for a few upcoming weekends.
In the forecast: Injury and suspension absences aside, expect Morales to start nearly every game for the risers again this season. Ingolstadt have done all of their summer spending in defense and attack, showing the trust they have in their No. 6 shirt.
The fact that he already had a cup of Bundesliga coffee with Hertha back in 2011-12 should help Morales draw some positive notice. The attention could come in handy when Ingolstadt are relegated at season's end.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Back from the injury that kept him out of the Under-20 World Cup and carrying a fresh three-year deal, Hoffenheim II's Russell Canouse has started their first two matches this term. Now it is time for him to start making the first-team central midfielders sweat.
Borussia Dortmund playmaking prospect Junior Flores did not always have a smooth ride last season, but he finished with five U-19 goals and a breakthrough with the 3. Liga reserve team. He started the BvB II season opener last week and then sat out game two, but even more bumpy progress from the 19-year-old will be fun to watch.
You've got to hand it to Bayern Munich's Julian Green for being willing to scrap it out in the reserves of that giant club. We shall see how long this particular desire burns if the US international cannot make it happen.
Simply put, Jerome Kiesewetter is standing at the door to the Stuttgart first team. Four goals and 10 assists in the 3. Liga got the 22-year-old a couple of sub shifts in the Bundesliga last season, and he notched a helper for the reserves this past week.
Now 21, Mario Rodriguez is in a similar situation to Green as a reserve striker for Borussia Monchengladbach II, only perhaps closer to getting the emergency call. He's produced at both right wing and his current No. 9 spot, including five goals and an assist from his last nine outings.