This past season in Bundesliga 3 with Aspach, Germany side SG Sonnenhof Großaspach, DMV Local Joe Gyau was able to string together a successful season during which he was able to stay fit and contribute to the first team on a regular basis. Staying injury free and being a first-team regular for an entire season in Bundesliga 3 might not sound like a big deal for the majority of US Soccer supporters, but for Joe Gyau it’s different.
Being forced to sit out for nearly 2 seasons after he tore his ACL during his time with Borussia Dortmund back in December 2014, Joe has relied on the work ethic and mentorship that his father, Howard University Men’s Soccer Coach Phillip Gyau, instilled in Joe at a very young age. Through his hard work and relentless dedication to succeed, Joe was able to recover from his knee injury and shine this season in Bundesliga 3, scoring 5 goals and adding four assists but, more importantly….finishing the 2017-18 season as Sonnenhof Großaspach’s 6th leading man as it relates to match minutes (2,548 minutes in 30 matches).
One thing that is obvious to anyone who has seen his match highlights throughout the season on Twitter (or you can follow Joe on Instagram at @JoeGyau36) is that the past has not seemed to slow Joe down one bit. Earning the reputation of a speedster during his time with Hoffenheim and St Pauli, Joe could be seen regularly this season blowing by people with the ball, going at defenders with pace, and looking to put the opposition on their heels anytime he found the ball in open space.
But he wasn’t just a speedy winger who his manager hoped would become a 1v1 nightmare if he found space on the wing. This past season Joe’s game seemed to mature, regularly finding himself making runs in central positions and earning a reputation as a versatile player who can play in a number of positions, in addition to a counter-attack nightmare who can pick out his teammates with either foot. Taken from Liga-Zwei.de who covers Bundesliga 2 news and transfers:
“The 25-year-old American, who came from his home country in 2010 to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim but failed to make his breakthrough at FC St. Pauli and Borussia Dortmund, drew attention in the current season. In 29 league games the two-footed offensive man reached five goals and four assists. Gyau, who can also play central as a second striker, would be a versatile alternative for the offense…”
Today, it was announced that Joe has signed with Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg.
I ran into an excited and proud Phillip Gyau earlier this year at the United Soccer Coaches’ Convention in Philadelphia, who told me a deal was done and his son would be on the move but wouldn’t give me the name of the club. Judging by his excitement, I thought it may have been Dortmund who were interested in coming back for Joe, but when I found out Joe was signing for Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg I instantly understood Coach Gyau’s excitement. He knew that the best thing for his son’s development was to go to a club where he will play and continue to earn match minutes, taking it one game (and Bundesliga Division) at a time.
Joe was nice enough to answer XI questions about this past season, his transfer to MSV Duisburg, his US Men’s National Team ambitions, his sister Mia (who herself is quite a player at Duke), and more.
1. 2017-18 Season: Staying Healthy
Q: Joe in 2017 you were able to put together a season where you played the 6th most minutes at Sonnenhof Großaspach. You were able to stay healthy, and get a ton of matches in. At the end of the season, how does it feel in terms of being in match shape, and staying healthy throughout the season? Must be a good feeling?
Joe: “It’s definitely a great feeling. After sitting on the sidelines for so long, I’m happy to be out there playing and doing what I love and performing at a high level. It feels good to be back in shape as well. And then staying healthy on top of all the work, it feels even better be to be able to rely on my body. I feel stronger than before from all the work I put in!”
2. Transfer to MSV Duisburg
Q: You’ve completed a transfer to MSV Duisburg in Bundesliga 2. I believe this is a move that has been in the works as early as this past winter. How did the move come together?
Joe: “Yes, I’ve just completed a move with Duisburg and I’m very excited about it! I’ve been in contact with the club since around February. I had played against them last season when the club was still in Bundesliga 3 and eventually earned promotion. The club monitored me and initially expressed some interest, but then after this season the interest had intensified and I decided to sign.”
3. Atmosphere in Bundesliga 2 and BundesLiga 3
Q: Describe to all of us who aren’t able to see the matches on television… the atmosphere at your matches with Sonnenhof Großaspach this past season, and next season at Duisburg how do you expect the atmosphere to change?
Joe: “The atmosphere in the 3rd league in Germany is great. It’s comparable to some first leagues in other countries, depending on where you play. Playing against Magdeburg FC (pictured above) you will be playing in front of about 20,000 fans.
The overall atmosphere in Bundesliga 3 is definitely great, but next season in Bundesliga 2 it will be a step up just because of the teams that will be in the 2nd league next year.
HSV (Hamburger SV) will be there.
FC Köln will be there.
Both of those stadiums hold 50,000 supporters, so next season should be a lot of fun.”
Q: Your club wasn’t in a relegation battle, but I know you’re buddies with Bobby Wood who was in a fight to survive with HSV this season and I’m sure you’ve seen first-hand instances of important relegation battles in the past. Can you describe to US Soccer fans what relegation/promotion means over there, and how it adds to the quality of soccer on the pitch?
Joe: “Definitely. Being in Germany for a while, you see the passion that comes with relegation battles all the time. The pressures become a part of the game, but that’s what brings the best out in the players. Everyone wants to stay in the league, everyone is fighting to secure a spot, and that brings the competitive nature out. I talk to Bobby daily, and during the relegation battle the team and players were in the newspapers on a regular basis. The pressure is all around you, but the best professional players are able to shut it all out and perform on the pitch. It’s obviously unfortunate that my boy’s team went down, because the last few games is when they started to really come together. But relegation and promotion brings out the best in teams and players, in my opinion.”
5. German Soccer
Q: So what is it about Germany that keeps you around? Is there anything in particular about German soccer that makes it more appealing to you?
Joe: “The soccer knowledge in this country is next level. You can really come to this place and learn about the game and learn more about tactics. And I feel like once you are able to make it out here and establish yourself in the Bundesliga, you can play anywhere. I’ve stayed out here because I feel like I have unfinished business. I didn’t come out to Germany just to play a season or two and come back home, I want to accomplish my goals first. I caught a sniff of playing in the Bundesliga when I made my debut at Dortmund, and also while playing for Hoffenheim, but unfortunately I picked up the injury. I want to keep working, play week in week out and establish myself before leaving Germany.”
6. Scouting in Germany
Q: Scouting is a popular topic in the US right now. Your dad is a coach, so I’m sure you pay close attention to the coaching setups at German clubs. Do you have anything to chime in on in regards to the scouting setup in Germany, since your new club Duisburg likely scouted you before signing?
Joe: “Scouting in Germany is REALLY big, and the clubs and coaches are very particular with methods and how they scout players. They look at practically everything when they scout a player- age, productivity, and stats. They look at work rate and they identify and monitor your tendencies. They even ask around to your coaches and old teammates about how you are personality-wise, because they don’t want bad locker room energy. Scouts are literally everywhere in Germany, at every level. They come to 4th league games, 3rd league games, and 2nd league games on a regular basis. You never know who’s watching, so it’s important to always be on your game.”
7. Overcoming Adversity: It Runs In The Family
Q:You sister Mia has had an outstanding career at Duke thus far, but unfortunately suffered a knee injury this past year. You guys are close, so I’m sure you can share things with her about what it was like during your rehab process that motivate her. But in terms of being a big brother, how much of what you do…your mental prep for a match, your motivation…is based on you setting an example for little sister doing her own thing?
Joe: “Yeah my little sister is a beast, I can’t believe it. She had a minor setback with her ACL and when it happened, I told her how difficult the rehab process would be but also made sure she knew it wasn’t the end by any means. With the way that medical technology has evolved, ACL injuries are not as serious as they once were. The key with an injury is to always remain hungry and to endure, because the time will eventually pass. Sometimes it’s hard to keep that mindset when you’re in the rehab process, but once you are out of the rut and back to playing, you can look back at it as a short blip in a long career. She’s back now doing her thing, so she passed the test of time.
I want my little sister to be able to look up to me and see that her big brother set out on his journey and made it. Me and my sister are really close… like REALLY close… so everything I do, I know she is watching me. And I just want to make sure she is proud of me. But when I play, my main motivation is to repay my parents for all they invested in me, to be honest.”
8. Hindsight is Always 20/20
Q:Injuries aside…obviously you can’t change those…but is there anything that 25 year-old Joe Gyau would go back and tell 20 year -old Joe Gyau, in terms of how to be a professional soccer player in another country?
Joe: “25 year-old Joe would just tell 20 year-old Joe to be more patient. Young players always want to jump through the ranks really quickly and climb the ladder, but sometimes it’s best to stay where you’re at and just develop as a player. Develop and gather as much knowledge of the game as you can. Patience is key, and being that young you have time on your side. There were often times when I wanted to move up the ranks too quickly, not realizing that the situation I was in was an ideal one. Once you’ve established yourself with a club, you can set out and make moves and demand the big bucks. But stay patient and grind, young Joe! Lol.
One other piece of advice for all young players is to adjust to the culture of the country you’re in as quickly as possible, because that shows your coaches that you are willing and eager to learn. They respect that, especially in a country like Germany where they are very prideful in the players they coach and support.”
9. Long-Term Goals, Future with US Men’s National Team
Q:What are your personal goals over the next 4-5 years, in terms of possibly working yourself back into the USMNT mix/setup? Is that on your radar?
Joe: “Over the next 4-5 years I’m just trying to keep leveling up. I know a lot of people were skeptical about me moving down and playing in the 3rd league. They said I would get stuck there and get lost in the division. But they don’t know my focus and the belief I have in myself. I was able to establish myself and earn a transfer to Bundesliga 2 within one season. And moving forward, I’m going to keep improving my game. I just want to focus on my play, and the rewards will come. If your eyes are set on something else, you will lose focus along the way, so I just keep my eye on the ball. Obviously I want to get back in the National Team mix, but that’s not what I think about on a daily basis. I’m just trying to be the best player on my team every day, and the best player on the field every weekend.”
10. Are You Happy to be home in the DMV this summer?
Joe: “I’m so happy to be home this offseason. Right now I’m at Duke visiting Mia, and experiencing the college life a little bit since I never went, haha. It’s always nice to unwind out here for sure. I’m excited about continuing my training this summer in the DMV, and looking forward to what the future holds.”
11. And lastly, who’s your World Cup pick??
Joe: “Hmmm…..I’m going to have to go with Germany, or maybe Spain. I would like to see Brazil and France do well, because I love the style of play and the players they have, but I don’t know how they will perform. It’s definitely going to be exciting summer!!”
Thanks to Joe Gyau for agreeing to be interviewed. I think I speak for everyone in the DMV when I say we will be rooting for you next season in Bundesliga 2 with MSV Duisburg. Keep grinding and putting in the work, getting matches in and hopefully your hard work will continue to pay off!