BERLIN – Football is a momentum game. If it’s on your side, you feel more confident, your first touches are rarely bad, the shots hit the inside of the post and everything seems to be working perfectly.
Union Berlin leads the German Bundesliga ahead of Bayern Munich, and Union Berlin is the team with the momentum, and Jordan Pivok is right in the middle. The US international has his second crack at making it to one of Europe’s biggest leagues, and the momentum is on his side.
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After his summer move from Young Boys in Switzerland to Al Ittihad, the striker scored three goals and made four more in 11 league matches. Jordan was signed to fill in the boots of Taiwo Aouni, who opted to sign with Nottingham Forest.
“Taiwo Aouni was here before he scored a lot of goals,” Jordan told ESPN. “[It was] A lot of pressure, because when I moved to Switzerland I was making up for Guillaume Hoarau, who was a really important person in Switzerland. But I am a calm and relaxed person. I don’t want to be compared to Taiwo or Clouds. I just score goals and have fun with my teammates. Everything went well in Switzerland, and I want the same thing to happen here in Berlin.”
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However, not everything went well in his career. In fact, Jordan had to navigate some deep valleys to get to where it is today.
Transferring $6.6 million to Union last summer wasn’t the first $1 million step in his career. In 2018, he signed with Stade Rennais in Ligue 1, coming from his youth club Stade de Reims with a promise to help Rennais establish themselves within the French first division group, where they had just had the best campaign in recent memory. It didn’t work. After 17 goals in 35 matches in the second division, Jordan struggled to get off the ground.
“It’s true that when I left Reims to join Rennes, it was a big step, financially too,” he says. “I had some injuries, and I couldn’t put a good series of matches together. That is the most important thing for a footballer, being on the pitch and running together. When I arrived in Rennes, there were players like Hatim Ben Arfa and Mbaye Niang, so When I wasn’t playing, they got a chance, they’re good players, and they played really well. It was tough.”
Jordan missed almost the entire second half of the 2018-2019 season with a thigh injury while the team went on to win the club’s third title in the Coupe de France, beating Paris Saint-Germain in the final. Rain still believes in their $10 million investment and giving Jordan another chance. Until December 2019, he was usually off the bench in the final periods of matches, but he was not able to score any goals. He finished his second season with just one goal to his name, which came in a 3-0 cup win over fourth-tier team ASM Belfort.
“I can say during my time at Rennes, I started to learn about my body better and resolved some issues,” Jordan says. “I had sorted out most things by the time I moved to Switzerland.”
Rin’s departure was inevitable, and Young Boys were willing to take him on loan for a year. It was a fresh start in a smaller league in a country where a part of the population speaks its language.
Thankful to the United States
While Jordan chose to represent the US national team, it is remarkable that he does not speak English. Born in Washington, D.C. to Cameroonian parents, the family moved to northeastern France when Jordan was a child. He never had to learn to speak English, although he understands the language well. When Jordan is asked a question in English, he shakes his head and responds smoothly in French. This must have happened to some funny moments during his travels with the US team.
“There’s Tim Weah who speaks French,” he says. “There are also other players trying it [laughs] To speak a little French, as well as the technical staff, which is funny to me because it helps me relax.”
When asked about his decision to play for the United States at the expense of France or Cameroon, Jordan gave a plausible reason. “If we’re only talking in terms of football, when I started playing, the United States was the first to call me to have a conversation about your choice,” he explains. “Although I had a hard time at Rennes when I wasn’t playing as much, they always talked to me.”
He made two appearances for France’s under-21 team in 2017, including a match against Cameroon. A year later, the US Soccer Federation contacted Jordan about the possibility of committing to their national team instead of France. Saying yes would have meant Jordan had been called up for a summer friendly match against France, although he declined, citing his just-completed move from Reims to Rennes. He left the door open, and communication between him and the Federation over the next few years led to his final selection.
“When I was called up to play for the national team, it was easy for me [to say yes] Because they were always there.”
The commitment to the US might also make sense from an athletic perspective, because Jordan looks like the kind of talent the US will need at tournaments like the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. However, he was not called up to participate in the latest international break.
“I told myself not to worry, it’s not the end and it’s not the final list [for the World Cup], “Says.” If I could represent the nation at the World Cup, I would be so thankful to them for everything they did, because when I was struggling, they were there to keep my head up. “
Jordan is no longer struggling. Returning to the Swiss league helped him regain confidence.
At Young Boys, a team based in Berne, Switzerland, he quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his physical style and scoring skills. He scored 15 goals in 43 games – one every 116 minutes – in his first year, enough to encourage the Young Boys to pay a $2.75 million transfer fee and make Jordan’s move permanent. In his second year, he completely exploded, with 27 goals and five assists in 45 games that made scouts from Europe’s biggest leagues take notice once again. Doubts remain over whether he can live up to expectations, although Union Berlin has not thought twice, securing Jordan’s signature before bigger clubs can move on.
“When Union Berlin first called me, everything went well,” Jordan recalls. “The great thing about it is that everything happened so quickly. I got there early and was able to train with my new team as soon as possible.”
Al-Ittihad coach Urs Fischer is Swiss and remains strongly associated with the football scene in his homeland. He’s heard good things about the upcoming striker, taking care to welcome him warmly. “[The relationship] With the coach he has developed rapidly as well,” Jordan says. The only thing he told me to do was work with the team. He told me he knows I can score goals, but I have to work with the team, that’s the main thing for him. Just work hard for the team and the rest will follow.”
Taylor Twillman explains what Jordan Pefok would bring to the USMNT if he were selected for the World Cup.
The Federation’s formula for success relies on a strong defense. “We defend our target before we attack their target,” Jordan said. In particular, FC Berlin’s sophisticated pressing scheme, which usually pushes opponents towards the sideline where ball carriers are more easily isolated, can prove fatal to possession-dependent teams. Union did an excellent job of neutralizing Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund when both forces played at Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.
You have no luck in how Union has set up its press, nor in its ability to take advantage of some of the weaknesses that their opponents have shown. This is why Union goalkeepers Frederic Renaud and Lennart Grill have a combined save rate of 82.6% – the highest of any goalkeeper unit in the league. The union may allow shots, but they are usually from unfavorable positions or with enough pressure on the shooter.
Once the Federation has its own grip, everything must go as fast as possible, which is when Jordan and his attacking partner Shiraldo Becker shine. The two are placed up front in Fisher’s 3-5-2 system, where Baker provides speed, often drifting toward the flanks to run along the edge of the backlines, and Jordan works his body against the defenders in the middle.
“I play in the penalty area, and I try to read the situation when the ball hits the penalty area,” Jordan says. “Like good players, I’m physical and I like to team up with fellow strikers like Chiraldo, which goes well because he’s simple. He’s a good technical player and he keeps it simple, so it’s very easy to understand.”
Call me Bivok
While the simplicity of Fischer’s offensive system and the fact that the Etihad don’t usually spend much time on the ball helped Jordan settle in, it was still surprising how quickly he and Becker did in the early stages of the season.
“It’s true that contact with Chiraldo came quickly,” Jordan says. “It was fast because in the first training sessions, maybe on day one, we started putting in what the coach told us. Right from the start, he told me about his playing style and what he likes to do. Away from the pitch, we also get along, which helps, and the results are getting there. Game by game, they come in goals and help each other.”
Becker and Oneni formed a powerful duo during the second part of last season following the departure of playmaker Max Kroes, although Jordan’s impressive start in Berlin allowed fans to forget about Awni fairly quickly. True, there were matches in which Jordan was not effective, but the harmony at the front and Jordan’s presence inside the penalty area were important elements in the success of Al Ittihad. His numbers in terms of goals and assists are not out of this world impressive, but they are good enough for now.
“For me, I don’t think we’re 100 percent yet there are some small things we need to fix, but when we really communicate 100 percent we can do big things together,” Jordan says.
The only reason he has raised his eyebrows since his arrival in the Bundesliga is related to his name. While his birth name is Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu, he has worn “Pefok,” his mother’s maiden name, on the back of his men’s and American national team jerseys. While most people in Germany refer to him as “Jordan Sebachu,” His Twitter account It reads “Call me PEFOK”. For most people inside the Etihad Stadium, it is simply ‘Jordan’.
As for his aspirations in the coming weeks, he hopes USMNT coach Greg Berhalter will write his name on the squad for the World Cup. And then?
“Just to continue enjoying myself, I hope there will be a pleasant surprise by the end of the season [at Union Berlin]. “
Aramid Oladipo contributed to this article.