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On Stranger Tides: Previewing Bayern Munich's USA Tour

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Even with a showcase atmosphere around the club, there still are preseason goals that Bayern has to achieve

Oliver Hardt

Bayern Munich have played countless matches of Fußball, but finally the world gets to see them play soccer. Germany's most successful club will be blessing the shores of the land of the free and the home of the brave for the fourth time in their history.

Pep Guardiola will get to return to the site of his hiatus, this time as a domestic double champion manager. Even though Bayern's squad will lack their German core, there is plenty of world class ready to roam the American pitches.

Their matches will be showcases in the states, but they are still part of preparations for another title defense campaign. Here is a preview of their jam-packed excursion to the United States.

Top Storylines

Julian Green's Pilgrimage to the United States

A teenager will undoubtedly be welcomed like a messiah, his followers hoping he leads American soccer to the promise land. High profile teams have already come to the United States hoping to woo a growing football contingent to support their clubs, and yet with all the glitz and glamor, no player will have more preseason pressure on him than Green.

The pressure will not only come from the outside; he has stood against going out on loan in order to fight for his spot with Bayern. With 15 goals and 8 assists in 23 appearance with the reserves last season, the onus is now on him to convert that production to the senior side. Pep Guardiola will give him several chances to play, both up top and and on the flanks, and in the two matches in his "home" country, everyone will be watching and evaluating every touch of the ball he makes.

Twists and turns in Bayern's Formation

The preseason has extended a project which started in the Winterpause of last season: utilizing three center backs to free up space in the midfield. Holger Badstuber and Javi Martínez have returned to full training, but Guardiola has deployed David Alaba back to support the defense, along with occasional cameos from Rafinha and Diego Contento. It is a formation that has given Franck Ribery freedom, Sebastian Rode space, and Robert Lewandowski support behind him.

Even though Guardiola has used three center backs to win the Telekom Cup, the longterm prospects of the tactics change is unclear. Jérôme Boateng and Dante are on vacation after deep World Cup campaigns, and until they return, the ultimate setup will remain in pencil rather than pen.

Robert Lewandowski's Ascendance to Elite-hood

In his time at Borussia Dortmund, he ascended from being a proud prospect of the Polish League to one of the most imposing strikers in the world. His preseason with Bayern has pealed yet another layer of him though, unearthing the potential to possibly be not just the best in Germany, but the best in the world.

Since 2005, only Fullham's Jeff Cunningham and Manchester United Frederico Macheda have scored multiple times in the MLS All-Star Game, but the form that Lewandowski is in could add him to that list. With improved quality continuing to grow around him with every return, Lewandowski could put on a display that Americans have never seen in their own back yard.

Bayern Munich's Roster

First Teamers (14): David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Juan Bernat, Diego Contento, Julian Green, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Robert Lewandowski, Javi Martínez, Claudio Pizarro, Rafinha, Franck Ribery, Sebastian Rode, Xherdan Shaqiri, Tom Starke

Second Teamers (6): Angelos Oikonomou, Ylli Sallahi, Tobias Schweinsteiger, Alexander Sieghart, Phillipp Steinhart, Leopold Zingerle

Youth Teamers (3): Giancula Gaudino, Lukas Scholl, Philipp Walter

The world cup winners and semifinalists – Jerome Boateng, Dante, Mario Götze, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger – will not be available for either match, but will be required to show up in Portland, Oregon on August 8th.

Thiago Alcantara and Mitchell Weiser have remained in Munich to continue the progression of their injuries.

What to Watch For

  1. Xherdan Shaqiri's position: For his entire career, Shaqiri has played in a four-back system, playing mostly on the flank with a fullback in support. The shift in system has opened a wider range of roles for him to play, and where he plays will portray the type of player he is. Positioning Shaqiri as a wingback would reveal that Guardiola trusts him as a wingback option, whereas putting him next to Lewandowski up front would confirm the attack-only reputation that the 22-year-old has built in recent season for club and country.
  2. Javi Martínez's and David Alaba's performance: To an extent, a permanent change in system would hinge on the adjustments Martínez and Alaba make more than anyone else. The US Tour will provide a bigger sample size of what those two can offer as center backs. The two will have to help in possession with a less packed midfield, and both Chivas and the MLS All-Stars will test them in defense.
  3. Franck Ribéry's form: His physical limitations through the Rückrunde was unfortunate, but his exclusion from France's World Cup squad was troublesome. Progressing from his back injury, Ribéry embodied a bit of his old ways in the Telekom Cup, roaming both flanks and dribbling around defenders like they were cardboard cutouts. He may have one more elite season left in him, and positive results from the other side of the pond could be what he needs to start the season off right.

Bayern's USA Match Schedule

July 31, 2014 vs. Chivas Guadalajara (Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ) – 8:00 EDT
Television and Streaming

August 6, 2014 vs. MLS All-Stars (Providence Park, Portland, OR) – 6:55 PDT
Television and Streaming