WASHINGTON — An active summer of speculation and major signings for Bayern Munich took center stage as the squad played its first match as a somewhat changing team.
A match that seemed to mark a change for Bayern Munich — exiting the Robert Lewandowski era and entering another.
The sold-out crowd at the 20,000 seat Audi Field was overwhelmingly out for the Bavarians, with a number of spots in the supporters section taken up with Bayern jerseys and shirts. One could view that as a sign of the importance of this game to fans of Die Roten in the northeast United States — who haven’t had the chance to see them since a match against Juventus in Philadelphia in 2018. One could also view this as a referendum on the state of the home team, currently languishing in the bottom of MLS’s Eastern Conference. Bayern seemed to bring the weather from Europe with them — as both Munich and Washington were hit hard by a brutal heat wave.
This was not a typical lineup — as is typical for a preseason friendly. The regular starters present were restricted to Manuel Neuer, Dayot Upamecano, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané, and Alphonse Davies. Two debutants also began their careers starting — right back Noussair Mazraoui and attacker Sadio Mané, with the latter generating cheers throughout the stands.
The latter began his Bayern career strong with a penalty kick in the 5th minute, After academy player Lucas Copado was shoved to ground on a through ball, the referee pointed to the spot. Mané smashed it home, deflecting off DC keeper Jon Kempin before finding the roof of the net.
When it comes to this squad in a bit of a transition in attack, coach Julian Nagelsmann seemed to spend this match as one of some experimentation. The formation seemed to flow, taking on different shapes, but keeping some players in anchor roles — like Marcel Sabitzer to act as a pivot. That’s not to say Sabitzer was out of the attack — his strike from about 19 yards out in the 12th minute made things 2-0.
A full squad rotation in the second half brought the debuts of midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and defender Matthijs de Ligt. The latter managed to score on his first day as well, turning the ball in just two minutes into the second 45th minute. Joshua Zirkzee made it a 5-0 game just a few minutes later.
The game did not stay clean for Bayern, however. Substitute keeper Sven Ulreich couldn’t get a hold of the ball after a weird deflection off the bar looped over a Bayern defender. Skage Simonsen Lehland turned it in to give the hosts something to cheer for — and cheer they did. The crowd erupted, both those wearing Bayern shirts and those wearing all black. The same happened in the 83rd minute when another youngster, Theodore Ku-DiPetro found netting.
But make no mistake: this was a truly dominant performance from a Bayern team that held a majority of possession. The players brought on were able to toy with a vastly inferior DC team, to put their skill on display. Nagelsmann seemed to signal to the world that Bayern was ready for a more direct form of attack.
As the crowd began to file out of the stadium and into the still hot night, the fans got what they came for. A match where the bright stars and new signings were able to spend 90 minutes showing off and showing out. Bayern can now get a tougher test when they travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin to take on Manchester City.