New arrival with the Red Stripe: Stefan Drljača

Due to the pro­mo­ti­on of the second team to the 3rd league, secu­ring a start­ing spot for Den­nis Sei­men, and the depar­tu­re of Flo­ri­an Schock, the posi­ti­on of third goal­kee­per beca­me available at VfB. Fabi­an Wohl­ge­muth fil­led it with Ste­fan Drl­jača from Dyna­mo Dres­den, who gathe­red third-league expe­ri­ence the­re and at Dort­mund II. We gathe­red insights from Sax­o­ny and the Ruhr regi­on.

Being a third goal­kee­per is a rather than­k­less posi­ti­on: a lot has to hap­pen for you to get play­ing time sin­ce the­re are two com­pe­ti­tors ahead of you in the pro­fes­sio­nal team and you’­re not plan­ned for the second team. Nevert­hel­ess, Ste­fan Drl­jača cho­se this path. Equip­ped with a con­tract until 2027, he is expec­ted to chall­enge Fabi­an Bred­low and streng­then the goal­kee­per team over­all. Born on April 20, 1999, in Hom­burg, Saar­land, Drl­jača is the son of for­mer Regio­nal- and Ober­li­ga play­er Nenad Drl­jača and star­ted his foot­ball jour­ney with the local for­mer Bun­des­li­ga club, whe­re his father also play­ed as a libe­ro. In his youth, he swit­ched to Saar­land rival Elvers­berg, whe­re he even play­ed in the Juni­or Bun­des­li­ga. He left Saar­land for Hof­fen­heim for the under 19, whe­re he won the league title and rea­ched the cup semi-finals, and in 2018 moved up to the Regio­nal­li­ga team.

Drljaca at Dortmund reserves. Matthias Kern/Getty Images)
Drl­jača at Dort­mund reser­ves. © Mat­thi­as Kern/Getty Images

Now you will read a lot of fami­li­ar names: At Hof­fen­heim II, he repla­ced Domi­nik Dra­band, who play­ed nine games for VfB II last sea­son, and encoun­te­red Alex­an­der Stolz, who was with VfB from 2005 to 2011, and Gre­gor Kobel. When Kobel trans­fer­red to VfB after a six-month loan to FC Augs­burg in 2019, Drl­jača estab­lished hims­elf as the first goal­kee­per of Hoffenheim’s reser­ve team befo­re the sea­son was hal­ted in March 2020. During the COVID-19 break, at 21, he moved to Borus­sia Dort­mund, whe­re he was to com­pe­te with Luca Unbe­haun for the goal­kee­per posi­ti­on of the then fourth-tier second team and sit on the bench as the fourth goal­kee­per for the pros. The duel with Unbe­haun pro­ved to be very balan­ced, with Drl­jača play­ing 14 sea­son games for the even­tu­al pro­mo­ted team and sit­ting on the bench for seve­ral Bun­des­li­ga and Cham­pi­ons League matches. Ori­gi­nal­ly, accor­ding to BVB youth expert Klaus Pablo Tor­gau, the plan was to put pres­su­re on Unbe­haun, but due to Unbehaun’s inju­ry sus­cep­ti­bi­li­ty, Drl­jača ulti­m­ate­ly repla­ced him and estab­lished hims­elf as the num­ber one, even though he had fewer appearan­ces in the second half due to bench duties with the pros. In a sea­son that BVB II finis­hed in 9th place, Drl­jača and Unbe­haun deli­ver­ed “a duel at a very good third-league level,” accor­ding to Klaus.

Strong after the world cup break

In 2022, he chan­ged clubs, but only mini­mal­ly chan­ged club colors, moving to Dyna­mo Dres­den, which had just been rele­ga­ted from the second league. Klaus explains that the move was­n’t sur­pri­sing sin­ce Drl­jača had no per­spec­ti­ve in the first team and, at 23, was­n’t neces­s­a­ri­ly plan­ned for the second team squad due to age regu­la­ti­ons. Klaus and the crea­tors of the Dyna­mo fan pod­cast also repor­ted that VfB had alre­a­dy shown inte­rest in him given Flo­ri­an Müller’s poor per­for­man­ces. At Dyna­mo, Drl­jača initi­al­ly had dif­fi­cul­ties. Alt­hough he pre­vai­led over Sven Mül­ler from Hal­le, he lost his start­ing spot short­ly befo­re the 2022 World Cup break. In the win­ter, Dyna­mo even brought back Kevin Broll from Zabrze, which moti­va­ted Drl­jača to recla­im his spot in the second half of the sea­son. Also, accor­ding to the pod­cas­ters, he phy­si­cal­ly impro­ved during the World Cup break. In the end, he play­ed 34 of 38 games and again pre­vai­led over Broll in the sum­mer of 2023. Alt­hough Dyna­mo missed out on pro­mo­ti­on to the second league with 6th and 4th places in the last two years, Drl­jača deve­lo­ped into a strong sup­port until a mus­cle bund­le tear side­lined him ear­ly this year: “The record year 2023 for Dres­den was also reflec­ted in his per­for­man­ces.”

Now he will take on a new role at VfB, with Klaus belie­ving he could poten­ti­al­ly dis­place Fabi Bred­low as num­ber 2. Howe­ver, at just 25, pri­ma­ri­ly sit­ting on the bench is rather unu­su­al, even though the 3rd league might be “too much to die and too litt­le to live” for someone with his qua­li­ties in the long run. In Dres­den, it’s belie­ved he can adapt to the new role. If he does get a chan­ce to play, we can expect, accor­ding to the experts, a goal­kee­per with strong refle­xes on the line. While the Dyna­mo pod­cast notes his weak­ne­s­ses with the ball at his feet but allows for deve­lo­p­ment, Klaus recalls dif­fer­ent­ly from his time in Dort­mund and sees more room for impro­ve­ment in the air and con­siders him a solid second-league goal­kee­per, as do the pod­cas­ters. They espe­ci­al­ly prai­se his resi­li­ence after set­backs. Drl­jača felt very com­for­ta­ble in Dres­den, spent a lot of time with the fans, and was emo­tio­nal­ly fare­wel­led accor­din­gly.

VfB made a good move with Drl­jača, nick­na­med “Dril­le,” given the clear situa­ti­on in goal. Appar­ent­ly, they have more con­fi­dence in him than in Flo Schock, though it remains to be seen if we’ll ever see him in goal. Inte­res­t­ingly, like Cha­b­ot, he used the World Cup break to make a sport­ing come­back. For team che­mis­try, it cer­tain­ly won’t hurt if he shares this expe­ri­ence.

Pic­tu­re: © Tho­mas F. Starke/Getty Images for DFB

Schreibe einen Kommentar