SINSHEIM, Germany — Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies watched from the bench Friday as Bayern Munich defeated TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3-1 to mark the Bundesliga's return to action after its traditional winter break.
Bayern teased Davies' possible participation with a pre-game tweet showing his No. 19 jersey hanging in a locker-room stall. The caption, accompanied by an excerpt of dramatic music, read "It's all getting very real for Phonzie."
But the six-time defending German champions elected to keep the Canadian on the sidelines, bringing on Serge Gnabry, James Rodríguez and Jerome Boateng instead as the second half wore on.
The 18-year-old Davies joined Bayern from the Vancouver Whitecaps in an MLS record-breaking US$22-million transfer deal that runs through 2023. The deal was done in July but Davies finished out the MLS season before joining Bayern this month.
The Bayern starting 11 featured six German internationals, two from Spain and one each from Austria, France and Poland. Davies was joined on the bench by internationals from Brazil, Colombia, Germany and Portugal.
Leon Goretzka scored twice and Robert Lewandowski added a late single for Bayern at PreZero Arena. Nico Schulz replied for Hoffenheim, which was far more threatening in a physical second half.
Bayern came close in the 28th minute on a goalmouth scramble off a corner but goalkeeper Oliver Baumann got a hand to the ball before defender Mats Hummels could hack it across the line. Soon after, Baumann dove to deny a Goretzka shot.
Bayern deservedly went ahead in the 34th minute. Baumann acrobatically stopped Lewandowski's header, off a fine cross from Kingsley Coman, but the rebound went straight to Goretzka who knocked it in with his left foot — with help from a slight deflection off a defender.
Bayern made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time on a rapid-fire counter-attack after a Hoffenheim corner. Three passes later, a sliding Goretzka got a foot to David Alaba's sweeping cross and beat Baumann.
The two sides traded early chances in the second half. A Bayern turnover in the 53rd minute forced Bayern 'keeper Manuel Neuer into action, making a kick save on Brazil's Joelinton.
Schulz put Hoffenheim on the board in the 59th minute, capping a counter-attack from a Bayern corner with a sweet left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty box.
Neuer made a highlight-reel save off a close-range header in the 84th minute as the offside flag went up. Lewandowski made it 3-1 in the 87th minute, knocking in a Thomas Mueller cross.
Bayern came into Matchday 18 in second place in the standings, five points behind Borussia Dortmund. Hoffenheim stood seventh.
Niko Kovac's team had won five straight Bundesliga matches and was unbeaten in six prior to the winter break. Friday's game came 27 days after Bayern ended the first half of the campaign with a 3-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Davies started last Sunday in Bayern's penalty shootout win over Borussia Moenchengladbach in the final of the Telekom Cup, a four-team competition held during the winter break.
Prior to that, he took part in Bayern's weeklong training camp in Doha.
Davies is seen as part of Bayern's youth movement. The starting 11 Friday had an average age of 27.4 and that was without the injured Dutch international Arjen Robben (who turns 35 on Jan. 23) and French international Franck Ribery (35).
Davies has made nine appearances for Canada with three goals and four assists. In December, he become the youngest winner of the Canadian Men's Soccer Player for the Year Award.
He follows in the footsteps of such fellow Canadian internationals as Paul Stalteri, Kevin McKenna, Rob Friend, Olivier Occean, Simeon Jackson, Marcel de Jong, Julian de Guzman and Daniel Imhof in seeing Bundesliga action.
Stalteri, in his debut for Werder Bremen on Aug. 12, 2000, became the first Canadian to score in the Bundesliga. McKenna and Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves, who played internationally for England, made their Bundesliga debuts the same day.
Stalteri went on to win the Bundesliga title and German Cup with Bremen in 2003-2004.
Davies finished his MLS campaign with eight goals and 11 assists. He was a commissioner's pick to the August all-star game in Atlanta, where he became the fourth-youngest player to appear in the game.
Davies was first in the league this season in dribbles completed (123, an MLS record) and third in dribbles attempted (224).
Born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the Liberian civil war, Davies ended up in Edmonton after his family immigrated to Canada. He joined the Whitecaps' residency program in 2015, working his way up the ranks to make his MLS debut in July 2016.
He was 15 at the time, becoming the second youngest player in league history — behind American Freddy Adu — and the first born in the 2000s.
Bayern returns to action on Jan. 27 against VfB Stuttgart.
The Canadian Press