And now the injury bug has bit Michael Allendorf as well. The left wing for Handball Bundesliga club MT Melsungen suffered a serious thigh injury on Tuesday evening during practice. Coach Michael Roth will thus need to cope with the loss of four players — three major contributors to last year's outstanding season —when his club takes the court for their first fixture of the season this Sunday against newly promoted HSC 2000 Coburg (5:15 pm, Rothenbach Hall at Kassel Exhibition Grounds).
"It's really not what we were hoping for", Michael Roth admitted. What matters is that the MT coach will need to plan his strategy against Coburg without keeper Johan Sjöstrand, pivot Marino Maric, right back Gabor Langhans (new from TuS N-Lübbecke) and now left wing Michael Allendorf. "The injury came while moving laterally playing defence. I could tell immediately that something was torn at the very least. A CAT scan by Dr Rauch fortunately showed that it was only a muscle tear. I hope to be back on the court in two to four weeks", the 29-year-old player said with some relief.
Daylight on the horizon for injured Sjöstrand and Maric
Despite hope to the contrary, Johan Sjöstrand will need a bit more time than originally estimated for his knee to heal. The keeper underwent a surgical procedure in mid-July by team physician Dr Gerd Rauch to remove chips from his knee and repair the meniscus. A year ago, Sjöstrand played a huge role in securing the team's sensational fourth place finish in the standings. He will be rejoining the team at practice soon, as will Marino Maric. The pivot, who also played a strong season a year ago, broke one of the bones in his foot in late May just two matchdays from the finish. He ended up missing his chance to play in the Olympics in his native Croatian kit. It will likely be one or two more weeks before the 113-kilo player can get back on the court at full speed. "At least that's a bit of a silver lining", Roth said of his convalescent star.
Langhans’s patellar tendon: An injury all thought already healed
The injury bug has also bit newly acquired Gabor Langhans. The lefty had undergone patellar tendon surgery back in March while still playing for the TuS N-Lübbecke. The issue seemed fully overcome by the time he signed with his new North Hesse club in July. All the more surprising when the tendon grew inflamed during the MT's training camp, forcing him out of the final season preparations. The initial thought was that rest would help. It proved ineffective, though, and the 27 year old will in the coming weeks undergo a special course of rehabilitation with Klaus Eder, the physiotherapist known for keeping the German National Football squad fit and ready.
"We knew about the loss of Sjöstrand, Maric and Langhans during training cup and have been able to prepare accordingly to compensate", Roth says. This included the quick signing of Svetsilav Verkic, last season between the pipes for ThSV Eisenach, as a backup to René Villadsen. "The idea was to relieve the different pressures on René and Johan. It gives one player confidence he'll have others at his side to shoulder the pressure of playing in goal, while the other can recuperate in peace", the MT coach explains.
Big challenges ahead for Michael Müller
The injury to Langhans leaves only one true backcourt lefty in the form of Michael Müller available for the right back position. Roth had prepared for this during practice giving Timm Schneider and Nenad Vuckovic some time at the spot to provide relief for the captain. Müller will also continue to receive support on defence. "Beyond that, he's going to have to roll up his shirtsleeves and scrap his way through the situation”, Roth said of his veteran player.
Two youngsters join the squad
An alternative is also in place for the pivot, should something unexpected happen. Felix Danner would be the first choice in such an event, but youngster Johannes Golla is also ready to go. "This is where we're really seeing the benefit of all that work we've put into our youth development work", Michael Roth noted happily. Golla, still technically a Juniors A player, has been training routinely with the Bundesliga side since last season and has been rewarded for his hard work with a bit of playing time. His impressive progress led the 18 year old to earn a spot on the Junior National team, and he made a major contribution to the U20 squad's silver medal in the Euros this summer.
Another 18-year-old Junior A player, Fin Backs, was also called up to the Bundesliga this weekend in light of Michael Allendorf's injury. "To see Michael Allendorf forced out by injury after six weeks of hard training, and so close to the season start to boot, is naturally quite bitter", Roth commented on the sudden loss of the left wing. "With that said", the MT coach continued, "in Jeffrey Boomhouwer we've got a player who has improved a great deal with us and who can definitely hold down the position. Michael Roth claims not yet to have decided how he will fill the shoes of the playmaker on defence against Coburg. There are easier ways to launch into a new season than losing four fine players to injury.
(Photo: Lena Kuhaupt)