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Hope for Hoffenheim under new coach

Apr 5, 2013, 6:18 PM EDT

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-HOFFENHEIM-MUNICH Getty Images

Hoffenheim’s new coach enjoyed a winning start as his team beat Fortuna Duesseldorf 3-0 today to keep alive their faint hopes of avoiding relegation.

The German club booted coach Marco Kurz and general manager Andreas Mueller on Tuesday and brought in Markus Gisdol, a 43-year-old who used to coach their reserves.

Kurz replaced former Germany, Liverpool and Bayern Munich defender Markus Babbel at the helm in January but lasted only ten matches, collecting just two wins and two draws. When he left, Hoffenheim were nine points adrift of safety. Thanks to this afternoon’s victory, they’ve cut the gap to six as Duesseldorf sit fifteenth, one place outside the drop/relegation play-off zone. But Hoffenheim have only six matches left.

Left back Fabian Johnson started for Hoffenheim but his fellow U.S international, midfielder Daniel Williams, was left out of the line-up.

Relegation after five seasons in Germany’s top tier would close the chapter on a remarkable rise that’s both romantic and routine.

The club from near scenic Heidelberg in south-west Germany were minnows playing fifth-level soccer as recently as 1999-2000, and everybody loves to see an underdog thrive. But how much of an against-the-odds tale is it? After all, much like Wigan Athletic in England, the club has been bankrolled and cultivated to a size far beyond its natural limits by a generous benefactor. In Hoffenheim’s case, that’s Dietmar Hopp, one of the founders of software giants SAP.

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