With it looking unlikely that Austrian defender Philipp Lienhart will make it back in time for SC Freiburg's weekend encounter against FSV Mainz 05, SCF trainer Christian Streich let it be known that he felt as if he had a definite new alternative to bring into his defensive corps.
All of that notwithstanding, Streich said that he had rapidly shaken off the blues over the defeat. The long-time SCF gaffer called his club's latest European journey a "fun ride" and congratulated his team on the manner in which they stood toe-to-toe with the mighty Serie A giants. Congratulations were also in order for one player who made his professional debut in the most pressure-filled of circumstances.
A local Breisgauer lad by the name of Tan-Kenneth Jerico Leka-Schmidt was chosen - shockingly above Vincenzo Grifo - to come on at the half and help stabilize the shorthanded team. The 20-year-old FC Emmendingen academy veteran joined larger neighbors Freiburg in 2017 and been steadily working his way up the ranks since.
After a noteworthy campaign for the Freiburg U23s in the 3. Bundesliga, the SCF coaching staff decided that the player who has opted for the simpler "Kenneth Schmidt' moniker's time has come. Schmidt made Streich's last two league bench squads in rounds 23 and 24. On Thursday night, it was time for him to come onto the pitch.
"I knew he would come on and play well," Streich said of the central defender, "he wasn't under any pressure, but he performed really well."
Streich did note that, in a game that he didn't expect his team to win, Schmidt's moment "wasn't the most difficult one". According to Streich, the "real difficult moments" are yet to come. Freiburg face a tough test in the form of a very solid Mainz side on Sunday. Streich admitted that defender Philipp Lienhart might not make it back in time to start against the Rheinhessen. Streich stated that "it probably won't work".
Gulde still remains the most likely candidate to replace Lienhart in defense. Streich still left some room for doubt in his praise of the upcoming youngster. The Breisgau native could still be called upon off the bench once again. Streich said that he was "convinced" of the player's development.
Veteran German footballing journalist Daniela Frahm of Germany's Kicker magazine caught up with Schmidt's SCF II trainer Thomas Stamm to get his comments on Schmidt; a player he's relied heavily upon this season.
Stamm noted that Schmidt showed a great knack for influencing play on both sides of the ball. The youngster, in Stamm's words, augments disciplined positional play with "great solutions forward" when playing out of the back.
Was für eine Bühne für das Profi-Debüt! Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Kenneth Schmidt! 👏 pic.twitter.com/6AMBhJRE5c— SC Freiburg (@scfreiburg) March 17, 2023