NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 05: United States forward Jordan Pefok 19 dribbles the ball during a CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Canada on September 5, 2021 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN. Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire SOCCER: SEP 05 USA v Canada Icon164210905344

Michael Parensen has been Oliver Ruhnert’s assistant for a year and the long-time professional has at least acquired the characteristic posture of the Berlin manager. At the beginning of this week, the 35-year-old stood casually leaning against a fence on the edge of the training ground at 1. FC Union and watched what was happening on the pitch with his mobile phone to his ear. A few days earlier, Ruhnert, who was always on the phone, had been seen in a similar pose at the short training camp in Bad Saarow. Summer time is transfer time – and Union is once again significantly faster than large parts of the competition. “It has always helped us in the past to have the boys in training early,” coach Urs Fischer said at the start a week and a half ago.

The Berliners had already made seven new signings by this time and in the past few days Ruhnert and his team have also eliminated the last major construction site in record time: the attack. On Saturday Union confirmed the departure of Taiwo Awoniyi to Nottingham Forest, on Wednesday the club announced the extension of Sheraldo Becker’s contract and on Thursday Jordan Pefok was signed by Young Boys Bern for a reported six million euros.

The 1.90 meter tall attacker comes to Köpenick with the recommendation of 22 goals this season as Switzerland’s top scorer and is to replace Awoniyi in the center of the attack. “I want to prove myself in the Bundesliga and I’m convinced that I’ve found the right club in Union. Your style of play suits me very well,” the 26-year-old is quoted as saying in a club statement. The American’s real name is Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu, but at his own request Pefok, his mother’s maiden name, was on his jersey in the national team and in the Young Boys. He also makes his wish clear on his Twitter account: “Call me Pefok” can be read there at the top. According to DFL regulations, however, only the name from the ID card or a registered stage name, such as Andreas “Zecke” Neuendorf, may appear on the shirt.

Pefok was born to Cameroonian parents in Washington, D.C. was born, but the family soon moved to France, where he was educated at Stade Reims. In 2018 he moved to Rennes and won the national cup there. In 2020, the French loaned him to Bern and after a strong first season – with three goals in the Europa League against Leverkusen – the Swiss signed him for 2.5 million euros. Last season he became the first American to be the top scorer in a European premier league.

Unlike Awoniyi, heading the ball is one of Pefok’s greatest strengths, scoring eight times this way last season alone. The US international is a real striker in the penalty area. It remains to be seen to what extent he can replace the Nigerian’s power and clever runs in counterattacking. Ruhnert is nevertheless certain that Pefok is a striker “who will suit us well with the way he plays football.”

On the one hand, this trust is based on the scouting of the Berliners, which in recent years has repeatedly identified relatively unknown players who have then developed excellently. On the other hand, on the adaptability of coach Fischer. In his four years in Berlin, the Swiss has constantly developed the team and adapted the style of play to the existing player base. Union often played up with Sebastian Andersson, the arrival of Max Kruse brought creative elements, after his departure the speed of Awoniyi and Becker became the new weapon of the Berlin attack. When Ruhnert says that Pefok “can act in different game systems”, that can definitely be read as an indication of possible changes in the statics of Union’s attack.

The extension of Becker’s contract is another crucial point, because in the last few months of the past season the 27-year-old made another big leap in development with his enormous speed. He scored five of his ten points in the last six matchdays and thus played a key role in Berlin’s strong final sprint, which culminated in qualifying for the Europa League.

With Becker and new signing Jamie Leweling, Union now have two attacking forces with strengths in one-on-ones, who can feed Pefok, who is strong in the air, with crosses from the wings or seek the finish themselves. This approach could give Union’s game a new quality, especially against low-lying opponents.

Fischer’s preferred 3-5-2 system could definitely have competition and Union could become even more variable. With Sven Michel, Andreas Voglsammer and Kevin Behrens, the Berliners finally have other options – for the necessary rotation in three competitions and all kinds of tactical considerations.