Player Spotlight

After Cologne first team breakthrough, Downs pushing for Olympic spot

Born in Germany, Damion Downs spent most of his childhood years in Texas playing American football. But when he moved back to Germany, he began to blossom as a soccer player - making it to the Bundesliga with Cologne. ASN's Brian Sciaretta spoke with the Olympic hopeful.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 11, 2024
12:05 PM

THE 2023/24 BUNDESLIGA season was a wild ride for Damion Downs. The young forward was promoted to FC Cologne’s first team during the preseason where he made his professional debut. For the remainder of the season, he battled injuries but returned to score two game winning goals for Cologne in its unsuccessful campaign to avoid relegation.

Despite being sent to the 2.Bundesliga, Downs is optimistic for his future. His emergence in the Bundesliga has seen him get a late change to make the U.S. Olympic team camp. He is currently in Kansas City ahead of the team’s friendly against Japan which will conclude the final camp before the Paris games.

Downs, 19, arrived in Kansas City for his first U-23 camp and his second camp ever with a U.S. youth national team. This was his first time getting to know most of the players on the team and now he is pushing for a roster spot in Paris.

“It was my first time meeting most of them,” Downs said. “I know a few of them because some are playing in Germany like Kevin Paredes and Paxten Aaronson. It has been good getting to know everybody and making new friends, making new connections. I'm enjoying it, of course. We can go far in the Olympics. And, the quality is very, very high, in my opinion. I'll just work hard and see what we can do.”

The past season at Cologne, Downs had some impressive highlights following his Bundesliga debut in September.  His first goal came on March 9 when he scored a 79th minute equalizing goal in a 3-3 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach. In the second to last game of the season on May 11, Downs scored his second first team goal - a game winner in a 2-1 victory over Union Berlin.

Unfortunately, a concussion saw him miss a long stretch in the middle of the season and he finished with just 10 substitute appearances for Koln’s first team totaling 171 minutes. He also made 19 appearances for the second team in the Regionalliga where he scored seven goals in 1439 minutes.

“It was my first time playing with the first team, my first year,” Downs said of his first Bundesliga season. “And I felt like the first half year was just pretty much me getting used to playing against men and then on a regular basis. In the second half of the season, I just got into the flow a little bit more. Got used to it and now I know what I can do, and I can affect the game. It worked out a few times. But sadly, we didn't get to stay in the Bundesliga.”


Now Downs will turn his attention to helping Cologne’s promotional effort in the coming 2.Bundesliga season.

“I'm not trying to see it as pressure,” Downs said of the coming 2.Bundesliga season with Koln. “I am more trying to have fun with the game, have fun playing football. And obviously we want to get back to the Bundesliga as fast as possible. And I think we can do it and we'll see next year.”

Before then, he will hope to take part in the Olympics in France. Head coach Marko Mitrovic has been wanting to bring Downs into the fold after having spent extensive time scouting him with Cologne’s first team, second team, and U-19 team.

“When I was the U.S. U-19 head coach, I went to watch Damion play,” Mitrovic said at the start of camp. “He was then in our camp in April 2022 with the U-20s. Since then, I went to watch him a few more times in Germany. He was invited several times but the problem with Damion is that he was injured. It was very unfortunate to happen right before our camp. I was there again a month ago and I watched him in person. We are happy to have Damion with us to see and learn from him.”

Downs says that he has been in regular contact with Mitrovic and that it has helped with his integration into the team, so far.

“He's been to a few of my youth games,” Downs said of Mitrovic. “That's when I also been able to talk to him. And a few games as well when I played in the Bundesliga. But me speaking to him in this camp and also before in Cologne- he gave me a good feeling and I'm just really looking forward to play for him.”

Downs was born in Germany to an American father and a German mother. But unlike many of the German-Americans who have played for the U.S. teams, Downs spent most of his early childhood years in the United States.

When he was one year old, he and his family moved to Texas. It was there where Downs concentrated on American football and spoke English as his first language – which he still speaks without much of a German accent.

When he was nine years hold, however, his parents separated, and he moved back to Germany. It was only then when he began speaking German regularly and it was at this relatively later age that he began to play soccer.

“I was born in Germany and then right after that, one year later, my parents, my half-brother, and I moved to the states,” Downs said. “We lived in Texas, and I have a lot of memories. All good memories. It was fun living in the states… When I was in the states, I was playing American football. I didn't have much of a connection to soccer.”

“Then we moved back in 2011 to Germany,” he added. “My parents divorced. I'd been speaking English first. And then when I was like eight, nine, ten, that's when I started to learn German… I started soccer at like eight or nine when I moved to Germany because where I was living, there were no real American football clubs. It was pretty much a small town, small village - and obviously in Germany, there are a lot more kids playing soccer.  I just had to choose a new sport.”

But through the transition, he was always connected to the United and he now hopes to be able to represent the U.S. team in the big spotlight of the Olympics and that it hopes to continue to open doors for him internationally.

“When I moved to Germany, it was pretty much my whole German family,” Downs said. “We were mostly watching the German national team. But I always kept an eye on the American national team and how they were playing.”

“I’ve been enjoying this camp and being in a new experience playing football in the United States,” he continued. “Obviously, I've been in contact, so I knew there was a chance for me. And I'm just doing my best to maybe play in the Olympics.”

Post a comment