Hertha BSC came back from a goal behind on Saturday to beat Dortmund 2-1 at the Signal-Iduna Park, inflicting BVB's fourth defeat in six matches.
Marco Reus put the hosts ahead early on, but Adrian Ramos and Sami Allagui made it 2-1 to Hertha before halftime. And although Dortmund did everything they could to restore parity once more, they were foiled by a resolute Hertha defense.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a full analysis of talking points from Saturday's match.
Two seasons ago, the story of Dortmund's first round in the Bundesliga was very similar to that of 2013-14. In their first Champions League campaign under Juergen Klopp, BVB struggled to handle the pressure of competing on three fronts and ended the first half of the season with 34 points. This season, they enter the winter break having earned 32 points.
Despite a rather modest points tally in the first half of 2011-12, however, Dortmund were still alive and well in the Bundesliga: Second place and just three points behind leaders Bayern at the time of the winter break, they had a brilliant run in the second half of the season and claimed the league title for the second consecutive season.
In 2013-14, however, Dortmund will enter the winter break in third place (and potentially fourth, if Gladbach don't lose to Wolfsburg on Sunday), five points behind Leverkusen and a whopping 12 adrift of Bayern, who have a game in hand. Any hope of winning the title is long gone, and now second place is slipping away.
On Wednesday, Bild reported that Dortmund are considering making an offer for Adrian Ramos to bolster their attack ahead of next season. Saturday's match was therefore somewhat of an opportunity for the Colombia international to make his audition. And Ramos certainly made a good impression.
Although he failed to convert when played into a one-on-one situation with Roman Weidenfeller early on, the 27-year-old made no mistake on 23 minutes when he made a clever near-post run before redirecting Sami Allagui's cross into the net.
The goal increased Ramos' tally to 11 on the season, a joint-high in the Bundesliga—he's certainly earned some special consideration from Juergen Klopp as the BVB trainer considers possible additions next summer.
For over a month, Dortmund have played with any of a variety of makeshift back lines. On Saturday, it was winger-turned-right-back Kevin Grosskreutz, striker-turned-left-back Erik Durm, Sokratis and 18-year-old Marian Sarr who were named to Juergen Klopp's starting XI.
Dortmund were perhaps in some trouble but still ahead 1-0 until Durm made an amateur mistake, a sloppy touch, conceding possession and allowing Hertha to counter. The visitors scored seconds later with what was their first decent chance of the game.
Shortly before halftime, another rookie mistake saw the hosts go 2-1 behind. This time it was Sarr who inexplicably tried to dribble despite being the last man. He stumbled and conceded possession to Sami Allagui, who made no mistake in putting the visitors ahead.
There is something to be said for efficiency, but Dortmund made it all too easy for Hertha. Inexperience cost the hosts dearly.
Before Durm and Sarr had the chance to make their mistakes, Marius Gersbeck made a costly error for the visitors. The goalkeeper raced off his line to challenge Marco Reus, but the Dortmund attacker was first to the ball and fired in the opener.
Playing in his Bundesliga debut, Gersbeck was given a rude introduction to play at the top level; it took just seven minutes for the hosts to score. To his credit, the goalkeeper did manage to settle afterward. But he has some distance to go before he challenges Thomas Kraft for a starting role in Jos Luhukay's lineup.
A static coaching style is never, ever a good idea. Teams go through spells of good and bad form, their players experience highs and lows, and opponents eventually find a tactical solution to any problem they face.
Other than injuries, the problem that Dortmund have faced all season long is efficiency. BVB take an enormous number of shots and create countless chances, but their conversion rate is astoundingly low. They outshot Hertha 19-6 on Saturday but still lost. Two weeks ago they outshot Leverkusen 13-7 yet slumped to a 1-0 defeat.
Klopp has always emphasized the importance of creating scoring opportunities, assuming goals will follow. But after five defeats in the first round, it is abundantly clear that the time has come for his approach to change.
Until November, Dortmund had a chance to win the Bundesliga title. But having lost four and won just one of their final six games to end the first round, all hopes of providing any competition for Bayern Munich are gone. The 2013 Champions League finalists enter the winter break somewhat of a mess, but they can take solace in knowing that the worst is over.
In the second half of the season, BVB will have to take care to edge Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Hertha and Schalke in the Bundesliga, all of which are manageable tasks. They will have to bring their A-game in the Champions League and DFB-Pokal, but Klopp has built his team for one-offs, not longevity.
Mats Hummels, Lukasz Piszczek and Ilkay Gundogan will enter the second half of the season fresh and match-ready; the latter two will be like new signings. Erik Durm and Marian Sarr will have had some extra time with Klopp to learn, grow and adapt to playing at a high level.
Critically, the now weary Marco Reus and Nuri Sahin will have had time to rest, to regenerate and ready themselves for the second round. If they are used carefully as part of a rotation, there is reason to believe they will be more reliable and capable of maintaining their form for the entire spring campaign.
It's been a calamitous month-and-a-half for Dortmund, but the worst is over. Although utterly defeated in the Bundesliga, they are alive and well in two competitions and can expect to have a deeper, fresher and more mature team when their campaign resumes in January.