DAVID SMITH - Thursday, June 9, 2011
Jeremy Vuolo and AC Oulu look to continue their climb to the top of the Ykönnen while Etchu Tabe and RoPS will try to gain three points at home against KuPS.
IFK Mariehamn - FF Jaro Pietarsaari
Mason Trafford should get the start in Mariehamn's defense on Friday when they host FF Jaro.
Josh Wicks was left on the bench as backup keeper for their previous game, while Giuseppe Funicello will be looking for substitute minutes.
Mariehamn entered the international break on a slightly sour note, first getting thoroughly beaten by KuPS in the semifinal of the Finnish Cup then falling victim to an early goal as they were shut-out three days later by VPS.
They will hope to rebound against a Jaro team that has been inconsistent in recent weeks, managing just one win in their last three games and only two overall through seven games of league play.
While they had gotten off to a relatively hot start over their first few contests, Mariehamn have fallen down to sixth place in the league standings, and the hope is that a week without any travel in what has been a busy start to the season will have the team rejuvenated and ready to make a run back to the top of the standings.
Mariehamn will still be missing forward Mikko Paatelainen, midfielder Markus Paatelainen and defender Fernando de Abreu all due to injury, while Jaro are only lacking midfielder Markus Kronholm through illness.
Rovaniemi PS - Kuopio PS
Etchu Tabe and RoPS will look to move into the upper half of the standings on Sunday when they host Kuopio PS.
The team was able to snatch a point at home on Thursday afternoon against fourth-place Turku PS to move one point clear of the drop zone, but they are still in a delicate position with one quarter of the season finished.
They have only managed a pair of wins through eight games, but a wholly mediocre performance by all but the top three teams means that a win or loss could see them move several places in either direction.
KuPS put on a strong defensive performance to take all three points from last-place MyPa at home on Thursday, putting a stop to their two-game losing streak.
Tabe has been a fixture in the RoPS defense when available, and will almost certainly be selected to play the full 90 minutes in the heart of the team's defense.
The only player in question for RoPS is defender Mika Gröhn, who has struggled with injuries as of late and missed Friday's game. KuPS are reporting no absences from their team.
Inter Turku - IFK Mariehamn
Mason Trafford and his fellow American teammates at Mariehamn have a tough job ahead of them if they hope to take anything from their road game against surging Inter Turku on Monday.
The team will surely be weary from their game against Jaro just three days before, and with Inter coming riding a four-game winning streak, they will need to be on top of their game to avoid a loss.
Inter put on their best performance of the season in their Thursday night contest, putting six goals past a hapless Haka squad to stay atop the Veikkausliiga standings on goal differential, and will hope to do the same against a struggling Mariehamn squad in hope of solidifying their lead.
Turku should have a full squad available for the game.
FC Espoo - AC Oulu
Jeremy Vuolo and AC Oulu will look to extend their unbeaten run to three games on Sunday when they visit last-place Espoo.
Oulu were only able to manage a draw against HIFK in their previous outing, however they have come on strongly over the last few weeks, racking up three wins in their last five games, and have lost only once through their first six games of the season.
They are sitting fifth place in the Ykkönen standings in their attempt to regain entry to the top flight, however a win could feasibly push them into second place depending on how other games in the division go over the weekend.
Espoo are already looking like a lock for relegation, having yet to win through seven games and only having two points to their name, and the league's worst attack should provide little trouble for Vuolo and the Oulu defense.
Neither team is reporting any injuries or suspensions.
Kokkola PV - PS Kemi Kings
Daniel Stevens and Kemi Kings will be looking to further distance themselves from the bottom three on Sunday when they pay a visit to struggling Kokkola PV.
Kemi took advantage of a poor Espoo squad last weekend to grab all three points and put a stop to their two-game losing streak, a result which pulled them three points clear of the relegation zone.
While the season is only one-quarter underway, the team carries one game in hand over all four of the teams below them, which will give them a safety net as they move into the busy summer months.
After a good start to the season, KPV have dropped off in their last five games, losing four and falling to the edge of the drop zone.
They have been shut out in their last three outings, and are currently the second-worst scoring team in the league, giving Stevens and his teammates a golden opportunity to grab a vital three points on the road.
Both teams should have full squads available for the game.
Etchu Tabe returned to the RoPS defense on Thursday afternoon for their 1-1 draw at home against Turku PS.
HIFK keeper Kellan Wilson is out of the country on personal leave and will not suit up when the team hosts JIPO Joensuu on Saturday.