DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The round of 16 of the Finnish Cup commences on Wednesday, with four Americans looking to see playing time in their push for a quarterfinal berth.
KooTeePee - Inter Turku
Inter Turku defender Daniel Antunez will try to shut down KooTeePee's American striker Aaron Wheeler on Wednesday when the two teams face off in Kotka.
Inter have had a perfect start to the Veikkausliiga season, with two shut-out wins in two tries pushing them atop the division standings.
Their 2-0 victory over previously undefeated MyPa over the weekend solidified their status as a team to watch out for in Finland over the summer.
They will hope for the chance to sharpen their claws against Ykkönen team KooTeePee, who are just completing their pre-season and will raise the curtains on the 2012 campaign over the weekend.
Inter will be without defender Kalle Parviainen, midfielder Joni Kauko and forward Guy Guy Gnabouyou, all due to injury, while KooTeePee are not reporting any absences.
IF Gnistan - IFK Mariehamn
Mason Trafford and Mariehamn will hope that Wednesday's game at third-tier IF Gnistan will be a frictionless step in yet another deep run into the Finnish Cup.
Mariehamn managed to push all the way to the semifinal last season, where they were unceremoniously dumped out in a heavy-handed loss to KuPS. With a potential rematch awaiting in the quarterfinal pairing, they will be eager to dispatch minnows Gnistan on Wednesday.
Despite the two divisions separating these teams, the Islanders and Gnistan have met recently in the Cup, with Mariehamn holding the upper hand with a 3-0 win two years prior on the way to another semifinal run.
While Gnistan have yet to begin their Kakkonen season, Mariehamn have steadily improved through their first three Veikkausliiga games, losing their opener, drawing the subsequent game and finally notching their first victory over the weekend on the road over Haka.
For Mariehamn, the only absence is Swedish midfielder Mattias Wiklöf, while the hosts are not reporting any injuries or suspensions.
HJK Helsinki - FF Jaro
Mike Banner and FF Jaro will face off against reigning league and cup champions HJK Helsinki on Thursday, looking to avenge their blowout loss to the Finnish powerhouse three days before.
HJK easily did away with Jaro by a 4-1 score on Monday night, leaving the team winless through their first two games of the 2012 season.
They will almost certainly be in for another tough ride on Thursday, as they are still looking for the rhythm on both sides of the ball that will keep them from suffering through a long and painful season.
HJK have added incentive to hoist the trophy a second straight time this season, as it would be their 12th final win and would put them on even terms with Haka in the all-time record.
Jaro have a trio of players out, with defenders Heikki Aho and Johan Brunell along with forward Tommi Haanpää all recovering from injuries. HJK are not reporting any missing players from their squad.
Etchu Tabe has not suited up for KuPS during their opening three games of the season, and is unlikely to take part on Wednesday when the team hosts Turku PS.