MICHAEL HADLEY - Thursday, November 22, 2012
Just two games remain of the 2012-13 Europa League group stage to decide which Americans will advance to next year's knockout round and which will see their international cup hopes dashed.
Helsingborg - Levante
After finishing sixth in the just-completed Allsvenskan in Sweden, Alejandro Bedoya and Helsingborg will have just two European games to wrap up their 2012 schedule, starting with Levante.
Mathematically eliminated from advancement, thanks in part to a 1-0 defeat to Levante in the second round of games, Bedoya and Helsingborg will have nothing more than pride to play for in their final two games of 2012.
Bedoya has come on strong since coming to Sweden from Rangers in Scotland, helping mostly to string together passes in the attacking half.
Two weeks ago, the American scored in a 3-2 loss to Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96. The game went into the 90th minute tied 2-2 when a penalty and two red cards were handed out.
Hannover scored the late winner from the spot, solidifying their berth and sending Bedoya and Helsingborg packing.
The Helsingborg starting center backs, Walid Atta and Peter Larsson, are suspended due to their red cards.
Rosenborg - Rapid Vienna
Though both teams are eliminated from advancement, Rosenborg and Rapid Vienna should be a showcase for two shooting stars in American soccer.
Mikkel Diskerud of Rosenborg and Terrence Boyd of Rapid will likely both see plenty of time on Thursday. The two made appearances for the US in the recent friendly game against Russia, with Diskerud scoring the late equalizer in his first appearance for the Stars and Stripes.
Boyd scored his tenth goal across all competitions over the weekend for Rapid in Austrian Bundesliga play.
With the domestic season having just come to a close, Rosenborg have finished third in Norway, qualifying them for the next edition of the Europa League.
Rapid are currently holding on to third in Austria after a recent stumble in the Austrian Bundesliga.
Molde - Copenhagen
Though also eliminated from advancement, Josh Gatt and Molde have plenty to play for against Copenhagen.
Molde have successfully qualified for the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League thanks to a second straight first-place finish in Norway.
Their poor play in the Europa League did not reflect on their strong domestic showing, which included six goals from the speedy Gatt in an injury-limited season, opposed to his inability to find the net in the Europa League.
The Norwegian club will undoubtedly use their final two 'bonus games' of 2012 as post-season high-water marks to prepare for next year's domestic and international challenges.
Bryan Gerzicich's Ironi Kiryat Shmona have postponed their match against Athletic Club due to ongoing fighting in Israel.
Steve Cherundolo is unlikely to play for Hannover 96 against FC Twente due to a neck injury as the German team has already secured advancement to the knockout round.
Clint Dempsey is unlikely to see much action with Tottenham against Lazio, and Brad Friedel has not played in the Europa League so far this season.
David Yelldell will likely be a part of the 18 for Bayer Leverkusen against Metalist but has not seen the field yet this season as a backup goalkeeper.