NICK LEYDEN - Thursday, April 15, 2010
While the Veikkausliiga kicks off this weekend, injuries will force teammates Greg Eckhardt and Brian Pope to postpone their debuts for VPS.

Eckhardt, the former standout Clemson defender, has been battling a hamstring injury in his efforts to prepare for the season opener against JJK.

"I pulled my hamstring about two weeks ago," Eckhardt recently told YA. "I'll be out for another couple of weeks- so I will be missing the opener. [The injury] is disappointing, but [I am] excited to get back out and start playing again."

The outlook for Pope, on the other hand, is much cloudier. The goalkeeper, who is in his second season in Finland after spending last year in the third division, is struggling with a shoulder injury.

"His injury is more long term," said Eckhardt. "He recently had surgery in Turku on his shoulder. [I am] not sure the exact length, but it sounds like more than a couple months."

For Pope, it is an all too familiar story, as he missed the better part of two seasons with a shoulder injury while at the University of Central Florida.

VPS will welcome JJK to Vaasa on Sunday even without the service of their American teammates. Coach Tommi Pikkarainen's men will be looking to improve upon last season's eighth place finish.