PREVIEW: WEEKEND FINNISH ACTION
With just three weeks left in the Veikkausliiga season, the yanks in Finland are aiming to secure their teams' safety as Mariehamn visit MyPA while VPS travel to AC Oulu.
MyPa – IFK Mariehamn
Mariehamn's American trio of Mason Trafford, Lamar Neagle and Giuseppe Funicello travel to Kouvola on Saturday to take on MyPa, a club that might as well be Mariehamn's twin in this year's Veikkausliiga.
Trafford and Funicello are expected to start in defense for the visitors while Neagle could be an attacking option off the bench in the second half. Trafford scored his first goal for his new club in Monday's comeback win over JJK.
A victory would all but clinch Mariehamn's presence in Finland's top level next season so MyPa should expect the islanders to be aggressive from the start.
The two teams both sit at 27 points and have nearly an identical goal difference with the Aland Islands club holds a slight one goal edge in that category.
Saturday's match at Saviniemi will require a solid effort out of Funciello and Trafford who will have to contend with MyPa's Maxim Votinov and his eight goals.
Peter Forsell, Mikko Paatelainen and Sasha Anttilainen are all injured for Mariehamn while Antti Okkonen will be MyPa's lone absence.
Oulu – VPS
It is ‘come-to-Jesus' time for both Oulu and VPS who will duel on Sunday at Castrén Stadium on Sunday in a match where the loser could very well be faced with a playoff match versus one of the upstarts of the Ykkonen.
Former Clemson standout defender Greg Eckhardt will start for the visitors and defense and look to batten down the hatches in an attempt to get at least a point.
Fellow American Brian Pope remains out with a shoulder injury. It was recently announced that Pope would unsurprisingly miss the rest of the season.
Both teams sit on 26 points and are two points ahead of JJK for the relegation playoff position.
The last four outings have been forgettable for Eckhardt and company who have managed to scratch together only a single point out of 12.
It has been the VPS offense that has struggled to achieve any success up top and with both teams looking to avoid a lopsided defeat on Sunday, fans can expect another low scoring affair.
In addition to Pope, VPS will be without Tony Bjork and Joacim Tuuri while Mika Nurmela and Mika Lähderinne are sidelined for Oulu.