JAMIE HILL - Friday, October 29, 2010
In Finland, the onset of the long, dark winter means that another Veikkausliiga season is in the books.
The 2010 season was a busy campaign that saw six Yanks spread out among three clubs.
Daniel Antunez was perhaps the most successful American in the league as a regular starter for FC Inter Turku, who achieved a solid mid-league finish.
Although he missed much of August and September with an injury, he will be able to fondly look back upon a strong season that included two goals against Genk in Inter Turku's brief foray into Europa League qualifying.
Antunez was toiling in the obscurity of the Finnish third tier just one year ago.
VPS re-joined the ranks of YA clubs last winter when they captured the signatures of Brian Pope from the lower-division Vasa IFK and Greg Eckhardt from Clemson.
Pope endured a difficult year after he was sidelined with a shoulder injury and failed to make an appearance in league play.
Eckhardt fared much better; the 21-year-old centerback broke into the starting lineup early in the season.
VPS struggled at times and occasionally flirted with relegation, although at no point did they find themselves in truly dire straits.
It took only two weeks in the late summer for IFK Mariehamn to transform itself into a haven for Yanks Abroad.
The struggling club from the Swedish-speaking Aland Islands signed USL-2 standouts Mason Trafford and Lamar Neagle and plucked Giuseppe Funicello from an Icelandic club.
Mariehamn's decision to get creative paid dividends; the club avoided relegation and all three Yanks had won starting roles by the end of the season.
Former Ljungskile man Etchu Tabe could be the next Yank to feature in the Veikkausliiga after his club, RoPS, won promotion after just one season in the second division.