JAMIE HILL - Friday, September 23, 2011
The month of September is crunch time in the Nordic leagues that run from spring to fall.
The lax rules regarding foreigner quotas in Norway, Sweden, and Finland have long made those leagues havens for Americans seeking opportunities abroad. Accordingly, a total of 24 Americans can be found in the top two divisions of these three countries.
As the summer season draws to a close, a number of these players have much to play for in the few remaining games on the schedule.
Seven-times runners-up Molde are tantalizingly close to the club's first-ever Eliteserien title. With seven games remaining, Molde holds a six point lead over Tromsø, although Tromsø have a game in hand. A winger with electrifying pace, Josh Gatt has quickly become a key contributor in Molde, while Sean Cunningham has seen the field only in cup games and for the reserves.
Meanwhile, Mix Diskerud's Stabæk squad remains in the hunt for a Europa League place, although a recent slump means that they will have to close out the season in stellar fashion to achieve this goal.
A division below, Steve Clark is locked in a wide-open race for promotion. The goalkeeper has had an excellent season for Hønefoss, recording 11 shutouts and maintaining a GAA of 0.96. Clark and backup midfielder Kenneth Di Vita Jensen are hoping for an immediate return to the top division. Defender Jonathan Borrajo and Ham-Kam are also in the hunt for a second successive promotion.
In the second-division Superettan, a trio of Americans are chasing promotion. Last week, Matt Pyzdrowski registered his seventh shutout of the season as Ängelholm earned a crucial win over promotion rivals Åtvidaberg, propelling the club to the top of the table. His teammate Lester Dewee, however, will be unable to contribute down the stretch after being ruled out with an injury.
Former Toronto FC keeper Brian Edwards also harbors hopes of progressing to the Allsvenskan. Degerfors currently occupy fourth place, four points behind a pace in the promotion playoffs with five games to play.
Goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo signed for a top-division side last winter, but found himself in the second division when AC Oulu were relegated for financial reasons. Oulu is vying for a quick return to the top flight, but are currently two points out of the Ykkönen's sole promotion place. Vuolo and Oulu must win their final three games and hope that their promotion rivals Lahti stumble in their final four.