DAVID SMITH - Friday, August 8, 2014
The draw for the Europa League play-off round was made on Friday afternoon, setting up a David versus Goliath matchup for one of the last remaining Americans in the competition.
After Thursday's second leg of qualification saw the elimination of four more teams with yanks on the books, Friday's draw set the path for the remaining three left in the qualification round to join Tim Howard and Everton in the group stage.
The standout matchup will see the lowest ranked team left in the competition, Iceland's third-place team Stjarnan, face off with Italian giants Inter Milan.
The team, which boasts American defender Pablo Punyed in the starting lineup, has surprisingly fought their way through three rounds of qualification, and has been rewarded with a tough, but undoubtedly lucrative matchup against the three-time winners of both the European Cup and UEFA Cup.
Stjarnan most recently offed Polish team Lech Poznań in the third qualification round by a aggregate 1-0 scoreline, but will have a much more difficult time to contain an Inter squad that contains stars such as Fredy Guarín, Rodrigo Palacio, Nemanja Vidić and Zdravko Kuzmanović.
Elsewhere in the draw, Fabian Johnson will likely make his first European appearance since his Wolfsburg days when Borussia Mönchengladbach face off against Bosnian team FK Sarajevo.
The Foals entered directly into the play-off round by way of their sixth-place finish in the German Bundesliga, and are looking to return to the group stage after reaching the knockout round in the 2012-13 edition.
Brad Friedel and Tottenham Hotspur should be able to deal with Cypriot team AEL Limassol, who entered the play-off round after being eliminated from the third round of Champions League qualification.
The 43 year-old Friedel has made regular appearances for Tottenham in European competition as the backup to first-choice keeper Hugo Lloris, but could see his place threatened with the summer arrival of Dutch rising star Michel Vorm.
The first round of games will take place on Thursday, August 21, with the second round to follow one week later.
Europa League Play-off round draw
FK Sarajevo - Borussia Mönchengladbach
AEL Limassol - Tottenham Hotspur
Stjarnan - Inter Milan