DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland are one step away from lifting the team's first-ever piece of top-flight silverware, but must overcome Superliga rivals Midtjylland in Wednesday's Danish Cup final in Copenhagen.
While the Wild Tigers can count themselves lucky in only having to face a single team in the top flight en route to Thursday's final, they have had anything but an easy journey, as passage through the first four rounds in each case required the team to come away victorious on the road.
They easily pushed past First Division team Vejle over two legs by a commanding 4-0 aggregate scoreline in the semifinal to set up the showdown with the Wolves, who themselves did a fine job of dispatching Superliga silver medalists Odense in reaching Thursday's final in Copenhagen's Parken Stadium.
The game has added significance beyond the silverware for both teams, as the winner will secure a spot in the third qualifying round of next season's Europa League, something already out of the reach for both teams based on their respective league standings.
Even though Thursday's outcome will produce a first-time Cup champion for Denmark no matter who wins, domestic cup glory is nothing new to Parkhurst, who had previously won the US Open Cup with the New England Revolution in 2007.
The game will be a fine conclusion to a challenging season to Parkhurst, which had seen him spend time both relegated to the bench as well as temporarily adjusting to an unfamiliar right back position before he earned back his starting spot in central defense during the team's run over the past two months.
The Wild Tigers can draw confidence from their season record against Midtjylland, winning the first two of three games between the teams by a combined 5-0 score before dropping the third meeting on a single goal.
Head coach Morten Wieghorst has slowly seen his injured players come back to full health over the last few weeks, with only a pair of absences for Thursday's match. Backup keeper Nenad Novakovic will be missing as he recovers from a shoulder problem, and Canadian international midfielder Patrice Bernier is out with a knee injury suffered one week before in league play.
Midtjylland will be without midfielder Adigun Salami, but are otherwise sporting a full squad for the game.