BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, July 15, 2010
Two Americans kick off their participation in the Europa League on Thursday, with Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek hosting Belarussian team Dnepr Mogilev, while Nate Weiss and Jelgava head to Norway to take on Molde.
Stabæk - Dnepr Mogilev
Mikkel Diskerud should get the start in central midfield for Stabaek as they open their 2010-11 European campaign at home against Dnepr Mogilev.
Stabaek will be looking to build on their performance in Europe last season, where they reached the playoff round of the Europa League only to be knocked out by eventual quarter-finalists Valencia.
While having yet to reach the group stage of either the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup, Stabaek have been regulars in its qualifying stages over the last decade. This marks their third straight appearance in the competition and sixth overall since 1999.
Their current domestic campaign has been less than spectacular, currently residing in seventh place through 16 games, and looking unlikely to push their way into Europe a fourth straight time.
Apart from their embarrassing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Viking over the weekend, they have showed signs of life in recent weeks, going undefeated with four wins in their five league games prior to Saturday's collapse.
Dnepr, who also have the advantage of being midway through their summer domestic league schedule, have had a tough 2010 season which has found them far off the pace of their previous third-place finish.
Through just over half of the season, they have struggled to a current seventh-place standing, having only won six of their first 18 games. Their biggest highlight has been the resounding 8-2 aggregate win over Albanian team Laci in the Europa League's first qualification round, but they otherwise have three defeats and a pair of draws over their previous six games.
Stabaek coach Jan Jönsson has slight selection concerns, as starting forward Daniel Nannskog as well as midfielders Tor Marius Gromstad, Pontus Farnerud and Johan Andersson are all out through injury.
Molde - Jelgava
Nate Weiss will hope to see substitute action for Latvian Cup winners Jelgava as they head to Norwegian club Molde for their opening game of the Europa League.
Jelgava are somewhat surprise entrants into European competition this season, having only been promoted to the Latvian top flight in November before going on to win the Latvian Cup in the spring to spring into the second round of qualification.
Weiss has regularly seen substitute minutes in Jelgava's midfield since since first joining the team in January, and is a likely candidate to take the field at some point in the second half on Thursday.
With the league nearly halfway through its 2010 schedule, Jelgava have given a respectable showing with a sixth-placed standing out of the ten-team division. They have failed to register a win in their last three outings, however have fared better than Thursday's opponents Molde, who are winless in their last five through all competitions.
After their surprising second-place finish in Norway's Tippeligaen in 2009, Molde are fighting for their lives in the current term, currently sitting in 14th place, just above the relegation spots.
Neither team is reporting any injuries heading into the match.