BRENDAN WIMBERLY - Thursday, July 19, 2012
Having reached its halfway point, let's look back on some of the most prominent performances and story lines to come out of the Sweden since the start of the season.
Best Performer Ryan Miller, Right Back, Halmstad BK
Miller has been a stalwart at the fullback position for Halmstad, playing every minute in each of the teams 14 games thus far. Lacking blistering pace or any particular flair, Miller hardly pops off the screen, but he's consistently involved in the clubs offensive buildup, supplying four assists to this point.
More telling of his quality as a defender is the feeling that, when watching Halmstads games, clubs hardly go forward down Millers side and he seemingly never gets caught out of place. Miller is a big part of Halmstads promotion push and his performances may put him in line for his second call to a January camp, his first being under Bob Bradley in 2011 installment.
Biggest Storyline Thus Far Hammarby's American Trio
Gregg Berhalter jumped out to a fine start as the first American manager in Europe, winning his first four matches at Hammarby. Baggio Husidic has been a force in midfield for the club while Billy Schuler is an exciting, young prospect at striker.
Hammarby have hit a skid of late, but still sit in fifth place with an outside chance of qualifying for a spot in the promotion playoffs. Nonetheless, Berhalter's story is a good one to watch, as he finds himself in uncharted territory, hopefully setting a positive example for other American soccer minds and European clubs alike.
Player on the Rise Brian Span, Midfield, Djurgarden IF
The dynamic winger was spurned by MLS when he didn't receive a Generation Adidas contract this past winter and decided to jump across the Atlantic to Djurgarden. After fighting back from an early season injury, Span proved to be a valuable commodity off the bench before the Allsvenskan reached its midseason break.
Providing great pace and a desire to go towards the net, Span is an exciting player to watch and has acquitted himself quite well when given the chance. Although he hasn't established himself as a regular starter, he's the only American to appear in Sweden's top flight this season and has become one of Djurgarden's biggest assets off the bench. The ex-Virginia Cavalier is already a fan favorite in Djurgarden with just four appearances under his belt.
Biggest Surprise Adis "Baggio" Husidic, Midfield, Hammarby IF
Husidic was a player to watch in MLS for a few years before a lackluster 2011 saw the Chicago Fire turn their back on him. After the Colorado Rapids picked him up in the re-entry draft, Husidic answered the call of Gregg Berhalter, who was glad to make Husidic his first signing as the head man at Hammarby.
Husidic has been brilliant for the club in central midfield, providing some gritty play behind the on-the-ball wizardry of Swedish international Andreas Dahl. Husidic has been a box to box presence in the middle of the field and has also been bumped out to the right side of midfield when need be. In 14 short games, Baggio Husidic has gone from MLS cast off to established player at one of Sweden's biggest clubs.
Matt Pyzdrowski and Angelholm are in fourth place in the Superettan, Sweden's second flight, directly between Miller's Halmstad who are in third place and the Hammarby American triumvarite who occupy the fifth position.
Halmstad currently occupy a spot in the promotion playoffs, but their lead is slim with 28 point to Angelholm's 26 and Hammarby's 22. It will be fun to watch these three clubs battle it out with second place Brommapojkarna who have 33 points after winning their last five.
Brian Edwards and his Degerfors teammates are in 13th place out of 16 in the Superettan which would slot them into the relegation playoffs if the season ended today. Fortunately it does not and they have endured after losing their first four matches. Degerfors are only two points away from safety, and they have a good chance to climb out of the danger zone over the next 15 matches.