American Exports: Draw set for Champions, Europa League
AMSTERDAM — Several American exports learned their opening assignments in Europe on Monday, as UEFA drew the first two qualifying rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League for 2012-13.
Three Americans will enter Champions League play in the second qualifying round, with Josh Gatt (above) and his Molde FK set to host their opener against Latvian champs FK Ventspils. All first-leg matches will be played on July 17 or 18, with the returns scheduled for the following week.
MLSsoccer.com has learned that free agent midfielder Bryan Gerzicich will ink a deal to return to first-time Israeli kings Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Tuesday. As such, the Los Angeles native can look forward to tackling Slovakian champions MSK Zilina away in the first leg of their second qualifying-round tie.
Fresh FK Zeljeznicar catch Danijal Brkovic will be in contention for their strike stable when the Bosnian champs start away to Slovenian holders NK Maribor.
Over in the Europa League, four Americans learned their first qualifying-round fate on Monday.
It remains to be seen how many Americans will be available to UEFA Fair Play entrants Stabæk when they take on JJK Jyväskylä in Finland on July 5. Defender Sean Cunningham should be in uniform then, but the futures of midfielders Ricardo Clark (on loan) and Mikkel Diskerud (awaiting purchase option decision from Gent) are unknown at this time.
FC Nürnberg II forward Jann George will hope to kick off his loan spell at Slovakian side FK Senica against first-leg visitors MTK Budapest, while KuPS defender Etchu Tabe will get his first taste of Europe when Welsh outfit Llanelli AFC come to Finland for their qualifying opener.
Meanwhile, defender Giuseppe Funicello's second stint with second-flight Icelandic side Thór Akureyri has already begun ahead of their first qualifying-round matchup against Irish first-leg hosts Bohemians. The mites earned their first-ever invite to Europe by reaching the 2011 VISA-Bikar final.
In the second qualifying round, Leo Krupnick and Maccabi Netanya have been drawn to face the survivor of the KuPS-Llanelli tie. Meanwhile, defender Daniel Antunez and Finnish club FC Inter Turku are likely already sweating the challenge of facing FC Twente, with the Eredivisie side expected to mop up Andorra's UE Santa Coloma in the first qualifying round.
Should Gent take up their buy option on Diskerud, he will be able look forward to a second qualifying round tie against the first round winner between Luxembourg's Differdange 03 and Faroe Islands side NSÍ Runavík.