Postcard from Europe: Tabbing up title chasers, cup contenders and relegation scrappers

Postcard from Europe: Terrence Boyd

Photo Credit: 
REUTERS

AMSTERDAM – With the traditional fall-to-spring leagues and cups rounding the final turn into the European backstretch, it's time to take inventory of everything at stake for Americans working overseas.

Title Chasers

Realistically, that topic heading should be in singular form. Sacha Kljestan's Anderlecht are the only club fielding an American that is in good position to hoist league silver.

One game from the Jupiler League's top-six hexagonal, Anderlecht stand six points above the closest contender. That Belgium halves everyone's points prior to the championship playoff makes things a little hairier, but the Mauves look like repeating.

Bryan Gerzicich and reigning Israeli kings Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona would stand a much better chance under the Belgian system. However, point totals will remain as is when their hexagonal play kicks off two weeks from Saturday with a 16-point deficit on leaders Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Cup Battlers

The last American standing in the Champions League is Málaga's Oguchi Onyewu, who may or may not dress when they try to overturn a 1-0 away leg loss against Porto on Wednesday night.

In the Europa League, prior finalist Clint Dempsey and current cup specialist Brad Friedel appear set to reach the sweet 16 with Tottenham after blanking Inter Milan 3-0 in the tie opener at White Hart Lane.

READ: Jurgen Klinsmann says Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson likely back for US World Cup qualifiers

Turning to domestic cups, Jozy Altidore of AZ Alkmaar is the only American already booked for a final. The US striker will go after his first career winners medal when the Cheese Farmers battle PSV Eindhoven in Rotterdam on May 9.

Michael Bradley's AS Roma (right), meanwhile, aren't too far from reaching the Coppa Italia title match. They'll visit Inter on April 17 for the conclusion of their semifinal holding a 2-1 edge.

Up in Denmark, Clarence Goodson and troubled Brøndby still have an outlet for success this term, as the Danish Cup semis will start when fellow strugglers Esbjerg visit on Wednesday night for the opening leg. Usual cup participant Charlie Davies and Randers FC begin their final four tie next month, also at home.

Terrence Boyd (above) and Rapid Vienna have an Austrian Cup quarterfinal date against minnows Pasching in mid-April, while both Alejandro Bedoya's Helsingborg and Brian Span's Djurgården are off to flyers in the Swedish Cup group phase.

In Israel, Hapoel remain in contention for their first State Cup, having reached the semis with a road rout on Tuesday.

European Tickets

Those who do not claim an invite to UEFA's big dances by one of the above routes can do so with a strong table finish.

Spurs stand two points up on Chelsea for the EPL's third Champions League group stage pass and seven ahead of arch rivals Arsenal for the last qualifying berth, but have played a game more than both. Tim Howard's Everton are nine points behind early April hosts Tottenham and just two shy of the Europa League zone with 10 games to play.

READ: Tim Howard could miss several weeks, World Cup qualifiers with back injury

Jermaine Jones and Schalke hold a tiny lead for Germany's last Champions league slot, with five of their nine remaining matches against clubs standing within four points. Steve Cherundolo's Hannover 96 and Timothy Chandler's FC Nürnberg are both within shouting distance of a Europa League place.

In Italy, Bradley and improving Roma are just two points off a Europa League invite and seven shy of making the Champions League. Also still chasing the latter tournament are Conor O'Brien's FC Nordsjælland, but they will need to fight off the hard charge of Davies and Randers FC.

Boyd is not slumping, but Rapid Vienna are, costing them hope of reaching the Champions League. They look a safe bet to reach the Europa League, though.

The Green-Whites could well be joined in that field by Maurice Edu's Bursaspor and Tony Taylor's Portuguese club Estoril. Both clubs are hunting down a Europa League place, with the Turkish side only short by goal differential.

Promotion Hunters

The best bet for a top flight move this summer is Hertha Berlin, home of John Anthony Brooks and Alfredo Morales, who stand clear atop the 2.Bundesliga with nine game left. The key game? The last home unbeaten in the league will get a visit from second-place Braunschweig on April 8.

Bobby Wood's 1860 Munich, meanwhile, are three places and four points short of the promotion playoff, currently held by Andrew Wooten's (right) parent club Kaiserslautern. Though the winger is now taking part in a relegation battle on a loan spell at SV Sandhausen, he may have as much interest in what the Red Devils are doing.

READ: Bobby Wood inks first pro deal with 1860

In England, Zak Whitbread's Leicester City have spent most of the season in the playoff zone and stand just seven points off the Championship's second automatic elevator. However, they are winless in four, leaving them potentially vulnerable to the likes of Bolton. Wanderers Stuart Holden and Tim Ream are only three points out of a playoff spot.

Over in the Netherlands, Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond Sport look very solid to gain a playoff place, sitting only four points off the pace of their first second-flight crown in 31 years. Leaders Sparta Rotterdam are headed to town in late April.

Relegation Fighters

One bit of good news is far fewer teams with Americans are caught in the mire this season. Another is that Brad Guzan has shown the spirit of a warrior, bravely battling both the Aston Villa defense and relegation. While Eric Lichaj has been out of the side over the last month, a few good results have pushed them just above the trap door with nine to play.

READ: Brad Guzan makes case for USMNT No. 1 job in Aston Villa win

Though dangling over the drop zone with eight games left, one would think Altidore and AZ can avoid Eredivisie disaster. The same may not be so easily said of Augsburg and Hoffenheim across the German border. Michael Parkhurst and his mates hold the survival playoff spot with nine matches to go, two points up on the crew of Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams.

In Denmark, Brøndby sit bottom with 11 games to play, but can put their heads above water with a victory at home this weekend.