American Exports: Conor O'Brien, Terrence Boyd learn road to Champions, Europa League
AMSTERDAM – Several Americans were paying close attention to Friday's UEFA draw for the third qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League, which saw Conor O'Brien and FC Nordsjælland pitted against Russian powers FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the marquee competition.
The tie will begin at Farum Park on either July 30 or 31, with the Russian return set for following midweek. Should O'Brien & Co. find a way past Zenit, they will meet one of Arsenal, AC Milan, Schalke, Real Sociedad or Paços de Ferreira in the playoff round.
Meanwhile, injured Molde FK winger Josh Gatt learned that his side could be in line to face the Legia Warsaw/The New Saints winner for a place in the group stage.
The Norwegian champions first must make good on a 1-0 away-leg victory when second qualifying round foe Sligo Rovers comes to town on Tuesday. Earlier this week, Gatt was been ruled out for the rest of Molde's 2013 campaign with an unspecified knee injury, meaning he will be relegated to cheerleading until at least the group phase.
Another recovering attacker, Zeljeznicar's Danijal Brkovic, saw his side drawn to face the survivor between HJK Helsinki and Estonian champs JK Nõmme Kalju should they get past Viktoria Plzen in the second qualifying round. The striker could be passed fit by the time they welcome the Czech outfit for leg two on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the Europa League, Terrence Boyd's Rapid Vienna will enter play with a third qualifying round visit to Greek side Asteras Tripolis on August 1. Last term, the US forward notched three goals and an assist in nine tourney matches.
Charlie Davies and Randers FC can likely look forward to a clash with Rubin Kazan, who currently lead their second qualifying -ound tie against Serbian mites Jagodina through a 3-2 away win. The American forward has three games of tournament experience, gained back in 2008 when he was with Hammarby and it was called the UEFA Cup.
Provided they can overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit at St. Johnstone without him next week, current Gold Cup participant Mikkel Diskerud and Rosenborg will tackle either Belorussian side FC Minsk or Malta's Valetta for a group stage ticket to match last year's. The two mites posted a 1-1 draw in their opening leg.
Bryan Gerzicich and Hapoel Tel Aviv – who, up 4-1 from the first leg, look poised to brush aside second qualifying-round opponents Beroe – should have the task of facing either Estonian runners up Levadia Talinn or Romania's Pandurii Târgu Jiu ahead of them. Those two upstarts will meet Thursday to settle a tie deadlocked at 0-0 after the opening game.
If they can advance from the second qualifying round, Tony Taylor's Omonia are slated to meet the winner of the currently deadlocked tie between IFK Göteborg and Slovakia's Trencin. The Cypriot club will host Romania's Astra Giurgiu to undo a 1-1 aggregate knot next Thursday.