Canadian Exports: Kenny Stamatopoulos' twin clean sheets help AIK into Europa League
Winter is coming – and that means it’s nearly time for the Scandinavian leagues to close up shop for the year. Several Canadians have been doing their best this week to ensure that they’ll be ending their club seasons on a high note.
On Saturday, Kenny Stamatopoulos (above) posted his second straight clean sheet for AIK, who sit second in the Swedish league table with one game left to play. Though they can’t catch Malmö atop the table, Stama’s recent performances have clinched AIK a spot in the qualifying stages for next year’s Europa League.
Over in Finland, 21-year-old midfielder Charlie Trafford made the most of a rare start for IFK Mariehamn, scoring his second goal of the season in a 4-1 win on Saturday. Teammate and fellow Canadian Roger Thompson also played the full 90 for Mariehamn, who finished their season in fourth place and just outside qualifying for the Europa League.
Further down the Finnish table, striker Frank Jonke played the full 90 for FF Jaro, who closed out their campaign with a 2-0 win to snap a difficult eight-game losing streak.
Lars Hirschfeld also got a rare start for Valerenga (his second straight) as their season winds down, but a 2-1 loss left the team mired in the middle of the Norwegian table with two games left.
Outside of Scandinavia, the club season is just revving up, providing a number of Canadians with ample opportunities to prove themselves to national team head coach Benito Floro in the months ahead.
Atiba Hutchinson made his return to the lineup on Saturday, after a minor hamstring injury had kept him out of duty for club and country for several weeks. He subbed in after 74 minutes in a 3-3 draw for Besiktas, who are sitting second in the Turkish table early on in the season.
Young striker Caleb Clarke also returned after a minor leg injury, playing 87 minutes for FC Augsburg II in a 2-2 draw on Saturday. Another young forward, Daniel Haber, came on in second-half injury time for Apollon Limassol in their 0-0 draw with Lazio in Europa League group stage play last Wednesday.
David Edgar made another late appearance for Burnley, coming on as a sub in the 83rd minute on Saturday to help preserve a 2-0 win that keeps the Clarets on top of the Championship table.
Samuel Piette continued living up to his “bulldog” reputation, as the 18-year-old midfielder picked up a yellow card for the third straight game in Fortuna Dusseldorf II’s 0-0 draw on Sunday.
A number of Canadian veterans – Andre Hainault, Julian de Guzman, Simeon Jackson, Issey Nakajima-Farran, Lucas Cavallini – didn’t see the pitch for their clubs this weekend.