U.S. players tackle cup competitions; Americans Abroad
It's that time of year. The hunt for major cup silverware on multiple fronts is heating up.
For Americans, it doesn't get any more high profile than Jermaine Jones and Schalke's quest to reach the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Jones will get a first-hand account of new-look Galatasaray, when Schalke takes on recent Galatasaray signings and past Champions League heroes Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder in the first leg of their round of 16 clash on Wednesday. Oguchi Onyewu's Malaga is still alive as well, and the Spanish side faced Porto in its first leg Tuesday (without Onyewu, who hasn't played since Jan. 8, in the starting lineup).
A step down, in the Europa League, Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel and Tottenham have one foot in the next round after topping Lyon 2-1 in the first leg of their round of 32 matchup. With the 41-year-old Friedel limited to cup competitions after losing the regular starting goalkeeping job to Hugo Lloris, the Europa League is his best chance to leave a lasting impact on Tottenham's season. He can do just that by preserving the one-goal edge on the road in Thursday's second leg.
In other continental competition, the Tijuana Trio of Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Greg Garza kick off their Copa Libertadores voyage Tuesday night at Colombian champion Millonarios (the new club of on-loan Seattle Sounders forward Fredy Montero). Castillo saw red for the first time in his career in conceding a penalty this past weekend for Tijuana, but the left back will have a chance for redemption on the Libertadores stage that few Americans have played before him.
Domestically, U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper Tim Howard is still alive in the FA Cup. He seeks his second title and first since winning one nine years ago with Manchester United. Howard and Everton may have fallen victim to a last-gasp equalizer in its fifth-round bout with upstart Oldham Athletic on Saturday, but the Toffees will host the replay next Wednesday, the prize a quarterfinal date with relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic. Everton is vying for a place in European competition during its league campaign, but capturing the FA Cup would at the very least cement the club's place in next season's Europa League and provide a safety net for the rest of this season.
As for the American goal-scorers this past week, AZ Alkmaar's Jozy Altidore set a new career high with his 21st goal in all competitions, and 23-year-old German-American striker Andrew Wooten netted his fourth of the year for second-tier German side Sandhausen. A pair of Americans contributed assists. Timmy Chandler came through with a clutch cross during stoppage time that led to an equalizer for Nurnberg against Hannover. Sacha Kljestan maintained his high level of play with a helper in Anderlecht's latest Belgian league triumph. Those four individual performances highlighted the week that was for Americans playing abroad. Here is how they and the rest of their compatriots fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):