On the same day Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan learned of their Champions League fates, U.S. international teammate Jozy Altidore and his Dutch team was bounced from European continental competition.
Kljestan (pictured) and Anderlecht squeezed through with a qualifying win earlier this week. Thursday they were grouped up with Italy power AC Milan, Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg and Spain’s Malaga for UEFA Champions League group play.
A trip into the San Siro qualifies as a soccer thrill for most players, so Kljestan and his mates should enjoy that one. Zenit will be an obstacle and, in all likelihood, Anderlecht will tussle with Malaga for third-place in Group C and the accompanying Europa berth.
Jones and Schalke have a better chance of clubbing their way into the elimination rounds. Oddsmakers like the Gelsenkirchen club right behind Arsenal to win their UCL group, which also includes Olympiakos from Greece and Montpellier from France.
It is a shame we won’t see Altidore, off to such a good start with his Netherlands club AZ Alkmaar, in Europa League action this year. Russian club FC Anzhi Makhachkala put the kibosh on that one – but good. Anzhi (completely guessing that’s what we should call the club) whupped Altidore’s AZ by a 5-0 margin Thursday.
Terrence Boyd and Mixx Diskerud scored huge goals to help their clubs through the Europa League qualifying process. Boyd’s Rapid Vienna (Austria) and Diskerud’s Rosenborg (Norway) find themselves in Europa League group play after wins Thursday. Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover, Oguchi Onyewu’s Sporting are among other U.S. internationals safely into Europa League group play.
We could still see one more American forward in Europa League. If Clint Dempsey can make that long-awaited move to Anfield, he’ll feel a little Europa League grass beneath the studs. Liverpool squeezed into the continental tournament Thursday.