Europa League qualification concluded this week and the group stage is about to begin. Let’s take a look at how the Americans performed in qualifying and what we have to look forward to when the group stage starts:
Europa League Qualification Review
Chandler has been in and out of the squad for Eintracht Frankfurt. The 29-year-old was an unused substitute in Frankfurt’s 5-0 mauling of FC Vaduz in the first leg of that matchup. He then started and went the distance at Left Wingback in their 1-0 second leg victory. Then he was out of the squad completely for their 1-0 loss in the opening leg against RC Strasbourg. In the second leg at home, Chandler was back in the team but he didn’t get in the match in their 3-0 victory. The 3-1 aggregate win allowed them to advance to the group stage.
Romain Gall (Winger, Malmö)
Gall has surprisingly seen his minutes increase a little bit in recent weeks, even seeing a few minutes in the Europa League qualifiers. Gall was an unused substitute and wasn’t in the matchday squad in the matches against NK Domzale. Malmö went on to win 5-4 on aggregate. Gall again went as an unused substitute in their opening 3-0 win over Zrinjski Mostar. He did get a short cameo (just 4 minutes) in their 1-0 loss in the second leg, but they still advanced. In the final qualifying round, Gall again went as an unused substitute in their 3-0 win over Bnei Yehuda. In the second leg, Gall started the match and went the distance and even had an assist on the game’s only goal. The 4-0 aggregate scoreline was more than enough to qualify them for the group stage.
Matt Polster (Right Back, Rangers FC)
Polster left MLS for Scottish club Rangers this summer. They faced a difficult task of having to get through four rounds of Europa League qualification. Polster got his first start and contributed with an assist in a 6-0 win in the second leg of the first qualifying round. However, he hasn’t made the matchday squad for any of their qualifying rounds since then. They managed to make it all the way through and qualify for the group stage without him.
Henry Wingo (Winger, Molde FK)
Wingo just recently signed with Molde after leaving the Seattle Sounders organization this summer. Wingo had yet to feature for the Norwegian club, but he was on the bench for their second leg against Partizan after dropping the first leg 2-1. Unfortunately he is still waiting on his debut and the 1-1 draw wasn’t enough to advance them.
Europa League Group Stage Preview
John Brooks (Centerback, VFL Wolfsburg)
Brooks has been around for a long time but surprisingly has never featured beyond the qualification round in European competition. That will change this year since Wolfsburg qualified directly for the Europa League group stage by finishing in sixth place in the Bundesliga last season. The 26-year-old is a starter as long as his health allows, so you have to figure he will play a ton in the competition this season. Wolfsburg were drawn into Group I along with Belgian club KAA Gent, Ligue 1 club Saint Étienne, and Ukrainian club Olexandriya. Wolfsburg will definitely be favorites to make it to the knockout stage. The longer they stay in the competition the better it is for the likes of Michael Edwards and Ulysses Llanez since they will need to keep players fresh.
Fabian Johnson (Winger/Fullback, Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Borussia Mönchengladbach qualified directly for the group stage by finishing in fifth place in the Bundesliga. Johnson has featured several times in European competition, but he hasn’t played in the Europa League group stage since 2014. The 31-year-old is in and out of the lineup these days. He started the second Bundesliga match of the season last weekend and will likely play some in the competition this year. Borussia Mönchengladbach was drawn into Group J. In their group is AS Roma, Turkish Süper Lig club Istanbul Basaksehir, and Austrian Bundesliga club Wolfsberg. This will be a challenging group, but Borussia has the quality to advance.
Timothy Chandler (Fullback, Eintracht Frankfurt)
As previously mentioned, Frankfurt took the difficult road to get here but they still arrived. Chandler figures to see spot opportunities in the competition similar to Fabian Johnson. Chandler missed out on Frankfurt’s deep run in the Europa League last season due to his injury that cost him nearly the entire year. The matches he played in qualification this summer were the only time he’s appeared in European competition. Chandler will have his sights set on breaking that trend this year. Eintracht Frankfurt were drawn into Group F along with Arsenal, Belgian club Standard Liége, and Portuguese Liga NOS club Vitoria SC. This will be a difficult group, but the knockout stage is attainable.
Tyler Boyd (Winger, Beşiktaş)
Boyd moved on from Portugal to join the Turkish giants this summer, and with that comes the prospect of playing in the Europa League. The 24-year-old has started each of their first two Süper Lig matches and will likely play a large role in their Europa League campaign this season. Beşiktaş was drawn into Group K alongside Portuguese Liga NOS club SC Braga, EPL side Wolverhampton, and Slovak Super Liga defending champion Slovan Bratislava. Beşiktaş will have a challenging road to reach the knockout stage, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were to advance.
Romain Gall (Winger, Malmö)
Malmö made it to the knockout round last year before going down to eventual champion Chelsea. They will look to improve on that this season. The aforementioned Gall played sparingly in the Europa League last season and has only played a few minutes here and there for the most part this season, so I don’t expect to see much of him in the group stage this year. Malmö were drawn into Group B with Ukrainian Premier League club Dynamo Kyiv, Danish Super Liga side Københaven, and Swiss club FC Lugano. The matchups with Københaven will be fascinating, but Malmö should have a great opportunity to advance once again.
Jordan Siebatcheu (Striker, Stade Rennais)
Siebatcheu is still eligible for the US, even if he prefers to play for France. The 23-year-old has featured in each of Rennais’ first three league matches of the season, coming off the bench in each appearance. Rennais qualified for this competition for the second season in a row. Siebatcheu showed well when he got his opportunities last year, scoring a goal and drawing a penalty in three appearances. Unfortunately he suffered a bad injury that knocked him out for several months which caused him to miss their knockout stage matches in the spring. He will get another opportunity this fall with Stade Rennais having been drawn into Group E. They are pitted against Italian Serie A club Lazio, Scottish Premier League club Celtic FC, and Romanian club CFR Cluj. Rennais will have their hands full with Celtic and Lazio, so this could be a fight to the finish to decide who moves on.
Matt Polster (Right Back, Rangers FC)
As previously mentioned, Polster faces a tough road to get into the Rangers team this fall. Nevertheless, Rangers have been drawn into Group G. This is one of the most difficult groups with Portuguese Liga NOS club FC Porto, Swiss Super League defending champion BSC Young Boys, and perennial Dutch power Feyenoord. Rangers will have to claw for every point in this group, but it’s not outrageous to think there could be quite a few Americans featuring in the knockout stages early next year. See the full draw below.
All group stage matches are available on B/R Live. None of them will be shown on English broadcast, because TNT clearly doesn’t want to profit from the competition that they paid all that money for. Many of the group stage matches are available on Univision, however. I personally love their coverage and don’t have any issues watching en Español. Hit the comment section to discuss who you are excited to watch and what you expect from the group stage.