[AMERICANS ABROAD] U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been vocal about his players needing to "make a statement" and play in the highest level of European soccer. A record four Americans did just that as they played in the group stage of the competition this fall. Tuesday's meeting between Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) and Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga) marked the first time Americans had faced each other in the Champions League. Jermaine Jones' Schalke 04 and Onyewu's Malaga won their groups and will be seeded into the knockout phase. The campaign is over for Kljestan but not before his play helped earn him a recall to the national team. As for Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), the spotlight of playing in the Champions League could help the defender, who is a free agent at the end of the month, in his bid to find a new club.
|Kljestan and Onyewu exchange jerseys|
JERMAINE JONES. The Klinsmann favorite is playing in his fifth Champions League campaign and second for Schalke 04 since getting the green light to play for the USA internationally. He assisted on Christian Fuchs' late strike that gave Schalke a 1-0 win over Olympiakos and a berth in the round of 16.
Schalke clinched first place in Group B on Tuesday with a 1-1 tie at French champion Montpellier. The German club's success in Europe is in sharp contrast to its troubles at home. It has picked up just two points in its last four Bundesliga games, dropping to fourth place 13 points behind leader Bayern Munich. The pressure is mounting on its Dutch coach, Huub Stevens, whom Jones insists is not to blame for Schalke's poor form.
"The coach is standing on the touchline," he said. "It is we on the field who have the responsibility. We should not be using the coach as an excuse for our current performances."
GP: 5. GS: 3: Minutes: 332. Goals: 0. Assists: 1. Yellow Cards: 2.
OGUCHI ONYEWU. Onyewu is the ultimate traveler. He joined Spanish club Malaga on the final day of the summer transfer window. Spain is the seventh country in which he has played after France, Belgium, England, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal. Indeed, he has played in every major European league except the Bundesliga.
Onyewu was at first unhappy about the surprise loan move from Sporting, where he had finally settled in after the struggles at AC Milan, where a severe knee injury early in his first season prevented him from ever playing in Serie A.
At Malaga, Gooch is not a starter, but its heavy schedule means he has gotten games in the Champions League and Copa del Rey. He made his second start in the 2-2 tie with Kljestan's Anderlecht on Tuesday.
He admitted he was at first unhappy about leaving Lisbon.
"A lot of times in my career, I have been frustrated, annoyed and upset about how it was going, but at the end, it always worked out for me," Onyewu told the BBC. "That's how I am right now. As angry as I was to have to leave Portugal, I have found myself in an even better situation here in Spain. Life is a journey and, if you are brave enough to ride it, it is going to take you where you need to be."
Once he was assured Malaga had addressed the financial problems it had last season, he jumped at the chance to move to Spain.
"I thought I'd be a fool not to move from Portugal to Spain," he said "and go from the Europa League [Sporting knocked out Manchester City on the way to the semifinals last season] to the Champions League."
GP: 3. GS: 2. Minutes: 181. Goals: 0. Assists: 0. Yellow Cards: 0.
SACHA KLJESTAN. No player benefited more from the big stage that is the Champions League than Kljestan. Despite his success at Anderlecht, which won the 2012 Belgian league title, Kljestan remained far down on Klinsmann's midfield depth chart. "Are you even watching?" Kljestan asked on Twitter.
Yes, Klinsmann was watching. Or rather his Austrian assistant, Andreas Herzog, who came to watch the first Malaga game, during which Kljestan impressed with his quick movement of the ball on the flank. Kljestan was called up for the final two World Cup 2014 qualifiers of the year and put in solid performances in late-game situations.
Kljestan assisted on Dieumerci Mbokani's late goal in Anderlecht's 2-2 tie with Malaga on Tuesday to close out his European campaign. The assist was Kljestan's second of the Champions League campaign and fourth in his last eight games.
GP: 5. GS: 4: Minutes: 404. Goals: 0. Assists: 2. Yellow Cards: 2.
MICHAEL PARKHURST. Defending champion Chelsea took out all of its frustrations with a 6-1 win over Parkhurst's FC Nordsjaelland on Wednesday that was not enough to stave off elimination. It was a long night for Parkhurst, who was moved into the middle of the backline because of injuries. Spaniard Fernando Torres escaped from Parkhurst and scored his first goal for Chelsea in 562 minutes. Parkhurst was also lucky not be whistled for a penalty for a shove in Torres' back.
The Danish champion finished with just one point -- a 1-1 tie with Juventus -- but it was a memorable game for Parkhurst, who was named to the Team of the Week for his efforts. The Wake Forest product played every minute in the group stage.
GP: 6. GS: 6: Minutes: 540. Goals: 0. Assists: 0. Yellow Cards: 2.