EUROPE: Might promotion sway Benny Feilhaber?
Last weekend's 2-0 victory over Hobro left AGF (19-1-3) 10 points in the clear for automatic promotion to the Danish Superliga. It's less if and more when -- as Feilhaber says, they're the clear favorite.
How might that sway the Brazilian-born, Irvine-bred midfielder's choice of employers when his contract expires this summer?
"There is a very good chance we will [win promotion] this season," Feilhaber told Major League Soccer's website this week. "That, of course, heightens the chance of me possibly re-signing for AGF in the summertime. I will have to take everything into consideration that is offered to me. I definitely don't rule anything out at this moment."
There should be options. Feilhaber impressed at last year's World Cup, and there have been plenty of suitors since. Possibilities in Brazil and in Mexico, reports pointing to Cruz Azul, fell apart, but he said there were "ongoing talks with several clubs since, and we will see if anything solidifies moving toward summer."
Feilhaber (Northwood HS/UCLA) has been a sparkplug on the left flank for AGF, scoring or assisting 14 goals in all competitions.
VILLA ON THE VERGE: Former UCLA star Brad Friedel had a fine game for sinking Aston Villa, making three big saves in a 1-0 loss to Wolverhampton that leaves Aston Villa barely above the relegation zone. The Villans (8-13-9), owned by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner, are 14th in the English Premier League, just one point above the drop with eight games to go.
Fans turned on manager Gerard Houllier during the Wolves match, but club management has backed him, and a club director gave the team a rousing pep talk.
Retired Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak told the Villans that "when my Marines put on their uniforms and the emblem of the Corps and went into battle and things got tough, they did not fight for their commander, they fought for their brothers-in-arms, the men wearing their uniform and emblem. What we need now is to quit pointing fingers and everyone look at the claret and blue of our kit and the badge they are wearing and go out and kick the crap out of the next teams we play until the end of the season."
YURA STRIKES AGAIN: Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan netted his first Russian Premier League goal, scoring just eight minutes after coming off the bench in FC Krasnodar's 2-0 victory over Spartak Nalchik. Movsisyan, who doubled the lead in the 70th minute, was making his third appearance for the club after a preseason transfer from Danish club Randers, for which he'd scored 14 goals in 25 games this season.
He's one of two Russia-based players in Armenia's roster for a crucial 2012 European Championship qualifier Saturday against Russia in Yerevan, the Armenian capital. An upset could vault the Highlanders atop Group B halfway through the group stage.
BOCANEGRA OK: Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra exited early in the second half of Saint-Etienne's 0-0 French Ligue 1 draw against Lorient with a calf injury. It appears the move was mostly precautionary -- the U.S. captain made it to Cary, N.C., for national team preparations for friendlies Saturday against Argentina and next Tuesday against Paraguay. Four other Europe-based So Cal players are in the U.S. camp: Feilhaber, Rangers FC's Maurice Edu, Anderlecht's Sacha Klejstan and Aston Villa's Michael Bradley.
ETC.: The week wasn't win-win for Rangers, which was eliminated from the UEFA Europa Cup in a 1-0 home loss to PSV Eindhoven (Edu did not have one of his better days, and he missed a near-sitter) but bounced back to beat archrival Celtic, 2-1, in overtime in the Scottish League Cup final (much better for Edu, who deserved a penalty call). ... Kljestan was in the starting XI again for Anderlecht, which finished the first phase of Belgium's Jupiler League season in first place with a 19-3-8 record. Les Mauves and five other clubs begin the championship phase the first weekend in April. ... Former Galaxy forward Edson Buddle helped FC Ingolstadt climb out of the German 2.Bundesliga's relegation zone ... barely. Die Schanzer is 14th of 18 clubs -- the bottom four head to the 3.Bundesliga at season's end -- even on points with 15th-place Karlsruhe but ahead on goal difference.
- AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE
D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
Last week: Started, played 54 minutes as Les Verts (10-9-9) climbed to sixth with a 0-0 draw Saturday at Lorient; departed with a calf injury
Season: 24 league games (24 starts) with 2 goals, 26 games (26 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Next: April 3 vs. 16th-place Valenciennes (7-9-12)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier League)
Last week: Did not play as the 14th-place Villans (8-13-9) lost, 1-0, Saturday to Wolverhampton
Season: 2 games (1 start) in all competitions for Aston Villa; 22 games (20 starts) with 4 goals for Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)
Next: April 2 at eighth-place Everton (9-8-13)
M/D JAY DENNY (Santa Monica)
Club: Hednesford Town (England, Southern League Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes for the fifth-place Pitmen (21-8-4) in a 1-0 win Saturday at Cirencester Town and a 4-2 win Wednesday over Halesowen Town
Season: 33 league games (31 starts) with 1 goal, 41 games (39 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Next: Saturday vs. 14th-place Oxford City (9-15-10)
M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)
Club: Rangers FC (Scotland, Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes in Thursday's 1-0 loss to PSV Eindhoven in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League round of 16; 120 minutes in Sunday's 2-1 overtime victory over Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final
Season: 8 UEFA cup games (8 starts) with 2 goals, 6 domestic cup games (6 starts) with 1 goal, 36 games (29 starts) with 5 goals in all competitions
Next: April 2 vs. fourth-place Dundee United (12-7-10)
M BENNY FEILHABER (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: AGF Aarhus (Denmark, 1.Division)
Last week: Started, played 45 minutes and was yellow-carded as first-place De Hvi'e (13-1-3) returned from winter break with a 2-0 win Friday over Hobro
Season: 15 league games (15 starts) with 4 goals, 18 games (17 starts) overall with 7 goals
Next: Sunday at 15th-place Hvidovre (4-10-2)
G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes, with 3 saves, as the 14th-place Villans (8-13-9) lost, 1-0, Saturday to Wolverhampton
Season: 30 league games (30 starts), 51 goals allowed, 90 saves, 5 shutouts; 5 cup games (5 stars), 8 goals allowed, 18 saves; 35 games (35 starts), 61 goals allowed, 108 saves, 5 shutouts in all competitions
Next: April 2 at eighth-place Everton (9-8-13)
M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)
Club: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)
Last week: Started, played 45 minutes Sunday as Les Mauves (19-3-8) finished the first phase on the Belgian season with a 3-2 victory over KAA Gent
Season: 18 league games (13 starts) with 2 goals, 26 games (21 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions
Next: April 2 or 3 against opponent to be determined
D DALLAS MOORE (Santa Monica)
Club: St. Neots Town FC (England, UCL Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes in 2-1 victory Saturday over Kings Lynn in the UCL League Cup quarterfinals; 90 minutes as the first-place Saints (26-1-5) drew, 1-1, Tuesday at Peterborough Northern Star
Season: 8 league games (8 starts) with 1 goal, 2 cup games (2 starts), 10 games (10 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions for St. Neots Town; 13 games (13 starts) for Halesowen Town (England) with 1 goal
Next: Saturday vs. 21st-place Rothwell Corinthians (1-24-6)
F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)
Club: FC Krasnodar (Russia, Russian Premier League)
Last week: 62nd-minute substitute, scored goal in 70th minute, as third-place FCK (1-0-1) won, 2-0, Saturday over Spartak Nalchik
Season: 2 league games (0 starts) with 1 goal, 3 games (0 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions for Krasnodar; 25 games (20 starts) with 14 goals for Randers (Denmark)
Next: April 3 at fifth-place CSKA Moscow (1-0-0)
F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)
Last week: 90 minutes as Rot Weiss (8-12-9) was beaten, 3-0, Saturday at Dynamo Dresden; did not play in a 3-1 victory over VfB Huels in the Krombacher-Westfalen Cup quarterfinals
Season: 21 league games (21 starts) with 13 goals, 22 games (22 starts) with 13 goals in all competitions
Next: April 2 vs. FC Saarbruecken
F BOBBY WOOD (Irvine)
Club: TSV 1860 Munich (Germany, 2. Bundesliga)
Past week: Did not play as eighth-place 1860 (11-7-9) on Friday beat Karslruhe, 5-1
Season: 5 league games (0 starts), 23 games (14 starts) with 7 goals in all competitions
Next: April 1 at sixth-place Energie Cottbus (13-8-6)