Scottish champion Rangers FC heads into its most anticipated match of the season as massive underdogs. The Glasgow-based giants meet up with Manchester United at Old Trafford in their UEFA Champions League opener Tuesday evening.
Fontana's Maurice Edu (Etiwanda HS), who played for the U.S. at the World Cup, has started three of Rangers' four Scottish Premier League matches and is expected to play in midfield in Manchester.
The teams' legendary coaches, Rangers' Walter Smith and Man U's Alex Ferguson, are long-time friends who have worked together with Scotland's national team (at the 1986 World Cup) and at Manchester United (in 2004). Smith served as Ferguson's assistant on both occasions.
Ferguson, with Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho one of the two biggest names in European club coaching, scored 35 goals for Rangers from 1967 to 1969.
Man U, which last season failed to reach the Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2006, beat Rangers, 1-0 and 3-0, when the clubs met in the 2003-04 Champions League group stage.
The Red Devils are huge favorites in the Group C opener, but Scotland captain Darren Fletcher, who plays for Man U, isn't so sure.
“I'm not buying into the idea it's a foregone conclusion,” he told The Scotsman newspaper. “I've seen Rangers play in Europe, and they are usually hard to beat. On their run to the UEFA Cup final [in 2008], they had some fantastic results. Having played under Walter Smith, I know how organized his teams are. I know what to expect, and it's going to be a really difficult game for us.”
KLJESTAN IN EUROPA?: RSC Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS), on Thursday opens its UEFA Europa League campaign against Russian powerhouse Zenit St. Petersburg, which has qualified for European group play for the first time since winning the UEFA Cup in 2008. The Belgian champs, who dropped to the second-tier competition after losing to Partizan Belgrade in a Champions League playoff, also will face Croatia's Hajduk Split and Greece's AEK Athens in Group G.
Kljestan, who celebrated his 25th birthday last week by becoming engaged to Victoria's Secret model Jamie Lee Darley, is unlikely to play after Anderlecht coach Ariel Jacobs publicly criticized his form. The former Chivas USA captain hasn't played in three matches for the Brussels-based club since scoring in Jupiler League play Aug. 21 in a victory at Lokeren.
RISING STEPHANOIS: Saint-Etienne (3-1-1), with Alta Loma's Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma HS/UCLA) at left back, handed French Ligue 1 leader Toulouse its first loss, a 1-0 decision on former Toulouse forward Laurent Batlles' first-half goal. Bocanegra and Les Verts' defender withstood heavy pressure to get the shutout, which left them in third, two points behind Toulouse (4-1-0) and one behind Stade Rennes (3-0-2), the club Bocanegra left this summer to join Saint-Etienne.
ETC.: Irvine's Matt Taylor (Irvine/Irvine HS and UCLA) debuted for Rot Weiss Ahlen in Germany's third division. … Brad Friedel (UCLA) with Aston Villa and Yura Movsisyan (Pasadena/Passadena HS and Pasadena City College) with Randers are in action Monday. … Former France coach Gerard Houllier has agreed to take charge at Aston Villa, although he had not yet signed a contract and won't be available until later this year.
AREA PLAYERS IN EUROPE
D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club: Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
This week: Played 90 minutes at left back in a 1-0 victory over Toulouse as Les Verts (3-1-1) climbed to third place,
Season: 4 games (4 starts)
Next: Saturday vs. Montpellier (2-1-2)
M MICHAEL BRADLEY (Manhattan Beach)
Club: Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany, Bundesliga)
This week: Played 90 minutes in midfield in a 4-0 loss to previously winless Eintracht Frankfurt, which dropped Die Fohlen to 1-1-1.
Season: 3 league game (3 starts); 4 games (4 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions
Next: Saturday at last-place VfB Stuttgart (0-3-0)
D JAY DENNY (Santa Monica)
Club: Hednesford Town (England, Southern League Premier Division)
This week: Played 90 minutes at the back in a 2-1 loss to Newcastle Town in the F.A. Cup's qualifying first round
Season: 7 games (7 starts) in league play, 8 games (8 starts) in all competitions
Next: Tuesday vs. Swindon Supermarine
M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)
Club: Rangers (Scotland, Premier Division)
This week: 90 minutes in midfield in a 2-1 victory at Hamilton that left the Blues (4-0-0) second to archrival Celtic on goal difference
Season: 3 games (3 starts)
Next: Tuesday at Manchester United in UEFA Champions League, Saturday vs. Dundee United (1-1-2)
M BENNY FEILHABER (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: AGF Aarhus (Denmark, 1.Division)
This week: 90 minutes in midfield in a 7-1 win over Hvidovre that vaulted the Dettvie (4-0-1) atop the second-tier division's standings
Season: 3 league games (3 starts) with 2 yellow cards, 4 games (3 starts) overall
Next week: Wednesday vs. Kolding FC (2-1-2), Sunday at Hobro (3-3-0)
G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)
Club: Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)
This week: Idle
Season: 3 games (3 starts), 6 goals allowed, 12 saves
Next: Monday at Stoke City (0-3-0), Saturday vs. Bolton (1-1-2)
M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)
Club: RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)
This week: Did not travel for a 2-0 victory at St. Truiden that kept Les Mauves et Blancs (4-0-2) in second place.
Season: 3 league games (2 starts) with one goal; 5 games (4 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Next: Thursday vs. Zenit St. Petersburg in UEFA Europa League, Sunday vs. third-place KV Kortrijk (4-1-1)
D DALLAS MOORE (Santa Monica)
Club: Halesowen Town FC (England, Southern League Premier Division)
This week: Idle
Season: 7 games (7 starts)
Next: Tuesday at Chippenham Town, Saturday at Windsor & Eton
F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena)
Club: Randers (Denmark, SAS-Ligaen/Superliga)
This week: Idle
Season: 7 league games (6 starts) with 2 goals; 12 games (11 starts) and 7 goals in all competitions
Next: Monday at FC Midtjylland (5-2-0), Saturday vs. AaB Aalborg (1-3-4)
F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)
Club: Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)
This week: 90 minutes up top in a 2-0 loss at Eintracht Braunschweig, which left Rot Weiss' record 0-2-5.
Season: 1 game (1 start)
Next: Saturday vs. Carl Zeiss Jena (2-4-1)