by Chipp Reid
The Superettan chugged into its midsummer break July 17 with IFK Norrköping and Degerfors in a dead heat for first place and promotion to the Allsvenskan.
The Peking team of Norrköping, and Degerfors were level on points with 27 from identical 8-3-4 records. Norrköping held the top spot, thanks to a better goal difference. Degerfors had a chance July 12 to take over sole possession of first place but played to a scoreless draw with fourth-place Syrianska.
Still, Degerfors is the surprise team of the Superettan. Degerfors moved up to the Superettan this season and few experts believed it would challenge for promotion. Degerfors’ opposite is Hammarby, which most experts thought would return to the Allsvenskan with ease. Instead, the Bajen are in 10th place in the 16-team Superettan.
Hammarby hit a new low July 12 when played to a scoreless draw with third-to-last Falkenbergs. First-year head coach Jesper Blomqvist was relentless in his criticism of his team.
“The first half was beneath contempt,” Blomqvist told the official Hammarby Web site. “The players were lethargic and showed poor energy. The only positive was that at the break it was 0-0 and it was 45 minutes left.”
The 2010 Superettan is almost an Allsvenskan-light as 10 of the 16 teams played in the Allsvenskan in the past three seasons. Hammarby and Örgryte joined the league after suffering relegation last year.
Örgryte could be the spoiler in the second half of the season as it has finally figured out how to win. ÖIS went into the break in fifth place―but with a game in hand on the front-runners. Örgryte only lost once in its first 14 matches but drew eight times. As the break approached, however, ÖIS turned on the burners, beating Hammarby 3-0 on July 5 before whacking Jönköpings Södra 2-0 on July 12.
Brazilian star Alvaro Santos led the resurgence as he scored in both matches to raise his season’s tally to six goals in just eight games. Örgryte also managed to lure Valter Tomazs, Jr. back into the fold. The popular Brazilian defender has solidified what was a somewhat unsteady back four. Örgryte has allowed the second-fewest goals in the league.
With its game in hand, ÖIS could slip into third place, which Sundsvall currently holds with 26 points.
Most eyes at the start of the season were on Landskrona BoIS, where iconic former Swedish international Henrik Larsson made his professional coaching debut. So far, Larsson has his team playing .500 ball as Landskrona entered the break in ninth place with a 6-4-5 record and 22 points.
Ljungskile, behind American goalkeeper Nick Noble, was in sixth place on 23 points from a 6-5-4 record. Noble, who bounced around Major League Soccer after playing for West Virginia University, played every minute for Ljungskile, picking up a league-leading eight shutouts and a 79 percent save average.
IK Brage, also with a 6-5-4 record and 23 points but a lower goal difference, was in seventh place. Brage has a pair of seven-goal scorers in Daniel Akervall and Johan Eklund.
At the bottom of the table, Väsby United and newcomers FC Trollhättan continue to struggle. The two sides, along with Jönköpings Södra, have allowed 27 goals each, the most in the Superettan.