Portland Timbers midfielder Michael Nanchoff is currently serving a loan spell with Swedish second-division side Jönköpings Södra IF and has recently helped lift the side one point clear of a spot in the relegation playoffs with six matches remaining in Sweden’s Superettan season.
Nanchoff has started seven of the last eight league matches since making his debut for Jönköpings Södra on Aug. 7 against Örebro, tallying two goals and one assist for the club in eight league appearances. He registered seven consecutive starts for the club from Aug. 7 until Wednesday’s match, when he entered as a second-half substitute. Head coach Mats Gren’s side is 7-12-5 overall with 26 points through 24 matches this season, good enough for 12th place in the 16-team league. With the bottom two clubs automatically relegated to Division 1 (the third tier on the Swedish soccer pyramid), the 13th and 14th place teams play a two-game relegation playoff to determine which team will remain in the Superettan.
In all competitions, Nanchoff has logged 638 minutes in nine games – playing the full 90 minutes in back-to-back matches Aug. 24-28.
“It's never easy being the new guy and stepping into the starting lineup, but I've worked hard and earned my starting role,” Nanchoff said. “It has been fantastic playing games consistently. Regardless of how much a footballer trains, there's nothing more important than game fitness and gaining more confidence.”
Jönköpings Södra suffered a 2-1 loss at IFK Värnamo on Wednesday. Nanchoff entered the game in the 54th minute with Jönköpings Södra trailing 1-0. Team captain Tommy Thelin tallied the equalizer in the 61st minute, but IFK Värnamo netted the game-winning goal in the 84th minute. Jönköpings Södra squares off against seventh-place Hammarby on Sunday in a critical match to stay above the relegation playoffs.
While Nanchoff has found his spot on the field, the Ohio native has also taken advantage of time off to do some sightseeing around the country, as well as in his new home of Jönköping.
“It's a beautiful little city on the lake here in Jönköping,” Nanchoff said. “However, we have had a couple days off that I've taken advantage of. I traveled to Gothenburg and Stockholm a couple times. Both are bigger cities with beautiful sightseeing. We also had an exhibition match in Copenhagen (Denmark), which was incredible, as well. And let’s not forget, I ride everywhere in town on my ‘Cruiser’ bicycle with a ladies’ basket attached to the front.”
Nanchoff’s teammates have helped make the transition smooth both on-and-off the field.
“I've made friends with many of the guys on the team,” Nanchoff said. “Everyone has good humor and are willing to show me around anytime. My good friend Zourab [Tsiskaridze, a former second-division player with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2010 and the Montreal Impact in 2011] has really taken the time to make my adjustment in Sweden very fast and smooth. He cooks every single night!”
Just as Nanchoff has had the chance to experience a packed JELD-WEN Field, he said Jönköpings Södra’s home stadium “Stadsparkvallen” delivers its own unique experience. The 111-year-old stadium was designated one of Sweden’s 100 most historic sporting locations in the country.
“Our stadium, Stadsparkvallen, is an awesome little stadium in my opinion,” Nanchoff said. “Seats about 5,000 and the atmosphere is quite nice. If we can get a few Timbers Army fans here that would be fantastic.”