BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
HEARTS will go into their Europa League campaign without Perry Kitchen after the midfielder progressed with the United States to the semi-finals of the Copa America.
The 24-year-old was an unused substitute as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side defeated Ecuador 2-1 in Seattle on Thursday night to set up a last-four battle with either Argentina or Venezuela.
That possible clash with Lionel Messi and co. is scheduled for Tuesday, prolonging Kitchen’s stay in his homeland.
However, with the semi-final losers going through to a third/fourth play-off place on June 25, even if the US fail to reach next Sunday’s final the former DC United player still has at least another week of international duty left.
Hearts kick-off their Europa League qualifiers on June 30 and, with head coach Robbie Neilson keen for Kitchen to get some rest before returning to Scotland, it is understood the January signing is not expected to be involved with his club until the second round qualifiers on July 14 and 21 at the earliest.
Kitchen tweeted: “Incredible win tonight! On to the final four. Thank you Seattle!”
Meanwhile, new player-coach Paul Gallacher insists he is excited by his move to Hearts – even though he accepts his playing time will be limited.
The 36-year-old turned down a new contract at Partick Thistle this summer and has penned a two-year deal to join the Jambos following the departure of Neil Alexander at the end of last season.
And Gallacher admits the prospect of European football and the opportunity to coach at a ‘thriving club’ ensured it was a move he had to accept.
The former Dundee United and St Mirren keeper said: “I got a phone call from Robbie (Neilson) and after speaking to him I was really excited about the prospect of joining such a massive club.
“The club’s thriving and the team is in Europe, so it was a no-brainer really and an offer that I couldn’t turn down.
“The fact that it’s a player-coach role made it very appealing.
“I know they’re looking to bring someone else in as well but I’ll keep myself fit and be ready if they need me.
“First and foremost, I’m passionate about working with the goalkeepers here and improving them, from academy level up to the first team.”