Tim Howard named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has been named as the US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year after beating off competition from a number of fellow USMNT stars to claim the award.

Howard beat Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones to the award by picking up 64% of the votes, with MLS duo Jones and Beckerman in second and third places respectively.

The 35-year-old is currently taking a leave of absence from the National team after some incredible displays at the World Cup in Brazil this summer, but he certainly earned the award, which he also claimed in 2008.

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2014 saw Howard make eight international appearances in a year which also saw the shot-stopper earn his 100th cap for the USA.

The Everton ‘keeper picked up two Man of the Match awards during the World Cup and set a competition record for most saves in a single match with an extraordinary 16.

Howard becomes the fifth player to win Male Athlete of the Year on multiple occasions, joining defender Marcelo Balboa (1992, 1994), goalkeeper Kasey Keller (1997, 1999 and 2005), forward Landon Donovan (2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010) and forward Clint Dempsey (2007, 2011 and 2012).

Do you think Tim Howard deserves to be named as US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year for 2014?

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Preview and Prediction: Republic of Ireland vs USA

USA will complete their 2014 schedule on Tuesday night when they travel to the Aviva Stadium to take on the Republic of Ireland in another international friendly.

They will be looking to bounce straight back from the defeat to Colombia on Friday night and a positive result will be essential, with a strong performance to match high on the agenda.

Ireland will be without their all-time leading goalscorer in Robbie Keane, as he was released on Saturday in order to prepare for his upcoming MLS playoff matches with the LA Galaxy.

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[Ireland and LA Galaxy star Robbie Keane will not feature against USA on Tuesday as he was released from the squad]

Furthermore, Jurgen Klinsmann has released four MLS-based players from duty in order to increase game time for those not involved in the playoffs.

Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin and DaMarcus Beasley have all been sent home following the loss to Colombia. Nguyen and Jones need to prepare for New England Revolution’s push for the Eastern Conference title, while Yedlin will be with Supporters’ Shield winners Seattle Sounders as they look ahead to their clashes with the Galaxy.

Klinsmann has not called anyone else up so he will go into the Ireland game with a 21-man squad and several players will be hoping to impress.

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[Jurgen Klinsmann looks on from the dugout at Craven Cottage during the USA vs. Colombia game]

The last time the two sides met was in April 2002, just prior to the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. The game ended in a 2-1 win for the Republic of Ireland.

As much as this is billed as a friendly, both teams will want a result, as Ireland will be looking to regain a bit of form following their loss to Scotland, and the USA will be hoping to build towards the 2015 Gold Cup – which they are hosting.

This should be a good game, possibly open and end-to-end, but we expect that the USA will come out on top.

They played well against Colombia on Friday, and have enough quality to end 2014 on a high – something Klinsmann will be desperate to do.

Predicted USMNT lineup: Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Greg Garza, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Kyle Beckerman, Julian Green, Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood.

Key Player: Kyle Beckerman – Was influential on Friday night and provided cover for the USMNT when they were going forward. Expect him to anchor the US midfield once again.

Key Stat: USMNT forward Rubio Rubin would have been only three months old (18 years ago), the last time the USA beat Republic of Ireland.

Score Prediction: Republic of Ireland 0 – 2 USA

USMNT gather momentum going into the World Cup

USA has now won all three of their warm up games. They were, however, less than impressive in the opening two of their ‘send-off’ series.

But they changed their performance last night as Jurgen Klinsmann ditched the diamond and flooded midfield.

The structure was simply genius as it allowed Alejandro Bedoya and Clint Dempsey freedom on counter attacks.

There are things we need to look out for at the World Cup, assuming that Klinsmann won’t change this current team too much.

1. Zonal Marking – ditch it.

Set pieces are the worst way to concede a goal, as you have plenty of time to set yourself up and zonal marking is the greatest liability.

The system allows players to get complacent because you rely on each other, whereas, in a man-marking system everyone has a job.

We hope he doesn’t use it in Brazil against the likes of Germany who will punish the team from corners otherwise.

2. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones are a great insurance plan.

When you risk everything on a fast-paced counter attack you have to take precautions defensively.

Jones and Beckerman provide that cover so that the fullbacks, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley can bomb on.

Klinsmann has found an answer to his midfield issue, and the USMNT have a realistic chance of success at the tournament.

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3. Michael Bradley is ready to shine.

Based on what we have seen in the three warm up games, Michael Bradley will have a great World Cup.

He is one of the first names on the USMNT team sheet and he provides a range of passes that can trouble any defence.

Ghana, Germany and Portugal better have done their homework because Bradley could hurt them.

4. Bedoya or Zusi?

We like Bedoya and he had another good game last night. But we have cause to believe Graham Zusi would be a better choice in terms of structure.

He is more than capable of joining in on the counter attack and he can also pick out a pass to perfection.

But unlike Bedoya, Zusi gives you a bit more defensively and we think he should start instead. It is likely that Bedoya will play though because we cannot see Klinsmann changing his team too much now.

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5. Jozy Altidore can score goals.

It’s an extreme long shot but who’s to say he can’t win the Golden Boot? Although this is extremly unlikely, he did give us cause for optimism with a well-taken brace and lead’s a side with goals in it.

Granted the first goal was a tap-in and had he missed it, he should have retired, but his second cannot be questioned.

The confidence he showed while in possession was great to see and we think the USA have a great platform to attack with him as their outlet alongside Dempsey.

The USMNT will now play Belgium in a behind closed doors match on Thursday but we expect the team will stay much the same regardless of what happens there.

Five USMNT players that should move back to MLS

With Major League Soccer on the rise, and key American stars such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley heading back home to play their football, we take a look at five players that should follow suit this summer.

The national team will only improve if the majority of players are based in the US, and a certain playing style will be seen throughout the team as a result. The following five players should look to make the move to MLS this summer:

1. Jozy Altidore

The 24-year-old striker started his career in MLS after he was drafted by the New York Metrostars (now Red Bulls) with the seventeenth pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. He moved to Europe in 2008 as an 18-year-old to Spanish side Villarreal but never managed to fulfil his potential, and couldn’t shine in loan spells at Xerez, Hull City and Bursaspor either.

After two very impressive seasons with AZ Alkmaar, he made the move to Sunderland last summer, but scored just one league goal in 30 appearances at the Stadium of Light last season, and a move back to MLS could turn his career around. He would get the respect from national press and fans alike, and would be able to score goals in a league that’s rapidly becoming more recognised around the world. The move could save his career from dwindling into unfulfilled potential.

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2. DaMarcus Beasley

Beasley is another who started in MLS before moving to Europe, after five seasons with Chicago Fire from 2000-2004. The 32-year-old played all across Europe and was the first American to play in the UEFA Champions League, when he played for PSV. He moved to Mexico to play for Puebla in 2011, and looks set for a return to US soccer this summer.

There will be shortage of interested parties for the experienced winger, who also plays at left-back now, and the former-Manchester City man is thought to want a move back to MLS after the World Cup.

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3. Alejandro Bedoya

Bedoya has never played in MLS, but is a part of the USMNT 23-man squad for the World Cup, and a move to Major League Soccer would only boost his career. He is currently playing for French club Nantes, after moving there last summer, and enjoyed a good season by scoring six goals in 32 appearances in all competitions.

Though if an offer arrives from MLS, the 27-year-old would be wise to make the switch and enhance both his and US soccer’s image across the globe. He plays primarily as an attacking midfielder but is often used out wide as well, and that is where we are likely to see him deployed by Jurgen Klinsmann in Brazil.

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4. Mix Diskerud

Norwegian-born, Mix Diskerud chose to play for the United States in 2010 and has made 18 appearances for the USMNT since then. He scored in the friendly against Azerbaijan earlier this week, and will wear the No. 10 shirt formerly worn by Landon Donovan at the World Cup. Diskerud has not played in MLS, but came close in 2012, when a move to the Portland Timbers broke down due to a disagreement over MLS transfer policies.

He remained with his current club Rosenborg in Norway, but at just 23 could make the move to MLS and enhance his career. The central midfielder would be playing a better standard of football in the US, in a league filling up with global stars by the year. After several weeks with the USMNT, Diskerud might just want to make the switch come the end of the World Cup.

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5. Jermaine Jones

The 32-year-old is another who has yet to play in MLS, but a move this summer would be the perfect time to make the switch. Jones is currently playing for Turkish side Besiktas, after many years in Germany as well as a loan spell with Blackburn Rovers. The defensive midfielder would get into most sides in the league, and despite only joining Besiktas in January has a contract that expires at the end of June.

Jones has already said that he almost moved to MLS before making the switch to Turkey earlier in the year, and could be set for the move this summer, after the World Cup.

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How many of these USMNT stars do you see making the move to MLS?