EXCLUSIVE: U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard agrees governing bodies can help with head injuries

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GLASGOW — Tim Howard has had plenty of whacks, bumps and bruises over the years and the U.S. national team veteran has brushed most of them off.

However he accepts, like many, that head injuries aren’t just something you should shake off and carry on playing with. And as we’ve all seen from multiple incidents in the Premier League lately, how to deal with concussions is becoming an issue.

On Sunday November 3 at Goodison Park, USMNT ‘keeper Howard stood and watched on in horror from the other end of the pitch as Tottenham Hotspur’s French international stopper Hugo Lloris was knocked unconscious after a nasty collision with Romelu Lukaku.

Remarkably Lloris played on after lengthy treatment from Spurs’ medical team. There was uproar from the press, doctors, governing bodies, the PFA and just about everyone else in between, as the way Premier League clubs treat concussions and head injuries was called into question.

(MORE: PFA demands players “should not continue after loss of consciousness” as Lloris incident hits home)

Teams, leagues and, most importantly, the players, need help.

I asked Howard if soccer’s lawmakers could perhaps set up better guidelines on how to deal with a concussion or head injuries, to help restrict the amount of long-term damage they could cause. Leaning forward and donning a concerned look on his face, Howard agreed that perhaps new guidelines would help.

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Tottenham’s French ‘keeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on despite being knocked unconscious against Howard’s Everton side. Spurs’ goalkeeper hasn’t played since.

“I think if you look at how American sports have dealt with concussions and all the disastrous information that have come out in studies about post concussion, yeah, there needs to be a precedent set through the governing bodies,” Howard agreed. “A simple, ‘hey are you all good?’ and a thumbs up… it’s not enough. It’s important that the governing bodies, as they have in American sport, make the laws so stringent because we know the repercussions of letting players play on, whether they’ve been knocked out or have concussions. We realize how bad concussions are.”

(MORE: New head injuries in the Premier League add to swirling cyclone of criticism – video)

Howard, who was talking to me after coming in from a windswept Murray Park in Glasgow as he prepared for the USA’s upcoming friendlies with Scotland and Austria, was adamant that if he’d have been the one knocked unconscious in Everton’s 0-0 draw with Spurs, instead of Lloris, he would’ve expected the Toffees medical staff to take him out of the game immediately.

So, did he agree with how Spurs’ medical team acted?

“That’s their decision,” Howard said. “I would hope that if I was knocked out in the game that my medical staff wouldn’t have given me the option, that they would’ve taken me off.”

(MORE: Andre Villas-Boas stands by Tottenham’s decision to let Hugo Lloris play on)

As Howard and I discussed the topic we both agreed that the medical staff at Tottenham, and those at any other PL club, shouldn’t be making decisions on players concussion symptoms in such a fast-paced environment where split-second diagnosis’ are often rushed unintentionally.

“I think it’s important, as you mentioned, that UEFA, FIFA, governing bodies, whomever, that the guidelines become more stringent,” Howard said. “It takes the guess work out of it and it takes decisions out of people’s hands.”

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday