US Soccer players likely to find themselves Premier League transfer targets

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With the United States time at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil having drawn to a close, a number of players will soon feel the chase of European clubs looking for transfer targets.

The Premier League has long been a place welcoming to Americans and with a crop of six Yanks already in England’s top tier – Tim Howard (Everton), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Brad Friedel (Tottenham), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City) and Brek Shea (Stoke City) – there’s a good chance more will join after some impressive performances down in Brazil.

Below are five guys who could get Premier League looks as well as a few clubs where, based on need and prestige, the player could fit in.

MATT BESLER – SPORTING KANSAS CITY (DEFENDER) 

Leading up to the World Cup, Besler had attracted looks from Premier League and Bundesliga clubs impressed with his work in qualification. Now, with his performance in the World Cup in the books, those looks will undoubtedly translate into offers to move abroad.

Positionally intelligent, cool under pressure, fearless and fierce in the tackle, Besler would be a fantastic addition to a Premier League side looking to bolster their center-backs.

Decent Fits: Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Hull City, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham
Likelihood of Transfer: 7 of 10

DEANDRE YEDLIN – SEATTLE SOUNDERS (DEFENDER) 

Prior to the 1-2 loss to Belgium, Yedlin’s influential role as a bit-part substitute against Portugal and Germany had pundits and fans alike buzzing. Yes, people were well-aware of Yedlin’s sky-rocketing status at the Seattle Sounders but at the tender age of 20, could Yedlin truly handle significant role on the international stage?

That question was emphatically answered Tuesday night when the University of Akron product stepped on the pitch for the injured Fabian Johnson and promptly drove holes into Belgium’s left side. Did he power his way forward too much? Probably. But when the rest of the USMNT was tentative in attack, Yedlin was fearless, downright brash in his attacks. Defensively, he recovered as well, notably shutting down Premier League Young Player of the Year, Eden Hazard.

No doubt, Yedlin is raw. But his physicality is special and his swashbuckling style is reminiscent of current Premier League full-backs Kyle Walker and Seamus Coleman. The latter was purchased by Everton in 2009 for a cool $750,000 from Sligo Rovers and has since gone on to become the most feared attacking full-back in the league. No reason Yedlin can’t achieve the same status by 2018.

Possible Fits: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Southampton
Likelihood of Transfer: 6 of 10

 

FABIAN JOHNSON – BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH (DEFENDER) 

Hard to say there was a more dynamic player than Fabian Johnson for the US in Brazil. The versatile German-American fit right in at right-back, a position some US pundits feared before the tournament the Yanks were vulnerable. But Johnson, who can play anywhere on the left or right side of the pitch, proved an ace on defense and a nightmare going forward.

Explosive pace, skill on the ball and an eye for dangerous runs that create goals, Johnson could be an attacking full-back of the highest caliber in the Premier League. The issue with the 26-year-old, however, is that he just completed his transfer from Hoffenheim to Borussia Monchengladbach, who will be unlikely to want to part with the player after such a strong showing in Brazil. Then again, Johnson arrived at ‘gladbach on a free transfer meaning the lure of straight profit exists.

Decent Fits: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Swansea City
Likelihood of Transfer: 5 of 10

KYLE BECKERMAN – REAL SALT LAKE (MIDFIELDER) 

Along with Yedlin, Beckerman enjoyed his international coming out party in this World Cup. A lock-down holding midfielder for the Americans throughout the group-stage, Beckerman displayed brilliant positioning, accurate passing and a range of tackles making him a nuisance for opposing squads looking to attack through the middle.

Controversially left out of the team that lost 1-2 to Belgium in the Round of 16, Beckerman would be a surefire transfer to the Premier League if he was south of 30 years old. Unfortunately, he’s 32. If English sides can see past that and factor in the late development of the typical American player, a two or three year deal isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Decent Fits: Southampton, Crystal Palace, Sunderland
Likelihood of Transfer: 4 of 10

GRAHAM ZUSI – SPORTING KANSAS CITY (MIDFIELDER) 

Zusi enjoyed a decent World Cup, highlighted by his performance in the 2-1 win over Ghana and, specficially, the perfect swerving corner-kick that John Anthony Brooks thundered home to defeat the Yank’s nemesis. The rest of Zusi’s tournament was marked by inconsistent play, at times displaying smooth technique and clever link-up play but too often going lost on the pitch.

The winger went on trial with West Ham United in January 2013 but was not offered a deal. But since then Zusi has grown in talent and experience making him a possible target of a club with reasonable financial resources and a need of wingers.

Decent Fits: Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Burnley
Likelihood of Transfer: 2 of 10

Gabriel Jesus confident he’ll return for Man City this season

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Gabriel Jesus bursted onto the Manchester City scene upon arrival, but an injury back in February has left the talented Brazilian sidelined ever since.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty ]

The lively attacker suffered a broken metatarsal last month against Bournemouth, which required surgery, but the 19-year-old remains confident that he’ll be able to feature again this season for the Citizens.

“I don’t know, I have no return prediction,” Jesus told SporTV. “But I hope I can still play some games this season.”

Initial thoughts were that Jesus would miss around three months, all but ending his first Premier League season. Now, Jesus is hoping that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off prior to the devastating injury.

“It’s good,” Jesus said on his road to recovery. “Thank God, the effort, not just mine, but from all the physiotherapists in Manchester, doctors and everyone. It was not easy for me.

“It’s my first injury. Not muscle injury, but it’s the first time something happens that leaves me out of games. So it was not easy.

“But I saw that, of course, no one wants this to happen, but it could be worse. So we operated soon, I decided to operate and give it time.”

In just his first four matches with Pep Guardiola‘s side, the young Brazilian netted three goals and even dethroned Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup.

CONCACAF chief Montagliani seeks World Cup entry for all co-hosts

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A joint-bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is looking more and more possible, and CONCACAF chief Victor Montagliani believes that if that does happen then all co-hosts should be granted a spot in the tournament.

[ MORE: Making sense of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras ]

With FIFA president Gianni Infantino looking to finalize World Cup expansion plans from 32 to 48 teams over the coming weeks, it seems as though Montagliani’s hopes could become a reality for CONCACAF and other regions planning on creating multi-nation bids.

“I don’t think we should be dictating how a confederation allocates their slots from a hosting standpoint. That’s up to them,” Montagliani said.

FIFA will conduct its next meeting on Thursday when Infantino and all six confederation presidents meet in Zurich, Switzerland to decide on World Cup expansion, which Infantino has been adamant about since taking the reigns of soccer’s governing body.

2026 could play an important role for the United States, as it is seen as a critical piece in a joint-bid with Mexico and Canada to host the World Cup.

Additionally, Montagliani has hopes of making a combined Copa America with North and South America a permanent fixture after recently holding discussions with South America’s FIFA vice president Alejandro Dominguez.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Friday night’s massive USMNT victory ]

However, one area that would be left uncertain is the future of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is currently held every two years.

“If that is the case and we get that done, then we have to have a serious look — is it really tenable to have a Gold Cup?” said Montagliani, whose FIFA stakeholders panel faces tough talks on adding and subtracting dates when clubs must release players on international dates.

“Do we really need it [the Gold Cup]?” he suggested. “Is it just clogging the calendar for the players?”

Lukaku coy on Everton future, says “decision has already been made”

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Romelu Lukaku has made it no secret that he hopes to play Champions League football, and reality may be setting in that the opportunity to do so won’t come at Everton.

[ MORE: Everton loses Coleman to leg break during Ireland match ]

While the Belgium international hasn’t dealt his hand in regards to his future at Goodison Park, it seems as though the Toffees could be losing out on keeping their star striker.

[ MORE: UEFA qualifying roundup — Wales in trouble, Buffon hits 1000 ]

Last month, agent Mino Raiola claimed that Lukaku’s deal with the English side was 99.9 percent complete, however, the 23-year-old has still yet to ink a new contract.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s UEFA World Cup qualifier against Greece, Lukaku says that his future plans are already made up.

“The decision has already been made so I can’t talk about that,” Lukaku said of his future at Everton.

The former Anderlecht standout has had nothing but success since joining Everton, first on loan and then making a permanent transfer from Chelsea in 2014. Over the combined stints, Lukaku has bagged 83 goals in all competitions for the Toffees, but the young attacker says there’s nothing wrong with having “ambition.”

“There is nothing wrong with ambition. You have to embrace it and where you are as a footballer,” Lukaku said. “I’ve made a long way until now but the road is still long and I know I have to improve and get better. I want to help Everton as much as I can, as well as the national team. I think a lot of stuff can be achieved.

“Sometimes people will mistake things that I say but it’s just ambition that I have; I want to win titles and trophies and I don’t think people should take that as arrogance — people should embrace it.

“This is what footballers need to achieve if they want to become the best, and I think young kids need to learn that too.”

Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras

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In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras ]

An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.

After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).

Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.

The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.

Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.

Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.

The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.

The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.

Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.

It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.

[ MORE: Three takeaways from USMNT’s emphatic win on Friday night ]

Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.

Up next, Panama.