Howard’s international sabbatical means opportunity for Guzan, Johnson and Hamid


Tim Howard is the most-capped goalkeeper in U.S. national team history, something that defaults him into a conversation with Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller as the best this country has ever produced. Even if he had fewer caps, the New Jersey-born keeper would still merit a place in that discussion. There just aren’t many Americans who’ve carved out indispensable places at a prominent English clubs.

The importance of that place was reaffirmed last season, when Everton extended Howard’s contract through the 2017-18 season. Not only is the U.S. international valuable in the present, but given his current level, physical state, and work ethic, Roberto Martínez was willing to bet on the then 34-year-old’s future. When Russia 2018 arrives, Howard may still be between the sticks at Goodison Park.

That is the only place we’ll find the U.S. veteran this year, with U.S. Soccer announcing Thursday that the former MetroStars and Manchester United goalkeeper is taking a 13-month break from the national team. Between now and a potential Sept. 2015 return, Howard will miss up to eight friendlies as well as next summer’s confederation championship: the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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For those hoping Howard would survive as U.S. number one through the next cycle, the news is reason for concern. Though he’s going to stay active with Everton, his time away from the team abdicates his starting job. When, at 36, he returns next year, he’ll have to unseat whomever claims his spot.

source: Getty ImagesThat person will almost certainly be Brad Guzan (right)  – the long-time number two who filled in ably when called on in World Cup qualifying. An established starter for Aston Villa, Guzan’s elite reflexes have earned a contingent of support that feels he should get a shot, regardless. While that view doesn’t appear to be shared by Klinsmann (nor was it by his predecessors), Guzan has inspired confidence.

He’ll be the presumed starter for the U.S.’s upcoming friendlies. Come next summer, he should be the number one when the U.S. tries to qualify for the Confederations Cup. With a steady run as the team’s lead shot-stopper, Guzan will have every opportunity to cement the starting job. If Howard reclaims the role in September, the decision will quell any notion the Villa man deserves the job.

Farther down the depth chart, Howard’s decision creates a potentially more interesting battle – one that features two contenders, rather than a contender and a star on leave. With Nick Rimando presumably moving into the backup’s role, Chicago’s Sean Johnson may have the lead on the third keeper’s position, but given the strong season from long-time rival Bill Hamid, Johnson’s ascension may not be guaranteed.

source: Getty ImagesEach keeper, both viable beyond the 2018 cycle, have their strong points, the details of which become tedious when you break them down. Everybody seems to emphasize different qualities in their keepers, but in terms of U.S. national team hopes, what matters is Klinsmann’s view. Though that view could change, Johnson (right) appears to be slightly in front of Hamid, albeit on very limited evidence.

But still, we are at the beginning of a new World Cup cycle – a new frontier. Perhaps the team’s outlook will embrace that new, expansive future? Maybe there are other players, perhaps a Cody Cropper, that will have a say. Maybe, in light of this group of young keepers, it’s time to move way from Rimando and give more time (in games, in camps) to players who will step in once Guzan versus Howard is done?

Or maybe we should let the chips fall where they may. One thing that May taught us (and taught us good): Predicting Jurgen Klinsmann’s mindset is a fool’s errand. Guzan looks set to start, while one of Hamid or Johnson may see more time with the squad, but given what we saw this summer, we shouldn’t get used to our assumptions.

Contest to crown “Best American Bar” for Premier League fans

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For most of the weekend mornings, bars across the United States of America turn into places filled with jerseys of every color imaginable and either screams of despair or yelps of delight fill the air.

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Fans of the Premier League in the U.S. flock to plenty of pubs and bars across the nation to watch all the action and now NBC Sports wants to crown the “Best Premier League Bar in America” with your help.

Below are the details on how to get involved in the contest, as you can submit a nomination by visiting NBCSports.com/BestPLBarContest.

Oh, and by the way, the winning bar will receive $50,000 and an exclusive viewing party hosted by NBC Sports, plus be featured in a national commercial.

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Also, hit play in the video above to get a flavor of the competition.

STAMFORD, Conn. – October, 2015 – This week, NBC Sports Group introduced a contest searching for the best Premier League bar in America.

From now through December 6, NBC Sports Group is asking fans to “show their pub some love” by submitting nominations  to help their bar take the throne at NBCSports.com/BestPLBarContest. Additionally, fans can support their pub by:

  • Checking in on the NBC Sports Matchmaker App
  • Sharing stories, images and videos by tagging their bar and using #BestPLBarContest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Describing how much their Premier League pub means to them here.

The contest site also features a full list of participating bars, a list of trending bars, a social media feed with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts with the hashtag #BestPLBarContest, and a schedule of upcoming Premier League fixtures.

Following are the 10 bars currently trending:

  • The Londoner, Dallas, TX
  • Maggie McGarrys, San Francisco, CA
  • Irish Channel, Washington, DC
  • Carragher’s, New York, NY
  • Lucky Bar, Washington, DC
  • Boston Beer Garden, Boston, MA
  • 11th Street Bar, New York, NY
  • Beef & Barley, Chicago, Ill.
  • George and Dragon Pub, Seattle, WA
  • The Blind Pig, New York, NY

2015 MLS playoff scenarios heading into penultimate week

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC
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This is it, we have arrived at the penultimate week of the 2015 Major League Soccer season and there is still a lot to be decided.

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Only five teams, the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy and the Vancouver Whitecaps have booked their spot in the postseason so far and the regular season Western and Eastern Conference titles are still up for grabs.

That, coupled with teams on the bubble (Orlando, Houston, Portland and RSL, I’m looking at you) for the playoffs is adding up to an enthralling final few games of the season as teams currently in the playoffs are only separated by a few points here and there.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ] 

Below, courtesy of the league office, are the scenarios for each MLS team to clinch a berth in the playoffs. Study. Worry. Repeat.

We will have an updated list of the scenarios later this week after the next batch of games are played on Wednesday.


Columbus Crew SC will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Columbus Crew SC win or tie vs. Toronto FC on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

New England Revolution will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • New England Revolution win or tie vs. Montreal Impact on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

Toronto FC will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Toronto FC win or tie vs. New York Red Bulls on Wednesday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

Montreal Impact will clinch a berth in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs IF

  • Montreal Impact win vs. New England Revolution on Saturday


  • Orlando City SC lose or tie vs. New York City FC on Friday

New York Red Bulls will clinch first place in the Eastern Conference IF

  • New York Red Bulls win or tie vs. Toronto FC on Wednesday