Tim Howard
AP

Source: Tim Howard “highly likely” for Colorado Rapids, MLS move in May

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A few days ago the rumor mill was suggesting that Everton and USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard could be heading back to Major League Soccer with the Colorado Rapids.

The rumor had died down for a few days but just got very interesting as a source has told ProSoccerTalk that Howard has held “serious talks” with Colorado and after 10 years at Goodison Park he looks highly likely to sign for the Rapids and supposedly wants a return to the U.S.

If all goes to plan in negotiations between Everton and MLS then Howard could sign this month but would only move to Colorado in May following the conclusion of the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Veteran U.S. international Howard, 36, has recently put in a string of fine displays for the Toffees but throughout this campaign he has also been criticized by some sections of the Everton support, especially following a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal earlier in the season. An up and down season for Howard has also seen him criticized for giving away a penalty kick in the 2-1 home defeat to Swansea on Sunday, plus his role in Diego Costa‘s goal in Everton’s 3-3 draw at Chelsea last weekend.

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Further reinforcing the notion that Howard could be on the brink of a surprising potential move back to MLS — especially to a Rapids franchise who finished rock bottom of the Western Conference in 2015 — last Monday the Rapids announced they had traded starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin to Toronto FC for targeted allocation money, their highest natural third round selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft and a conditional first round selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Plus Colorado currently holds the number one allocation ranking in MLS after making a trade with the Chicago Fire for that position less than two weeks ago.

That means any current U.S. national team player looking to sign with the league will be offered to them first and Colorado’s VP of soccer operations, Paul Bravo, has been quoted as saying that the move up to No. 1 in the allocation order is “the most significant deal we’ve done in this club’s history.” That says it all

[ MORE: Howard puts in superb display vs. Man City ] 

Howard’s boss at Everton, Roberto Martinez, was asked by the media following Sunday’s defeat to Swansea if the Rapids had been in contact with Everton: “At the moment there is nothing” was his response. Now, it seems like things are moving forward.

Losing their long-time starting goalkeeper would not be ideal for the Toffees but given Howard’s commitment to the Merseyside outfit for over a decade, you get the sense that Everton wouldn’t stand in his way and would be unlikely to demand too high of a transfer fee from MLS to complicate negotiations.

In a 0-0 draw at Manchester City on Jan. 13, Howard pulled off probably his best performance since his World Cups heroics for the U.S. against Belgium in the last 16 of the 2014 tournament, and he still has plenty to offer at the top level. With his young family based Stateside, Howard took a self-imposed sabbatical from the USMNT from Sept. 2014 until Sept. 2015 and even though he has a contract at Everton until the summer of 2018, getting to spend extra time with his kids and returning to the U.S. after 13 years abroad will play a huge factor in his potential move.

With Joel Robles pushing him all the way for a starting spot at Goodison Park, is this the right time for Howard to return to MLS and play out the remaining years of his career? We shall see…

Howard, a New Jersey native, made his name in MLS for the MetroStars from 1999-2003 but was transferred to Manchester United where he spent three years before signing for Everton permanently in 2007 after a successful loan spell during the 2006-07 campaign.

It seems as though one of the greatest goalkeepers the U.S. has ever produced is closer than ever to returning home.

UPDATE: Jeff Carlisle of ESPN is reporting that there would likely be no transfer fee paid by MLS to Everton for Howard and he would become the highest paid goalkeeper in the league, earning between $2-3 million per season. 

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.