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The case for each U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year nominee

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U.S. Soccer will announce its 2016 individual awards on Friday, and while some winners seem set in stone, the Men’s Player of the Year is anything but an open and shut case.

Christian Pulisic is probably going to edge Jordan Morris for Young Male Player, Carli Lloyd is going to seize Female Player of the Year, and Andi Sullivan will probably take the Young Female honors (though admittedly we’re educated guessing on the last one).

[ MORE: Wednesday’s Champions League preview ]

Three of the men’s nominees have won before: Jozy Altidore in 2013, Michael Bradley last year, and Clint Dempsey in 2007, 2011, and 2012. Bobby Wood and Geoff Cameron complete the ballot.

It’s a bit surprising to see Dempsey’s name given he has missed a lot of time with a heart ailment, but the Sounders man had an electric start to 2016. Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, and Christian Pulisic have shouts to be on the list, especially with the former earning 33 percent of the vote last year, but such is life.

A case can be made for each. Let’s make ’em.

Jozy Altidore
Club: Toronto FC — 28 games played, 15 goals, 7 assists
Country: 10 caps, six goals, two assists

Why he could win: Either Altidore or fellow nominee Cameron is the most accomplished active USMNT player not to have won the award. Toronto is on its way to its first final, and Altidore’s played a huge part. Ultimately, his missing the Copa America Centernario through injury probably hurts his cause too much.

Michael Bradley
Club: Toronto FC — 29 games played, 2 goals, 4 assists
Country: 17 caps, three assists

The captain during the 2016 Copa America Centenario success, Bradley was used up and down the pitch by Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s been quite decent for Greg Vanney at Toronto FC, leading the club to the MLS Cup Final. Will his recent USMNT performances hurt him with voters? Probably.

Geoff Cameron
Club: Stoke City — 26 games played, 1 assist
Country: 12 caps, one goal

Was a pivotal player in Stoke’s run up the Premier League table last season, and his absence in the USMNT’s recent losses to Mexico and Costa Rica underscores his value. Will the voters reward a player who doesn’t put up gaudy numbers? A defender hasn’t claimed this award since Oguchi Onyewu in 2006.

Clint Dempsey
Club: Seattle Sounders — 19 games, 10 goals, 1 assist
Country: 10 caps, 4 goals, 4 assists

He didn’t play a ton, but when he did, oh boy. Dempsey was electric in the Copa America Centenario, a “roll back the years” job that hearkened to his time at Fulham. Quietly had a good offensive season for Seattle before his heart procedures. Will the absence be too much for him to overcome with voters?

Bobby Wood
Clubs: Union Berlin – 12 games, 10 goals, 1 assist; Hamburg – 12 games, 4 goals
Country: 15 caps, 4 goals, 3 assists

Doesn’t have the country numbers of Altidore or Dempsey, but has continued to improve and fared well even when used out on the wing. Dominated the 2.Bundesliga and raised his level once joining the Bundesliga before earning a card suspension.

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LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).