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Handicapping the PFA Players’ Player of the Year finalists

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Only two of the six nominees for the Professional Footballers Association’s Players’ Player of the Year Award made last year’s shortlist.

And part of that pair should be the favorite to snare the award.

N'Golo Kante has arguably been the best player on the last two Premier League champions, assuming Chelsea goes on to win the league. Considering I’ve argued for his inclusion as a Ballon d’Or finalist, this should come as no surprise.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

With respect to Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, Kante is the most impactful on-field difference between 2015-16 and 2016-17 Chelsea.

Teammate Eden Hazard‘s return to form has no doubt been a catalyst for the side, but which player is more replaceable in the Blues’ side? We’re not talking like-for-like, but it’s more difficult to argue that Chelsea is still in first Nemanja Matic bearing Kante’s burden than with Pedro or Willian taking on more of Hazard’s responsibilities.

This is a player’s vote, which is a huge factor. Will fellow PL players be more swayed by dizzying dribbles or the man disrupted their attack to turn possession, defense, and attack on its ear? Unfortunately we can’t combine Kante and Harry Kane to make some sort of N’Garry Kante who puts up wild numbers while doing the sometimes unnoticed things in the middle of the park.

That takes us to Kane, who missed eight PL matches for Spurs, which seems a hefty sum in a race for such an honor, and Tottenham was unbeaten in that octet.

Alexis Sanchez has been phenomenal in leading Arsenal’s attack, but the club hasn’t matched his production. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may fall victim to the same fate, though he’s been the only goal scorer for Manchester United in seven PL contests.

Romelu Lukaku is having a wonderful season for Everton, but has too often gone quiet in big Everton fixtures. The Toffees could be fifth or better had Lukaku found the back of the net or been the prime set-up man for a goal in either Merseyside Derby loss or a pair of 1-1 draws against Manchester United.

If you’re asking for a ranking…

  1. Kante
  2. Sanchez
  3. Ibrahimovic
  4. Hazard
  5. Kane
  6. Lukaku

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.

WATCH: Snazzy Sargent goal leads U.S. U-17s past Mexico

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Josh Sargent scored a pretty goal as the United States Soccer program had another banner day against Mexico.

Nearly two months to the day after the U.S. U-20 side beat Mexico for the first time in 31 years, the U.S. U-17 topped El Tri for the first time ever. That win snapped Mexico’s 25-match unbeaten streak.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The goal is the first of Sargent’s two goals, as the 16-year-old latched onto a long diagonal ball and used his right foot and head to move the ball into position for a strong shot.

The U.S. clinches a spot in the next round of U-17 World Cup qualifying with one match remaining in group play.

Sargent is from St. Louis and plays with Scott Gallagher-Missouri. Former Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth coaches the U.S. U-17s.

Heads of South American soccer sent $128M in bank transfers

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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) The leaders of South America’s soccer confederation transferred $128.6 million between 2000 and 2015 to personal accounts, suspicious accounts, or unauthorized third-party accounts, according to an audit released Wednesday by Ernst & Young.

According to the audit presented to the annual CONMEBOL congress in the Chilean capital, the confederation’s former president Nicolas Leoz transferred $26.9 million to his personal accounts. Leoz was the president for 27 years until resigning in 2013 for what he said were health reasons.

The audit also found $58 million in payments “to third parties without adequate documentation,” payments of $33.3 million to “unidentified accounts,” and $10.4 million to “suspicious third-parties.”

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

“We had said that we would have four pillars, and the first two pillars were clear accounts and accountability,” said Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL who commissioned the audit last year. “Today we are accountable to the leaders and the whole world of football.”

Leoz, 88, is one of three ex-presidents of CONMEBOL accused on corruption charges by the United States Department of Justice. He is in Paraguay fighting extradition to the United States.

The South American body has been plagued by corruption, which was exposed two years ago during the FIFA scandal. Leoz’s two successors, Eugenio Figueredo and Juan Angel Napout, were both arrested on corruption charges.

“I’m here, I’m the manager” – Moyes will not quit Sunderland

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This has been one horrible stretch for David Moyes.

The Sunderland manager probably thought he’d been through the worst once he left Real Sociedad, where he went 12-15-15.

But he’s managed just seven wins and seven draws in 38 matches in charge of the Black Cats — an 18 percent win mark. He’s also been charged for threatening to slap a female journalist.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

And after Wednesday, Moyes has lost both of his derby matches against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland is 12 points back of safety with five matches left. The odds the Black Cats are headed for the Championship are somewhere north of 99 percent, and fans are calling for his job.

Well, he isn’t quitting. From the BBC:

“No, I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose.

“There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”