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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.

[ MORE: LVG’s time at United up? ]

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. 

Serie A roundup: Lazio hand 10-man Juventus first loss (video)

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Lazio’s triumphant victory over league favorites Juventus highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 3-1 Juventus

Juventus are no longer unbeaten in Serie A play under Maurizio Sarri, losing 3-1 to Simone Inzaghi’s inspired Lazio.

Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo scored for the home side, who are now three points behind second-place Juventus and five behind top-of-the-table Inter Milan.

Scoreless from open play since October, Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net in the 25th minute to put the Old Lady in front after tapping in Federico Bernardeschi’s well-placed pass inside the box.

It was Juventus’ game to lose, which they went on to do after a series of defensive and cognitive mishaps.

Tied after Felipe’s goal right before the break, Milinkovic-Savic scored in the 74th minute. The Serbian’s goal came after Juan Cuadrado was sent off for his reckless tackle on last-man Manuel Lazzari in the 69th. Milinkovic-Savic was set up by Luis Alberto‘s assist over the Juventus defense and scored with a low shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Ciro Immobile had a clear-cut chance to widen his red-hot goalscoring form, but the striker was denied by Szczesny from the spot. Juventus’ goalkeeper saved Immobile’s initial blistering strike, and his following second chance.

In stoppage time, however, Felipe Caicedo’s second-chance strike was too much for the Polish ‘keeper.

Juventus will have to quickly turn the page as they face Bayer Leverkusen midweek in their final match of the Champions League group stage, while Lazio travel to France to take on Rennes in their Europa League group stage finale.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Atalanta 3-2 Hellas Verona

Udinese 1-1 Napoli

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

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ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

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Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

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After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”