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Lack of USMNT players starting in Premier League cause for concern

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This is something which has been eating away at me for a little while and I’m sure many others are concerned.

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Just where have the U.S. players in the Premier League gone and will they ever come back?

As of right now, there are just five U.S. national team players who are first team players in the Premier League’s 20 teams, plus a smattering of talented youngsters in academy and reserve squads.

Of those five only one is starting regularly at the time of writing: Geoff Cameron.

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Cameron, 30, has been a regular starter at Stoke City over the past four seasons since he arrived at the Britannia Stadium from Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. He has made 132 appearances for Stoke and if it wasn’t for a few niggling injuries over the past two campaigns he’d be over the 150 mark. The former Houston star is a lone ranger right now. He’s excelled at right back, in central defense and central midfield under both Tony Pulis and now Mark Hughes at Stoke and after missing the last six weeks with an ankle injury the Potters have missed his presence, experience and ball-playing expertise on the backline.

With Cameron nearing a return to full fitness — he has returned to training and should be available for Stoke’s clash with Newcastle next week — he’ll soon be back to being the only American playing consistently in the Premier League. He’s an integral part of the U.S. national team and that’s because he’s playing week in, week out in the most competitive league in the world.

What has happened to the others in the PL?

Tim Howard, 36, has recently lost his place at Everton to Joel Robles after suffering a minor injury. Howard has been in the PL for over a decade and his credentials don’t need to be backed up but with some sections of the Everton support critical of his displays this season, it seems like his time in England’s top-flight may be coming to an end. A move to the Colorado Rapids is edging ever close and looks likely in May and his manager Roberto Martinez hardly dismissed that notion last week.

Brad Guzan, 31, has lost his starting spot at Aston Villa and the goalkeeper will be playing in England’s second-tier next season as Villa look doomed to relegation. DeAndre Yedlin, 22, has been loaned out by Tottenham Hotspur to Sunderland and has only made a handful of appearances for the struggling Black Cats this season. Things are looking up for Yedlin as he played in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool and started in the 2-1 win against Manchester United last time out, but it still seems like a spot as a regular starter for a solid PL club is some way away for the Seattle Sounders product.

After that you have Matt Miazga, 20, who has just arrived at Chelsea in January but is highly unlikely to play a starring role for the Blues anytime soon and will likely be loaned out to gain experience. After Miazga there are two promising youngsters in the PL academy setups who have both been loaned out this season in Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem and Sunderland’s Lyden Gooch, plus Cameron Carter-Vickers making waves at Tottenham Hotspur but then… nothing but prospects.

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This downward trend of Americans playing in the Premier League is down to many things. Maybe Major League Soccer is finally able to keep the better players at its disposal (Matt Besler and Jordan Morris are just two who’ve turned down moves to Europe in recent years) which is great for the domestic league, but if you look through North America’s top-flight you’ll also see it littered with USMNTers who called it quits in the PL. They all wanted to make it England but in the case of Brek Shea, Maurice Edu and a growing number of others, it hasn’t worked out.

Jozy Altidore‘s poor record in England with Hull and Sunderland is well documented, while Michael Bradley could never get interest from a PL club despite shining at AS Roma and his brief stint at Aston Villa on loan didn’t work out the way anybody wanted. Clint Dempsey, 32, obviously was one of the most successful American players to ever suit up in the PL, if not the most successful, as Deuce produce goals and played regularly at Fulham and even at Spurs for a while. Although, Dempsey was on the outs at Tottenham before he decided to move back to MLS but that was more about a personal decision to move back to the U.S. than a playing one.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the number of U.S. national team players in England’s top-flight has dwindled drastically in recent years and that should be worrying to fans of the Nats. Worse still, it may become tougher for non-EU players to get work permits in the coming years with the English FA hoping to tighten up its regulations and this trend could continue. Unless a young American player has a European passport then then likelihood of them breaking through in the PL seems ridiculously slim. That’s bad news for the U.S. national team.

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The era of Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Stuart Holden, Brad Friedel and Howard being regulars in the PL are over. Now, only one regular outfield player (Cameron) remains. Purely for soccer fans in the U.S. who love the Premier League, of which there are plenty, is it concerning that the number of U.S. national team players in the PL is so small? It could point to a lack of quality in the national team which sometimes happens in a certain cycle. There are plenty USMNT men in the Bundesliga, Alejandro Bedoya is excelling in Ligue 1 and of course there’s a whole host of USMNTers in the Championship, England’s second-tier, but perhaps we just have to accept that despite the best efforts of Jurgen Klinsmann and his coaching staff, young American players are no longer getting chances to come to England.

If it’s from a pure quality standpoint then that’s the most worrying aspect for Klinsmann. The fact that this downturn in U.S. players making an impact in England has coincided with a year of struggle in 2015 for the U.S. may be more than a coincidence. Or maybe not, it’s hard to measure player development in one league over another but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if the U.S. had 8-10 regular starters in the PL compared to MLS then it would obviously be a much better thing for the USMNT. Obviously. With the level of play and strength of opposition, it just makes sense. MLS is getting there but every promising young talent in the league would want to head to the PL and make a difference if he could but the reality is that hardly any are getting the chance to do that anymore.

There’s many reasons for that, but the fact that the most-watched league in the world — with arguably the highest concentration of top clubs among its 20 members — has just five USMNT players in it, and only one of those is a regular starter, should be a cause for huge concern.

Transfer news: King to Man United; Tagliafico to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Josh King has been linked with a move to Man United this summer as several top clubs are circling, while Ajax and Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico could be heading to Arsenal.

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First up, our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have a beauty of a report which states that four of the Premier League’s top six clubs want to sign Bournemouth striker Josh King.

King, 28, was the subject of a late bid form Man United in the January window but the Cherries turned it down as they needed him to help with their relegation battle. Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted it was tough on King and the players also revealed he was it was tough to see the move blocked, as he came through Man United’s youth academy and the Norwegian international is close with Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. King has scored 46 goals in 154 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth and has been instrumental since they were promoted to the top-flight in 2015. King loves Man United and this would clearly be a good fit for all concerned.

Per the fresh report, Man United are keen on King because he can play centrally and wide and with Odion Ighalo’s future uncertain amid his loan move from Shanghai Shenhua, Solskjaer wants to add one more striker this summer. King has one year left on his contract and Bournemouth are expected to cash in on him but Chelsea are also said to be interested, as well as two other ‘top six’ clubs.

Bournemouth rejected a $25 million offer for King in January but they would snap anybody’s hand off for that this summer given the financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact King will have just one year left on his current deal. Bournemouth have already been burned by not extending Ryan Fraser’s contract and he is set to be out of contract on July 1.

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Heading from Manchester to London, Arsenal are said to be interested in Ajax and Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico.

The Gunners continue to be linked with plenty of defenders and even though it is believed Mikel Arteta will not have a big transfer budget in the upcoming transfer windows, Tagliafico for $25 million is a steal.

According to the Sun, Arsenal want the 27-year-old as Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar recently said that Tagliafico, Andre Onana and Donny van de Beek are free to leave this summer if their transfer value is met. Tagliafico is said to be keen on a fresh challenge and wants a move to the Premier League.

Do Arsenal need a left back? Teenage star Bukayo Saka has been splendid out of position at left back this season but both he and Arsenal are keen to move him back into his natural position as a left winger, while young Scottish left back Kieran Tierney has struggled with injuries throughout his debut campaign in the Premier League.

Tagliafico can also play as a left-sided center back and with the Gunners experimenting at times with a 3-4-3 formation, he would give them flexibility and defensive options. It is clear Arsenal need to improve defensively and Tagliafico is a very solid left back who is good on the ball and is also a goal threat at the other end of the pitch.

Cologne deny Fortuna with amazing late comeback (video)

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Relegation-threatened Fortuna Dusseldorf thought they had secured a massive win away at FC Cologne in the Rhine Derby on Sunday as Kenan Karaman and Erik Thommy struck in each half to put them 2-0 up, but the hosts struck twice late on to grab a dramatic 2-2 draw.

Anthony Modeste and Jhon Corodba were the heroes for Cologne, who blew a 2-0 lead last week to draw 2-2 at home with Mainz but this time out they were on the other end of a comeback.

It didn’t look like being Cologne’s day for vast swathes of the game as at 1-0 to Fortuna, Florian Kastenmeier saved Mark Uth’s penalty kick in what looked like a key moment for Uwe Rosler’s Fortuna who are embroiled in the Bundesliga relegation battle.

The draw sees Fortuna move onto 24 points as they sit in 16th place, which is the relegation playoff spot. After a big win for 17th place Werder Bremen this weekend, plus heavy defeats for Mainz, Augsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt above them, the Bundesliga relegation battle has become extremely intriguing. A note for USMNT fans: midfielder Alfredo Morales put in a tireless 90 minute shift in central midfield.

Cologne sit 10th on 34 points and are in the hunt for Europa League qualification.

Fortuna went ahead early on as Karaman found some space in the box and his shot deflected in as the away side led at the break.

Cologne were handed the perfect opportunity to get back into the game in the second half as Uth first hit the post, then was denied by Kastenmeier before he was scythed down in the box as a penalty kick was awarded.

Uth, who scored a penalty kick last week, appeared to take the ball off Cordoba and Kastenmeier produced a fine save down low as Fortuna celebrated wildly once the ball was cleared.

Buoyed by that penalty save, Fortuna went up the other end moments later and doubled their lead as the ball found Thommy at the back post and he curled a sumptuous effort into the far corner.

Fortuna believed they were home and dry.

With 88 minutes on the clock, the Cologne comeback began as Modeste headed home superbly to make it 2-1 and give his side hope of grabbing a point.

 

In the 91st minute the equalizer arrived in similar fashion.

Fortuna ran out of steam and another cross from the right found Cordoba who nodded home to snatch a point for the hosts.

The draw felt like a win for Cologne and it was a sickening blow for a Fortuna side who badly need all three points in their battle against the drop.

Crucial week ahead for the Premier League

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The upcoming week is a huge one for the Premier League as a key vote and serious talks are set to take place with regards to restarting the 2019-20 season.

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All 20 clubs will meet on several video conference calls to discuss the protocols around a return to full-contact training, subject to government approval, as players, managers and the Premier League will discuss the details with medical experts. The UK government have yet to release details about stage two of a return to training for professional athletes and several Premier League stars have revealed their angst about returning to training.

Clubs will then vote on a return to full-contact training on Wednesday and depending on the outcome of that vote, that will shape further talks. If full-contact training is given the thumbs up, it is expected that clubs will then discuss the plan to either restart the season in mid-June or curtailment plans which would see the table potentially decided on a points-per-game basis.

The Premier League confirmed over the weekend that from 1,744 tests on players and staff across the first two rounds of COVID-19 tests, eight positive tests have been recorded with players from both Watford and Bournemouth confirmed to have the virus.

Players will again be tested on Monday and Tuesday and the results of those tests will be key in seeing how the strict protocols at training grounds are working.

The next few days seem pivotal as to whether or not the final 92 games of the Premier League season will be played and all eyes will be on the vote on Wednesday, if the UK government can provide details on the new protocols.

With the Bundesliga off and running, La Liga set for a June 8 restart and Serie A planning for a mid-June restart, the Premier League are correctly being cautious when it comes to a restart. Sooner or later they need to vote on a path forward and this week will be crucial.

Leipzig smash Mainz; crowd noise experiment success (video)

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RB Leipzig kept their Bundesliga title push on track with a resounding 5-0 win at Mainz on Sunday as a crowd noise experiment equally stole the headlines.

Remember: Leipzig beat Mainz 8-0 earlier this season and this latest big win pushed them back into third place and five points behind leaders Bayern Munich, who face second place Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side scored early and often with Timo Werner grabbing a hat trick, plus Youssef Poulsen and Marcel Sabitzer adding a goal each. In truth, Leipzig should have won by more in a one-sided game which was talked about around the world due to a crowd noise experiment which included cow bells, drums and more broadcast on TV feeds but not in the stadium itself.

Throughout the game, crowd noise was played over the world feed and heard by the TV audience in the USA and elsewhere as supporters’ chants, cheers and jeers could be heard as a sound engineer played certain sound tracks at certain moments with wonderful timing. It was certainly a success and made watching the game more enjoyable for the TV audience as camera angles were also used cleverly to not show empty seats as much as possible.

As for the game itself, Leipzig went 2-0 up early on as Werner and Poulsen both finished calmly from fluid moves down the right.

First, Laimer popped up on the right wing and crossed for Werner to steer home at the near post, then Sabitzer appeared down the right and his clipped crossed was nodded home by the unmarked Poulsen.

Leipzig were all over Mainz in the first half as Werner was denied by goalkeeper Muller, then Poulsen shanked his effort wide from a good position and Nkunku slotted wide as they could have easily lead by four or five at half time.

They did lead by three goals as Leipzig launched another fine counter and Poulsen set up Sabitzer who found the top corner with ease.

Wave after wave of Leipzig attack continued in the second half as Werner scored his second and Leipzig’s fourth with another poacher’s finish.

Mainz simply couldn’t handle Leipzig’s movement and dropped deeper and deeper throughout as Werner finished off Poulsen’s quick free kick to put a bow on a comprehensive win for the Bundesliga and Champions League title chasers.

Even the (manufactured) home crowd at Mainz couldn’t help but applaud the five-star display from Leipzig.