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USMNT’s Tim Howard on respect, MLS, Copa America hopes

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STOKE-ON-TRENT — Tim Howard‘s time in the Premier League and at Everton is almost up.

Howard, 37, will leave Everton this summer to return to Major League Soccer after agreeing a contract with the Colorado Rapids beginning on July 1.

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After spending 13 years in England with Manchester United and Everton — Howard joined the Toffees in 2006 — he’s seen the perception of American players in England change.

Standing pitch-side as part of NBC Sports’ broadcast team for Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Monday, Howard looks relaxed and is all smiles as he talks about the growing respect for the game he loves back in the U.S.

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But as he enters his final few weeks in England, are players from the U.S. national team finally getting the respect they deserve in England?

“I think so, we’ve had a few players come over and have success but it is still tough,” Howard said. “It is still an uphill battle for an American player to come over and really gain respect in a European league but slowly but surely we will keep making progress.”

With Howard leaving the PL and his fellow USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan relegated to the second-tier with Aston Villa, for the first time in decades it seems highly likely there won’t be a U.S. goalkeeper in the PL. Before Howard and Guzan you had Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller flying the flag but to date only three full USMNT internationals — Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Miazga — will be in England’s top-flight next season. Even Yedlin and Miazga’s status as PL players next season seems in doubt.

The days of Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Howard as mainstays in the PL are over. A new era for Americans in England has arrived.

Is Howard feeling emotional about leaving Everton and returning to his homeland?

“Everton is my home but all good things come to an end,” Howard said, nodding his head. “I am someone who has the ability to, thankfully, be grateful for my experiences and move on. That’s life. Everton will always be my home.”

With an FA Cup semifinal coming up this weekend against Man United at Wembley and five more PL games, Howard is likely to get one final swansong in goal for Roberto Martinez’s men. After that, it will be a busy few months for the New Jersey native.

After the PL concludes on May 15 he will then, presumably, head back to the U.S. to be part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the 2016 Copa America Centenario and after that tournament he will get to Colorado and begin a new chapter, the final one, in his distinguished playing career.

“It is one thing after another,” laughed Howard. “I finish here, then go to training camp with the national team and obviously we have a huge tournament which is important for us. When that finishes I will go out to Denver and start life.”

Howard’s life, at least in popular U.S. culture, is likely to be defined by his stunning display against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 defeat in extra time. After recording a record 15 saves in a single World Cup game, Howard’s stature as the most well-known current USMNT player was cemented.

It is likely the USMNT will need similar heroics from Howard this summer as Klinsmann’s side were drawn in Group A of the expanded Copa America tournament, alongside Paraguay, Colombia and Costa Rica.

“Any time you come to a major tournament like this, we know who is in front of us. We have those three games and we feel like it is a tough group but our team is resilient,” Howard explained. “We showed that in the World Cup. When it comes to major tournaments we know how to navigate through the group so we will try to get ourselves out of a very tough group and then we don’t know who are next opponent is. We will just keep moving forward. The one thing about the U.S. team is that when the bell rings, you put someone out in front of us and we go out and do it.”

With Howard set to leave behind cold, windy nights at Stoke for life back in MLS, we joked about the snowy conditions out in Colorado last weekend as his new team recorded a 2-1 win over New York Red Bulls and continued their hot start to the season. He is excited about the fresh challenge awaiting him.

A lot has changed in MLS since Howard left in 2003.

“I think the quality of play has gotten better. The fanbase has grown and is more knowledgeable,” Howard said. “Some of the players that have gone back over, this ain’t a retirement league. Now you have players going over like [Sebastian] Giovinco, he is incredible. Giovani dos Santos, probably one of the top Mexican players of all time who is playing there in his prime. That’s exciting because for me, when I was a 21-year-old in MLS, that wasn’t the case.”

Howard believes bringing players over in their prime and especially targeting the top U.S. talent in Europe is the way forward for MLS.

“Yeah, continue to bring guys home,” Howard said. “The top U.S. players and the top international players. That is making the league better, for sure.”

Howard’s arrival back in MLS will be a banner moment for North America’s top-flight. But after plying his trade in the Premier League for over a decade, he will be missed in England.

Even though U.S. players in Europe have a long way to go to gain more respect, without Howard’s performances and presence they’d be much further behind.

Daniel Levy calls for all players, clubs to cut wages

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Tottenham chairman has called for Premier League players and staff to take wage cuts to help clubs cope with the suspension during the coronavirus pandemic.

Levy is among 550 staff at Tottenham who have taken pay cuts as he pointed to the likes of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona as their players and officials had talent wage cuts in order to make sure every individual at the club was paid and costs did not spiral out of control during the suspension of leagues.

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Levy confirmed that the “club’s operations have effectively ceased” and “has an annual cost base running into hundreds of millions of pounds” before adding that clubs and players should do their part as clubs, leagues and players’ unions continue to meet to work out a way forward.

“We hope the current discussions between the Premier League, PFA and LMA will result in players and coaches doing their bit for the football eco system,” Levy said.

Tottenham’s chairman also explained exactly what Spurs are doing to help them deal with the new financial reality all soccer clubs are facing, as the UK government is paying 80 percent of wages of staff who have been furloughed (basically told they still have a job but aren’t needed right now) by their employers.

“We have seen some of the biggest clubs in the world such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus take steps to reduce their costs. Yesterday, having already taken steps to reduce costs, we ourselves made the difficult decision – in order to protect jobs – to reduce the remuneration of all 550 non-playing directors and employees for April and May by 20 per cent utilising, where appropriate, the Government’s furlough scheme. We shall continue to review this position,” Levy added.

Soccer will of course have to adjust to its new reality and the longer the suspension goes on, tougher decisions will have to be made about players and staff taking significant pay cuts to help keep costs down with no matchday revenue coming in. Tottenham’s stadium is being used to help prepare food for vulnerable people in the local and it has been offered to the NHS to be used any way it can help.

Plenty of clubs across the Premier League have vowed to pay temporary staff used on matchdays but many are making use of government help with wages and many are doing plenty for their local communities too. These are unprecedented times and players and clubs are stepping up to make sure the most vulnerable are looked after.

Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Guardiola: ‘We will come back stronger, kinder … and a bit fatter’

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Through all of the innumerable challenges and tragedies the world is currently facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is doing his best to not only help the fight back in his native Spain, but also give everyone a chance to smile and laugh at their own expense.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Guardiola, who last week donated $1.1 million to fight the virus in Catalonia, released a video message of encouragement and hope on Monday — encouraging everyone to stay inside, and hopeful of returning to a sense of normalcy in short order:

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

“You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”