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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).

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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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10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

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Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

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“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

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Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

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Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.