Germany v United States

Another draw, a little more possesion for U.S. women in 2-2 draw with Germany

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — It’s very tempting to discuss how big a role the field played in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw between the United States women’s soccer team and Germany. The slick turf at Rentschler Field directly led to Germany’s first goal in the 48th minute and it nearly re-gifted the favor to Abby Wambach 11 minutes later when a through ball skipped through to put her one-on-one with German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, but Wambach didn’t fool Angerer on the chip.

Alright, enough about the field. Even the result – a 2-2 draw, which follows Saturday’s 1-1 draw – is less important than what we saw play out between 18-yard boxes.

The United States looked far more comfortable on the ball on Tuesday and that is directly attributable to the team keeping the ball higher up the field. Germany sat in on Saturday and forced U.S. defenders to play out of the back, which is not a strength of this squad. That led to an opening 45 minutes that went just as planned on Saturday: long balls from the U.S. that the Germans gobbled up and turned the other way.

Tuesday, however, saw Megan Rapinoe and Shannon Boxx, in particular, find the ball far more often, in more advanced and dangerous positions.

(MORE:  Gulati talks future of U.S. women’s soccer)

Becky Sauerbrunn’s insertion into the starting XI at center back in place of Rachel Buehler played a role in calming down the back line, which played better than the 2-2 score suggests.

Germany forward Dzsenifer Marozsan scored her first goal in the 48th minute on rain-induced mistake by Christie Rampone and Marozsan scored her second equalizer in the 85th minute on a left-footed upper-90 strike which Solo could do nothing about.

Both U.S. goals – Wambach’s in the 44th minute and Tobin Heath’s in the 67th minute – came from well-worked combinations in which Alex Morgan earned the assist.

So what do the U.S. women take from this match?

“The takeaway for me is that when we are played in and we’re fit, we’re a better team, obviously,” Wambach said. “And that’s good news because that’s on the horizon for us.”

That reliance on fitness and physical play isn’t anything new — it’s always been a staple of the U.S. and there is no reason to think that it will change soon (and as I noted in an earlier post, why fix what isn’t broken?).

But speaking of physical play, we did see yet another element of Morgan’s game come out in these two matches against Germany.

She is blazing fast, but we knew that from the start of her emergence with the national team. Then she started scoring late game-winning and game-tying goals before quickly establishing herself as a starter following the 2011 World Cup. This year her progression has been as a playmaker – those two assists give her 18 this calendar year.

Morgan, however, has only recently added a physical element to her game. She is going to need to be as defenses around the world try to chip away at her and get under her skin. Germany did that from the opening whistle on Tuesday and Morgan was ready to push back straight from the start.

“You have to expect the physicality that the Germans bring to this game,” Morgan said. “We’ve played them and now we know that if you take too many touches on the ball, they are going to tackle you, they are going to put some pressure on you, they are going to put a body on you.”

So, as we’ve alluded to previously, the feelings over these two draws is pretty mixed given the transitional nature of this squad. Two draws against world No. 2 Germany are nothing to scoff at (17-4-6 against Germany all-time), but interim coach Jill Ellis will now hand over the keys to the U.S. to Pia Sundhage’s permanent replacement. What comes once that change happens is anyone’s guess.

As Christie Rampone said postgame, the U.S. didn’t want to lose. Though that’s not quite the mentality you would expect from the No. 1 team in the world.

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Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.