Cameron

Americans Abroad Preview: US Internationals look to follow up big weekend with another

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Last week was a tough act to follow, with Geoff Cameron, Ale Bedoya, and Fabian Johnson all playing large roles in wins for their clubs.

Now, they’ll look to follow it up.  Cameron (pictured, left) and Stoke City host Hull City as the Potters look to solidify a top-10 finish.  Their win last week over Aston Villa put them into 10th, and now they’ll look to close the eight-point gap behind Southampton.

Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan will hope to shake off that defeat to Stoke and deal David Moyes and Manchester United another big blow at Old Trafford.

Tim Howard and Everton look to stave off a disappointment and continue to put pressure on Arsenal for the 4th position as they travel to Craven Cottage and Fulham.  Howard will likely be looking to keep out Fulham’s 19-year-old striker Cauley Woodrow who has been a bright spot in their recent struggles.

Sunderland continue to struggle, now winless in their last five matches. At the forefront of that struggle is Jozy Altidore, who started and played the full 90 last week against Norwich but failed to score again in a 2-0 loss. He has not scored in the Premier League since December 4th.

In the Championship there is plenty to keep watch on.  Birmingham City takes on 10th-placed Bournemouth who have lost just two of their last 10. Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector has played the full 90 in seven straight matches after missing five months with a thigh injury. Teammate Will Packwood missed a few good chances in last week’s loss to Reading.

Reading won that match 2-1 without Danny Williams, but it looks as if the knee injury he suffered against Ukraine with the USMNT has subsided, and he could return from a 5-match absence Saturday against Huddersfield Town. Duane Holmes appeared for Huddersfield for the first time since returning from his loan at Yeovil Town, used as an 85th minute substitute last weekend.  He hopes for a starting spot this week on the road.

Tim Ream continues to be a warrior for 17th-placed Bolton, playing 2,884 of a possible 2,970 minutes in their last 33 matches.  They host Wigan on Saturday.

Struggling Sheffield Wednesday is in action against Watford, and Oguchi Onyewu hopes he can continue to inch closer to a possible World Cup spot with what would be his seventh-straight full 90 for the club.

Outside of England, Aron Johannsson saw victory last week, but personally hopes to rebound from a missed penalty as AZ travels to Cambuur Leeuwarden with a chance to catch Heerenveen in in 6th position.

FC Utretch had an early Friday game, and staged a miraculous comeback against NAC Breda to stave off relegation one more week, as a pair of goals in the last four minutes saw the clubs draw 2-2. However, Juan Agudelo had to watch from the bench after being substituted off in the 66th minute again without a score. He has just one goal in 651 Eredivisie minutes during his loan from Stoke City.

John Anthony Brooks earned himself a pair of starts for Hertha BSC last weekend, but the club conceded six goals to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich. It put him back on the bench for their 2-0 loss to Schalke earlier Friday.

USMNT scouts were on hand to watch Fabian Johnson provide the match-winning assist to Anthony Modeste as Hoffenheim trumped struggling Bayer Leverkusen. He played the full 90 in a 3-1 win over Hannover just three days later, but now will have to face unbeaten Bayern Munich Saturday morning.  Bayern has already locked up the Bundesliga crown in record time.

Julian Green picked up an assist in a Bayern Munich youth squad match earlier today, which they won 5-2.

Rapid Vienna’s Terrence Boyd had a five-match start streak snapped midweek in their 3-0 win over FC Magna Wr. Neustadt, and will look to get back in the starting lineup Saturday against SK Sturm Graz. SV Salzburg has already run away with the Austrian Bundesliga title.

On Sunday, Sacha Kljestan gets his first crack at Standard Liege in the first leg of their playoff first round matchup.

Jermaine Jones and Besiktas need to pick themselves after a crushing 1-0 defeat to Karabukspor that seriously set them back in the Turkish Super Lig table earlier today. Jones played the full 90, picking up his second yellow card in as many matches.

Over in the French Ligue 1, Alejandro Bedoya earned a penalty (which was missed) in Nantes their first win since mid-January. He’s featured in five of their last six matches (with two starts) and the club can now gun for 9th-placed Bordeaux who sit just six points above Nantes with the two teams squaring off Saturday afternoon.

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.