By the Numbers: The United States outplayed Portugal in 2-2 draw

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Unfortunately performances don’t earn points in soccer, goals do.

Despite that, there is plenty to take away from this match to give United States fans hope that they can not only get a result against Germany, but make noise in the knockout rounds as well, should they make it that far.

It’s time to take a breakdown of the important numbers and charts from the 2-2 draw between the United States and Portugal, and analyze what they tell us about the performance.

The United States owned the meat of the match

One thing the players will surely learn from this match is that all 90 (or 95) minutes count equally. But a positive this team will take is that they went toe-to-toe with the #4-ranked team in the world for most of the game.

Portugal was obviously the better team in the opening stage and threw everyone forward in the final 10 looking for the equalizer – which they got.  But during the bulk of the match, the US was on top.

From the 10th minute to the 80th minute, the United States outpassed Portugal 346-324.  The US nearly equaled Portugal in final-third passes during that span as well, 62-77, but a closer look shows a nearly-equal 41-43 total of forward passes in the final third.

Michael Bradley tired late

Aside from the fact it was painfully obvious to see, the numbers tell us how Michael Bradley – who actually had a pretty good game – became exhausted in the final minutes of the match.

Bradley received 64 passes from his teammates throughout the game – but just 13 of those came in the final half-hour of the game (20%).  He completed 60 passes on the night, but just 18 in the final half-hour of the game.

He had his hands on his hips throughout the final 10 minutes of the match, looking more like a statue than a midfielder, and it likely led to his criminal giveaway that led to the Portuguese equalizer.  It’s no surprise that players were sapped of energy by the heat and humidity of Manaus, but it’s a bit surprising that the most fit player on the US by all accounts is the one who caved.

Matt Besler played an outstanding match at the back

Defensive mistakes marred the beginning and end of the night for the United States, but at the same time, Matt Besler was a rock at the back.

Most importantly, he made 12 clearances on the night, while nobody else on the United States had more than five. He completed 44 of 47 passes out of the back, refusing to make a mistake when a number of those in front of him were a bit sloppy. He thrust his body to full-stretch to complete a late interception to prevent a counter-attack, one of his five interceptions in the match – more than any US player. He had four ball recoveries, third on the team.

On a night where Geoff Cameron made mistakes and the midfield in front of him was strong but sloppy, Besler was a brick wall and his presence will be important for the US going forward.

The US defense needs to close down spaces

A surprising number popped up after the US failed to secure three points against Portugal. They have faced 42 shots over their first two matches, more than any other team in the entire World Cup.

While that doesn’t say a whole lot given that just 10 of those 42 were on target, it still means teams are getting spaces and chances where they feel comfortable ripping one off on goal. Tim Howard played a career match tonight, but if a team like Germany gets 21 looks on goal, you can bet it won’t go well for the Stars and Stripes.

If Jermaine Jones cleans up his passing, he can be a complete midfielder

Jermaine Jones was many US fan’s Man of the Match against Portugal, and he was stellar as a midfield anchor. He is solid on the ball, beating players with the dribble and with the pass.

The 32-year-old, often criticized during World Cup qualifying for his erratic play and poor disciplinary record, has by far been the most consistent and solid player on the US roster through both World Cup games. Against Portugal, he intercepted three passes, picked up three loose balls, won both aerial duels, and – most surprisingly – completed four of his five take-ons, some of which began US attacking sequences and sliced open spaces for American attackers to exploit.

The only knock on Jones’ game against Portugal is his passing decision-making. Take a look at his passing chart:

source:
Photo credit: FourFourTwo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36-of-47 passing, a poor 77%, is also marred by giveaways in the center of the pitch.  You can count six passes to the middle of the field that missed their mark, three of which happened in the defensive half of the field, and those are dangerous.

If Jones can clean up that split-second decision-making in the middle of the field, he can be one of the best midfielders the US has seen in World Cup play. They’ll need him for all 90 minutes against Germany without a doubt, and they’ll need him to bring everything he brought against Portugal, plus a better passing dish.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”