USMNT

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.

Kaka hoping to stay in Orlando beyond 2017

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 08:  Kaka #10 of Orlando City SC dribbles the ball during an MLS soccer match between the New York City FC and the Orlando City SC at the Orlando Citrus Bowl on March 8, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
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Kaka is enjoying life in Florida.

The former Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to stay with Orlando City SC beyond the end of his contract, which runs its course after the 2017 season.

[ MORE: Real Madrid now winless in three ]

Kaka has been very good for the Lions, scoring 19 goals and 15 assists in 53 total matches. Reports had said he’s skip town after the third year of the deal, but Kaka refutes that idea.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“A misunderstanding because I am very happy here,” Kaká told reporters at MLS Media Day on Tuesday. “I had a three year contract, so this is the last year under this contract, but my idea is to stay here.

“Of course we never know what can happen at the end of the season or during the season, but my idea for now is to stay in Orlando and stay in the league.”

Kaka turns 35 in April, but has been consistently good even if injuries kept him to 24 MLS contests last season. If he puts forth a similar season, there’s little reason for Orlando — or another team — not to take a chance on Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.

Gabriel Jesus cleared, could make Man City debut

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 20:  Gabriel Jesus of Palmeiras runs with the ball during the match between Palmeiras and Botafogo for the Brazilian Series A 2016 at Allianz Parque on November 20, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
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Gabriel Jesus could go straight into Manchester City’s starting lineup.

The 19-year-old Brazilian has finally been cleared to suit up for the English side after finishing a title-winning campaign with Palmeiras.

With four goals in six caps for the Brazil national team and an Olympic gold medal with their U-23 side, Jesus is among the hottest prospects in the world.

[ MORE: City fifth in “Money League” ]

City is struggling, and the fresh injection of attacking talent could be music to the ears of boss Pep Guardiola (who, fun fact, celebrates his 46th birthday today).

From the Manchester Evening News:

“He’s a great player. Going to Europe is a good thing for a player. He will grow quicker, he will start to understand football in another way and also be respected inside the football scene.

“I guess that for Gabriel Jesus it was a good thing to leave Brazilian soccer, he did everything he had could in [Brazil]. He’s going to a very difficult, competitive [type of football] but I think that he can be successful.”

Jesus had 21 goals in 46 matches this season with Palmeiras.

Casemiro: “Real Madrid aren’t ever allowed to lose”

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 18:  Henrique Casemiro of Real Madrid heads the ball against Daniel Wass of Celta de Vigo during the Copa del Rey Quarter Final, First Leg match between Real Madrid CF and  Celta Vigo at Bernabeu on January 18, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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The pressure at Real Madrid can be overwhelming, and the players who thrive there generally have thick skin and short memories.

They also take losses pretty seriously.

That goes for the manager as well, as both Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and Casemiro have reacted to Real’s third-straight non-win in serious fashion.

[ MORE: Real no longer No. 1 in money ]

Remember, this is coming after the first match of the “slump” — a 3-3 draw with Sevilla — was the final match of a world record 40-match unbeaten run.

Casemiro, whose record in the Real Madrid lineup is as good as anyone’s, said this (via Marca):

“Yes, it’s worrying to lose again,” he said just after the full-time whistle. “Real Madrid aren’t ever allowed to lose. The defeat against Sevilla has hurt us.”

And if you want to tell Casemiro to relax, that only one of those matches was in league play and the club still leads the table by a point with a match-in-hand on nearly everyone… well… enter Zidane.

“I’m the one responsible and I must find the solution,” he said in his post-match press conference. “I wasn’t surprised by the way Celta played, as we knew that they’re a team that can really hurt you. I’m not worried, although it’s a bad moment. We know that we can overcome it and we are going to overcome it.”

I’m far from a Real Madrid fan, and you can credit Florentino Perez’s ideas and the hanky-waving fans for a lot of that, but it’s impossible not admire how seriously Real takes the business of winning. And maybe, just maybe, the fan and board expectations occasionally help the squad.

Run-up shootouts, per-player match limits on FIFA’s agenda

Marco van Basten, Dutch football manager and former football player, poses for a photo on the green carpet while arriving prior to the The Best - FIFA Football Awards 2016 ceremony held at the Swiss TV studio in Zurich, Switzerland, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.  (Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP)
Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP
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Restricting players to 60 games a year. Replacing penalty shootouts with eight-second run-ups. Introducing orange cards to send players off for 10 minutes. Scrapping offside.

Former AC Milan and Netherlands forward Marco van Basten is using his role as technical director at FIFA to propose a series of changes to soccer to stir a debate.

[ MORE: Costa back for Chelsea ]

Rather than using his job to meddle, Van Basten highlights the need to preserve soccer as the world’s most popular sport.

“I have spoken to a lot of coaches and players,” Van Basten said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We have to promote quality instead of quantity. We are playing too much football now. We have to defend players because they have to play so much and are not fresh or fit anymore.

“That’s bad for the quality of the game. Even in June when the big tournaments are played players cannot perform to their maximum because now if players are really successful they can play up to 75 official games in the year. I think that’s a bit too much and maybe they should stop at 55 or 60.”

Although FIFA will expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from 2026, that won’t burden players with any additional games. Instead, clubs sides would have to explore reducing the number of fixtures, potentially by reducing the number of lucrative friendly games played on tours.

[ MORE: Real Madrid now winless in three ]

“That’s all for money but we have to think about football and not money,” said Van Basten, who was hired by FIFA in September. “For a lot of clubs that’s not easy. But there is enough money in football.

“(Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi are earning so much money. If they are earning a little bit less but performing better that’s good for football.”

Asked about countries like England or France no longer playing two cup competitions alongside their league fixtures, Van Basten said: “In my opinion that should be an interesting discussion.”

Van Basten knows some of radical changes he proposed to the AP could make traditionalists uneasy. But the 1992 FIFA world player of the year wants to ensure the global game has a say on its future.

“We should not just let the game be organized by those with the money,” he said from FIFA HQ in Zurich. “The big clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Real Madrid who have everything.”

“In football you need opponents, competition because if you are alone with two or three clubs controlling everything you don’t have any competition.”

Here are some potential changes to soccer proposed by Van Basten:

PENALTY SHOOTOUTS

Rather than burdening players with an additional 30 minutes of action when cup games are level after 90 minutes, Van Basten is suggesting going straight to penalties.

“I think everybody is pretty tired after 120 minutes,” Van Basten said.

Now penalties are a test of nerves with players having one chance to beat the goalkeeper from the penalty spot.

“Maybe the player should start 25 meters from goal and then you can dribble the goalkeeper or shoot early,” he said. “But you have to make a goal within eight seconds. It’s more skill and less luck. It’s maybe a bit more spectacular. It’s more football but it’s still nervous for the player.”

NO OFFSIDE

Scrapping the offside rule could make soccer more visually appealing, Van Basten advises.

“I think it can be very interesting watching a game without offside,” he said. “Football now is already looking a lot like handball with nine or ten defenders in front of the goal. It’s difficult for the opposition to score a goal as it’s very difficult to create something in the small pieces of space they give you.

“So if you play without offside you get more possibilities to score a goal.”

FOUR QUARTERS

Soccer is increasingly intense and grueling, with a single 15-minute break between 45-minute halves.

“We are trying to help the game, to let the game develop in a good way,” Van Basten said. “We want to have a game which is honest, which is dynamic, a nice spectacle so we should try to do everything to help that process.”

Introducing four quarters could be advantageous.

“The coach can have three times with his players during the game,” Van Basten said.

SINBINS

Now there is no middle ground between players being shown a yellow card and receiving a red card and then being removed for the rest of the game.

“Maybe an orange card could be shown that sees a player go out of the game for 10 minutes for incidents that are not heavy enough for a red card,” Van Basten said.

Such an instance could be when a player commits repeat fouls that didn’t warrant yellow cards or obstruct opponents. Five misdemeanors could earn a player a place in a sin bin for 10 minutes, Van Basten said.

NEXT STEPS

Any changes to the laws of the game cannot be forced through by Van Basten, however close he is to FIFA President Gianni Infantino. He said he wants to listen to the views of world before any proposals are taken to the game’s law-making body, The International Football Association Board. FIFA controls half of the eight votes on IFAB, with the other four retained by the British associations.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports