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.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.