FC Nantes v Montpellier Herault SC - Ligue 1

Americans Abroad wrap: Guzan stays unbeaten, Lichaj & Bedoya thrive

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FulThough the transfer deadline was a quiet time for American players apart from Julian Green’s loan move to Hamburg, the boys deserved some downtime after a very busy weekend on the pitch.

Transfer moves did not materialize for Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea nor Geoff Cameron, while Juan Agudelo is still without a team. Agudelo, of course, is unattached and can sign anywhere, while the remaning three are still candidates to find loan homes at some point this Fall.

As for the soccer, let’s get the ugly out of the way by starting in the Premier League: Tim Howard had an absolutely brutal day against a Chelsea firing squad that netted six times at Goodison Park. When Everton scores thrice, manager Roberto Martinez usually feels good about his chances to win. This wasn’t the case against a motivated Chelsea team.

[ RELATED: Injured defender Cameron removes himself from USMNT trip ]

Break up Aston Villa! Brad Guzan’s shutout streak was broken by Stoke City, but Villa surged into an early-season Top Four position with a 2-1 win over the Potters.

Will Sunderland manager Gus Poyet just give Jozy Altidore an early-season start? The American forward came off the bench for the final nine minutes of the Black Cats 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers, and would surely merit a longer look than the 14, 10 and nine minutes he’s seen through three matches (even coming off his miserable campaign).

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

source: Getty Images
Lichaj

Down in the Championship, Nottingham Forest stayed in pole position for promotion with yet another win. American back Eric Lichaj played all 97 minutes in a big road win over Sheffield Wednesday.

Near the other end of the table, Fulham and 18-year-old American midfielder Emerson Hyndman finally found their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw against Cardiff. The teen star played all 90 minutes for the Cottagers.

Tim Ream and Bolton were on the short end of the stick in a 1-0 loss against Leeds United, with the defender going the duration. Meanwhile, Jonathan Spector was on the field for 90 minutes of regret as his Birmingham City side was waxed 4-0 by Wigan Athletic.

To Germany,  Fabian Johnson saw just 15 minutes work as Borussia Monchengladbach settled for a point in a scoreless match at Freiburg. John Anthony Brooks went 90 minutes as a left inside back in a 5-4-1, as Hertha Berlin were beaten 4-2 by Bayer Leverkusen. Hertha lead 1-0 and 2-1 before giving it away in the final 28 minutes.

Timmy Chandler subbed on for 34 minutes in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-2 draw at Wolfsburg.

In the Eredivisie, Rubio Rubin subbed off after a disappointing 57 minutes in Utrecht’s 3-1 loss to Heerenveen.

In France, Ale Bedoya and Nantes pulled off a mild upset as they continue a solid season’s start for the second straight year. The Canaries beat Montpellier 1-0, with Bedoya playing right mid in a 4-4-2 and going 82 minutes. He subbed shortly after his club took the lead. Nantes is now three points back of first-place Bordeaux.

In Norway, Bob Bradley’s Stabaek side drew 1-1 at home against basement-dwelling Sandnes Ulf. Michael Stephens and Andrew Jacobson went 90 minutes in the points-share.

Rosenborg had a bit of a six-pointer against Viking, and Mix Diskerud played all 90 minutes in the 2-1 win. Neither Josh Gatt nor Ethan Horvath made the bench for Molde’s 1-0 win over Brann.

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.
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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

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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)
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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)
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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.