Drilling down on: at Sporting KC 1, Houston 1

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Man of the Match: There were lots of good, tough performances for the visitors, but the bottom line was 1-1 draw that probably doesn’t happen without a couple of swell saves from goalkeeper Tally Hall, including a highlight maker before intermission on C.J. Sapong’s snap header. Hall also bravely raced out to take a ball off Kei Kamara’s foot. Hall continues to be one of Major League Soccer’s underrated men in goal.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Final shot total in this one: 25-6 for the home team. Wow.
  • Houston had a different look, setting up in a 4-1-4-1 with Ricardo Clark sitting behind Luiz Camargo and Brad Davis in the midfield. In addition to the game-winning goal, Davis was his usual bundle of midfield energy.
  • Camargo? Generally speaking, I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m missing something.
  • A slight tweak in SKC’s 4-3-3 as Kei Kamara played on the left, rather than in his more customary place on the right. That was Graham Zusi’s spot Friday, three nights after playing roughly the same position in the U.S. national team shirt.
  • One thing that doesn’t change, especially when Sporting KC plays at home: they press higher than any MLS club, and by a long way.
  • That SKC high, high, high pressure paid dividends within seconds when Houston failed to clear initial danger and striker C.J. Sapong found himself behind the Dynamo back line — but unable to squeeze off something toward goal. Sapong caused trouble for the Dynamo back line all night, but his finishing wasn’t what it needed to be until the late, breakthrough.
  • Sapong’s dramatic 93rd minute equalizer broke a 12-game personal scoreless drought.
  • Only referee Baldomero Toledo would somehow reckon that Aurelien Collin’s late swipe on Houston’s Clark, who was speeding into the SKC penalty area, wasn’t worthy of an early booking. Simply inexplicable.
  • No two teams in MLS are more committed to putting a body on someone and hitting someone every time they get near the ball defensively. Well, maybe San Jose has something to say about it, but definitely those three clubs.
  • Corey Ashe put Will Bruin through beautifully (as SKC right back Chance Myers kept the Dynamo striker onside) late in the first half.  Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen saved well, but Bruin simply has to finish a chance like that. Chances are bound to be precious on the road against the Eastern Conference leaders; those opportunities cannot be missed.
  • Houston did not do a credible job of picking up back-side runners, and didn’t even do great at marking guys right in the middle (which eventually bit the visitors). That’s partially credit to Sporting Kansas City, which gets so many attackers in and around the penalty area, defenses can struggled to account for everyone.
  • Houston’s Oscar Boniek Garcia struggled to have an offensive influence (although he did pick out Davis for Houston’s goal). Possible that he expended too much energy tracking Seth Sinovic, who spends as much time in the attacking half as any MLS left back. Or, it could just be that Houston had so little possession that the ball just never circulated out to his right side.
  • Just a little better midfield shape and a smidge more patience in possession after the break allowed Houston to get a little toehold on the game. Rather than hurrying to make something happen with the ball, the visitors were OK to move it forward in stages and re-circulate possession when necessary. One of those wise re-circulations found its way to Davis, whose precise first touch opened just enough space for a terrific shot into the far post for a 1-0 lead.
  • Kamara and Zusi switched sides for the second half. It created such a physical mismatch (the 6-3 Kamara vs. the 5-7 Ashe) on the wing that Houston coaches made the decision to remove their starting left back, who was also struggling with a hamstring strain. The more physical Andre Hainault replaced Ashe on the left side of Houston’s back line.
  • Recently signed Englishman Giles Barnes got his first minutes with the Dynamo, replacing Mac Kandji for the game’s final 10 minutes.
  • In the 90th minute, Collin and several SKC teammates were apoplectic about something they wanted called on a service into the Dynamo penalty area. Collin whined like a brokenhearted schoolboy. Only, Toledo got it 100 percent right; it had been Collin that threw his arm up in the air, handled the ball and then screamed for a dubious penalty kick. Shameful.

USMNT reportedly opens contract talks with Gregg Berhalter; Good or bad idea?

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Gregg Berhalter may be sticking around the United States men’s national team program, giving the USMNT coaching continuity as it moves from 2022 World Cup Round of 16 member to 2026 World Cup co-host.

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle says that Berhalter is beginning contract discussions with the United States Soccer Federation but also interested in taking a job in Europe with his profile having risen alongside the USMNT at the World Cup.

Berhalter’s current contract ends at the end of the calendar year, and the Yanks have scheduled a domestic camp in January and friendlies against Serbia and Colombia.

[ MORE: USMNT transfer rumors for Musah, Dest ]

Berhalter has done some good things for the program, most notably winning the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup with two different groups. He also straightened out the defending, for the most part, and got out of the World Cup group.

Berhalter successfully recruited Sergino Dest and Yunus Musah, two of the program’s stars at the World Cup. He also convinced Malik Tillman, Gaga Slonina, and Jesus Ferreira that the U.S. was the right place for their national team futures.

He also, subjectively, was slow if not downright stubborn in acquiesing to certain points-of-view that made the team better. From Tyler Adams as a right back at the outset of his tenure to saying Tim Ream didn’t fit how he wanted to play about a month before the World Cup… then playing him every minute of the tournament.

But for the most part when lessons were learned, they stayed learned.

Should Gregg Berhalter continue as USMNT boss?

Let’s start here, because it’s necessary: It’s clear that Berhalter cared about his players and the project, whether you like the way he operated or not. This wasn’t a half-assed operation, but one with passion.

So does he still have that passion? Only he can answer that, and if he’d like to get more matchdays in his life then maybe he does want to go back to the club game.

And frankly, that’s fine either way, because his four years with the program were neither amazing nor pitiful. They can be described as anything from a slight disappointment to a minor success, depending on your perspective and expectations.

If you believe that picking up the pieces from the absolute travesty that was failing to qualify for the World Cup from the richest nation and one of the two most talented nations amongst CONCACAF men’s programs was really hard, then you think Berhalter getting the men to the 2022 World Cup and surviving the group with a young group was a solid step in the right direction and a minor success.

If you believe that the American soccer climate is such that you should always make the World Cup out of one of the world’s lesser confederations and that the Yanks progressed as the second team of a group in which they were the second-ranked team according to FIFA and Elo Ratings, well, you can have a different standard.

The Yanks will never again fail to qualify for the World Cup given the expanded field, but hosts have historically had a drastically-improved chance to reach the semifinals. THe federation would have to be confident that picking the best squad regardless of how it reflects on his previous selections — let alone a Best XI — is going to happen under a given coach.

Berhalter’s 49 and is far from the worst or best boss in USMNT history. Whoever’s in the job four years from now will have a chance to go down as either one. Choose wisely, fed. And Gregg! Who knows how far his star could rise with a solid run in Europe, and history says there will be the chance to reconnect with the USMNT job.

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Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

We’re at the 2022 World Cup break, and the final few rounds of Premier League fixtures caused so many shocks.

Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

Almost at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest.

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.

Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United are locked in a battle for the top four, while Liverpool have improved and will be back in the Champions League scrap and Chelsea are struggling.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Who are the early-season candidates for relegation?

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest moved off the bottom of the table with a win before the break, with Wolves and Southampton currently occupying the other two relegation places.

Leicester have picked up a few big wins, while West Ham, Everton and Leeds all find themselves within a few points of the bottom-three after a topsy-turvy start.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – Matchweek 16

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England vs France: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Match 59 of the 2022 World Cup features a pair of European heavyweights duking it out for a place in the semifinals when England faces France on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps’ France is bidding to become a back-to-back World Cup winner, but Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are tournament-hardened and have shown their explosive nature three times this tournament.

STREAM ENGLAND vs FRANCE LIVE

France beat Poland 3-1 in its Round of 16 match while England overcame a dodgy start to pound Senegal 3-0.

Neither team can say its faced a test like this in the tournament, and this could be a fantastic fight in Qatar.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for England vs France.


How to watch England vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Saturday, December 1
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

England will look to Harry Kane, though the question remains who will flank the Tottenham center forward. Marcus Rashford’s been very good but Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden got the starting spots against Senegal and it paid off for Southgate.

Kylian Mbappe has been borderline unstoppable and will test Harry Maguire, John Stones, and friends and Antoine Griezmann pulls the strings in behind and Aurelien Tchouameni continues to strengthen his reputation in the center of the pitch.


England quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Pickford

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann

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Croatia vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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World Cup-savvy Croatia stands in the way of stylish Brazil’s pursuit of a sixth World Cup crown, and the pair promise a complex match-up on Friday in Al Rayyan.

Match 58 of the 2022 World Cup kicks off the quarterfinals as Neymar leads Tite’s star-studded CONMEBOL powers into a match against the 2018 runners-up.

STREAM CROATIA vs BRAZIL LIVE

Croatia got past Japan in penalties and will now dream of the two wins that could set it back in the final where France could again be waiting for a juicy rematch.

Croatia needed penalties to get past Japan in the Round of 16, while Brazil pasted South Korea 4-1.  Croatia has never beaten Brazil in four meetings, losing at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Croatia vs Brazil.


How to watch Croatia vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Friday, December 9
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Croatia’s Dominik Livakovic was fantastic in penalties versus Japan to get here, but Luka Modric continues to do the things that get Croatia out of trouble and puts the opponents into heaps of it. Josko Gvardiola has arguably been the defender of the tournament, and the 20-year-old looks to test his mettle again against the Selecao.

Pick a Brazil player who’s failed to impress and you’ve achieved a mighty feat. Neymar’s been fantastic when healthy while RIcharlison is in serious pursuit of the Golden Boot. Alisson Becker flexed his muscles once or twice versus South Korea and figures to be busier as the competition continues to heat up in Qatar.


Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Follow @NicholasMendola