The day’s best from Opta Joe; going behind the Premier League numbers

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Opta Sports provides the numerical insight for today’s Premier League action, and we provide the context:

Where the “cause” begins and where the “effect” ends, or vice versa, is hard to say. But one thing is sure: none of this is one bit good for Jozy Altidore. He either missed a sitter today, or he got unlucky on a ball that caromed in too quickly for him to get a good look at it. Either way, he’s stuck on one goal for Sunderland this year.

It’s tempting to still see Rooney as a striker, but those who watch a lot of Manchester United recognize how much more he can be when asked. Just like earlier this week, when he fell into a more defensive role in the midfield. Either way, Rooney’s passing and instincts in playmaking positions are surely useful.

And people wonder why there are Manchester United conspiracy theories! (Seriously, Manchester United has good defenders, and they work hard around Old Trafford on the defensive side of the ball. But 76 matches? Come on!

So City remains on pace to topple Chelsea’s record for most goals in a Premier League season. Chelsea’s 2008-09 side, driven by Didier Drogba, holds the record at 103 goals.

I mean, Michael Bradley could not possibly hurt, right? Bradley is a thinking man’s midfielder, one also blessed with plenty of ability to maximize that sharp eye and keen sense of where to be on the field. He’s a terrific midfield organizer, and that means a lot in preventing goals – by turning back opportunities before they ever get the chance to become goals.

And think about how close Tony Pulis’ team came to shutting out Manchester City at home. This is the same City side that smashes team regularly by multiple goals at the Etihad. Yes, City had about 106 percent of the possession today, but Palace limited the home team’s quality chances.

And yet, the debate rages on about whether he has the stuff to play for Manchester City. See this post from earlier today.

VIDEO: Portugal lead Iran at HT; Spain 1-1 Morocco

Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images
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We’re through the first 45 minutes of Monday’s Group B finales at the 2018 World Cup, and things are happening. A quick rundown…

[ SCENARIOS: Who needs what, to finish where, in final round of group games ]

Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos combined to commit a disastrous gaffe at midfield, resulting in a goal for Khalid Boutaib in the 14th minute. At this point, Spain would have finished second, behind Portugal, and headed to the far more difficult side of the knockout bracket.

Five minutes later, it was Iniesta who, with a little help from some slightly lesser geniuses, unlocked the Moroccan defense to set up Isco for an emphatic finish. La Furia Roja moved back to the top of the group, on goals scored.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

In the afternoon’s other game, Portugal and Iran appeared destined for a 0-0 scoreline at halftime, until Ricardo Quaresma unleashed a stunning, outside-of-the-foot curler from outside the box to beat the goalkeeper and put Portugal ahead — both on the day, and in the table. As things currently stand, Portugal would win the group and Spain would finish second.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 4

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In the fourth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England players have been preparing for their next match in an unusual way, Argentina has a huge meltdown, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Click play on the video above to watch the fourth episode in full.

Atlanta leads way with six All-Star Fan XI selections

Atlanta United on Twitter/@ATLUTD
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It may be hard to believe with all the World Cup festivities going on, but the Major League Soccer season is nearly halfway over.

[ MORE: Toronto FC’s 2018 has been far from their cup-winning 2017 ]

And that means it’s almost All-Star time.

The MLS All-Stars will continue their recent tradition of facing a European superpower in August, with Juventus being welcomed to the United States in early August.

But, which players from MLS will we see in action?

Last season’s expansion sweetheart Atlanta United leads the way in the fan voting with six players from the Eastern Conference side voted into the Fan XI, including attackers Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender/captain Michael Parkhurst also made the team from Atlanta.

In all, only five clubs were represented based on the Fan XI, with the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Laurent Ciman, Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Portland Timbers star Diego Valeri each rounding out the squad.


Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United)

Defenders: Michael Parkhurst (Atlanta United), Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles Football Club), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Miguel Almirón (Atlanta United), Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers)

Forwards: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United), Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Los Angeles Football Club – EA SPORTS™ “More Than a Vote” Challenge)

Saudi Arabia steals late win over Egypt in Group A finale

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Saudi Arabia pulled off a late 2-1 win against Egypt on Monday in their Group A finale, as the two nations ended their 2018 World Cup run in the group stage.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Salem Al Sawsari scored in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to give the Saudis a late winner in the match, as the attacker struck the post in the dying moments before the ball crossed the line.

The Pharaohs took the lead in the 22nd minute, after a tremendous run from Mohamed Salah and lob over the Saudi Arabia goalkeeper.

Salah has two goals at the World Cup for Egypt, who were already eliminated heading into Monday’s match.

Saudi Arabia was granted a chance to equalize prior to halftime, however, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brilliantly stopped Hattan Bahebri’s penalty kick in the 41st minute to preserve the Egypt advantage.

El Hadary became the oldest player in World Cup history to appear in a match at the age of 45.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The Egypt keeper wasn’t as lucky the second time around though, with Salmon Al Faraj converting a penalty kick in the 51st minute.

Saudi Arabia finishes group play in third place on three points, while Egypt goes winless in its three matches.