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:

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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.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

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


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.