Three things we learned from USA vs. Germany

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Phew. We got there in the end.

The U.S. may have lost 1-0 to Germany in Recife on Thursday, but the objective of making it out of Group G was achieved.

So many had feared the “Group of Death” would haunt the U.S. and halt Jurgen Klinsmann’s side at the first hurdle of their 2014 World Cup adventure. How wrong they were as the USA are heading to the last 16.

[ RELATED: U.S. player ratings vs. Germany ]

[ RELATED: Klinsmann – Nobody gave US a chance ]

[ RELATED: Player moves in each game were key to advance ]

We learned plenty about the U.S. so far during this WC campaign, here are three things we learned from the narrow defeat to Germany.

Engine room excellence

Boy, oh boy, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones are having themselves one heck of a tournament. Beckerman was clean and tidy in possession, clogged up the space in front of the back four superbly and when he had to be dirty and give away fouls he used all of his experience to do it. Jones was playing slightly further forward than usual but was pinching tight alongside Bradley to stop the nation where he was born. The German-American has been the USA’s standout player of the tournament so far. Not just for his stunning goal against Portugal but his work rate, dedication to the cause and leadership skills. The fact that many experts were writing off Jones before the tournament began makes it even better. Alongside Beckerman and Jones, Michael Bradley had his best game of the tournament so far and although he gave the ball away cheaply here and there, the three wheels in the USA’s central cog intertwined majestically to minimize the impact of German’s usually imperious midfield machine. The U.S. lost the game, but I would argue that they won the midfield battle. To stop Germany’s flair players from creating numerous chances is an achievement that shouldn’t be overlooked.

source: AP
It was an intense midfield battle in the rain in Recife. Jones and co. held their own vs. Germany’s stars.

Grinders galore

It wasn’t just in the middle of the pitch that the USA’s gritty nature shone through. At the back Omar Gonzalez stepped in and does what he does best: gets his head on things and uses his size to put off opponents. Matt Besler was sliding into challenges and both full back, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley, kept going for the full 90. In Beasley’s case, having that much energy after playing two full games at his age was remarkable. Up top, Clint Dempsey put in another shift and even a whack on his already broken nose from Benedikt Howedes couldn’t halt the Texan from leading the line powerfully. We all know how the U.S. is viewed around the world, the nation that nerves gives up and will succeed against all the odds. That aura of invincibility is starting to emanate from the American players, as they proved, once again, that they’re made of tough stuff.

Final third breakdown

If defensively the U.S. looked sound against a German team coasting in second and third gear for most of the game, offensively it wasn’t a bed of roses. After weathering the early storm the U.S. actually nipped the ball back in some great positions on the halfway line but then didn’t do much with it. Apart from Graham Zusi cutting inside from the left in the 21st minute and curling a shot just over the bar, the USA failed to create any real clear cut opportunities until the dying stages when Alejandro Bedoya’s shot was blocked superbly by Phillip Lahm. That has to be a worry for Klinsmann, as he’s still missing his main striker Jozy Altidore and when you pick the bones out of the USA’s fourth goals so far, two were from set pieces (John Brook’s header and a shot from Jones after a corner was cleared) and two were from Dempsey’s opportunism. If the USA is going to unlock a stubborn Belgian defense, which has given up just one goal thus far and is marshaled by Vincent Kompany, they’ll have to do better to create chances in the final third. If you don’t create chances, it will be hard to advance past the last 16.

Peru’s World Cup foes lobby to overturn Guerrero’s ban

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Following last week’s decision handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Peru captain and talisman Paolo Guerrero has been banned from the 2018 World Cup — at the age of 34, almost certainly his last opportunity to star on the world’s biggest stage.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

However, in the days since that decision, a number of Guerrero’s fellow professionals and World Cup stars — France and Denmark captains Hugo Lloris and Simon Kjaer, and Australia’s Mile Jedinak — have written to FIFA, on behalf of FIFPro, the world player union, in hopes of rendering Guerrero eligible to pay at next month’s tournament in Russia.

“We respectfully ask the Fifa Council to show compassion,” the trio wrote. “In our view it would be plainly wrong to exclude him from what should be a pinnacle of his career.”

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

That Lloris, Kjaer and Jedinak are the players lobbying in favor of Guerrero is particularly notable given the fact that Peru will face France, Denmark and Australia in Group C.

Guerrero tested positive for cocaine late last year, after a tea he drank was tainted and triggered a fail drug test.

SKC, Crew SC play to 0-0 draw; VAR steals the show (again)

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The game in 100 words (or less): Nothing ruins a good game of soccer more than controversies involving the referee — and now that VAR is active within MLS, yet another failure of the video-review system to correct the most “clear and obvious” of wrong decisions. There is no longer any rhyme or reason in deciding whether or not to utilize what could be a very helpful tool. Check the third video further down this page to comprehend the absurdity of VAR in Sporting Kansas City’s 0-0 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Sunday. As for the actual soccer which was played, Tim Melia made one save to deny Gyasi Zardes with a point-blank header early in the first half, and a second to deny Zardes rom the penalty spot just before halftime. Despite being a back-and-forth affair between the league’s second- and third-place teams with a chance to take the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, there were just six shots on target in total and genuine scoring chances were few and far between.

[ PREVIEW: USMNT hosts Bolivia in shadows of World Cup hype ]

Three moments that mattered

43′ — Zardes wins a PK, but Melia makes the save — Melia was responsible for giving away the penalty kick, and he more than made up for it by denying Zardes moments later.

45+6′ — Higuain puts studs into Espinoza, sees red — Originally not called a foul, changed to a red card following video review. On the softer side of red cards (just an opinion).

59′ — Martinez takes a swing at Sinovic, but no video review — At this point, it’s just time to disband the entire VAR experiment. It’s turned MLS into a clown show and an embarrassment. Signed, someone who was initially in favor of VAR, assuming MLS would utilize it properly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Tim Melia

Goalscorers: None

Rayo Vallecano win promotion back to La Liga

Photo credit: Rayo Vallecano / @RayoVallecano
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MADRID (AP) Rayo Vallecano earned promotion to Spain’s top division after beating Lugo 1-0 in a second-tier league game on Sunday.

Alex Moreno’s goal for the hosts in the 40th minute sealed Rayo’s return to La Liga after two seasons away.

Huesca had already secured promotion last weekend with a 2-0 victory at Lugo.

The third team to move up will be the winner of a two-round playoff between the four teams that finish the season from third to sixth.

Malaga, Las Palmas and Deportivo La Coruna were all relegated from the top flight this season.

FOLLOW LIVE: West leaders SKC host East’s 2nd-best Crew SC

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City host Columbus Crew SC, the Eastern Conference’s second-place side, at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday with both sides capable of overtaking Atlanta United for top spot in the Supporters’ Shield race.

[ FOLLOW: SKC vs. Crew SC in top-of-the-table clash ]

Sporting KC, who are unbeaten in three straight and have lost just once since opening day (11 games), lead expansion side Los Angeles FC in the West. Meanwhile, Crew SC enter Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash unbeaten in their last six games (four wins) and trail the league leaders from Atlanta by a single point.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.