It doesn’t look pretty. In fact, it looks quite clunky. Solid possession is at a minimum, the midfield can’t seem to get a hold on the game, and long balls often stifle creativity.
But despite what the eye test is telling us, the USWNT is performing exactly as Jill Ellis wants.
The biggest question now isn’t whether they’ll start playing better anytime soon. They already are at or close to their best. This is the apex of what we’re going to get. Don’t expect anything prettier, don’t expect anything more fluid, or you will be sorely disappointed.
No, the question isn’t when this team will peak. Ellis has this club playing a strictly defense-first mentality, and with just one single goal conceded all tournament, they’re playing at optimal levels.
Julie Johnston has emerged as the team’s best player, and her center-back partner Becky Sauerbrunn is happy to operate at peak performance in her shadow. While television analysts clamor for the wing-backs to bomb forward and provide some help to the patchy creativity up front, Ellis has Meghan Klingenberg and Ali Krieger sitting comfortably in defensive positions on the flanks.
So when you consider this team has conceded just one goal through four matches so far, and they’ve scored just enough each time, Ellis doesn’t care about any other numbers. While analysts, journalists, and fans clamor the “yea but,” none of that matters to the USWNT right now. That is why, when they found themselves scoreless at halftime against a clearly inferior Colombia side on Monday, nobody looked panicked, frustrated, or concerned in any fashion – they had kept the other team scoreless, and knew that one or two were on their way into the back of the net at some point, no matter how awkward the goalscoring was destined to look. Here’s the expected goals tally for that match:
Sure Alex Morgan is still far from her best. Sure Abby Wambach looks less and less useful. But 0.2 xG for an opponent is a complete and total defensive shutdown, and that’s priority #1 for Ellis. Sure it ain’t pretty, but it’s worked – so far.
And that is the elephant in the room. Not if this team will peak, not if this team will start to look more fluid, more attacking, more cohesive up front; none of that is going to happen. No, the true question mark plaguing this team is do they have enough to hold teams like Germany, France, or Japan off the scoreboard?
When you play to concede zero rather than score three, that is the biggest concern. Sure, the United States has given up just one goal all tournament, but in the only match they did concede – the opener against Australia – it truly felt like they were in trouble. They also drew Sweden, but taking 0-0 to extra time in the knockout stages would feel like advantage US. It’s when the USWNT concedes a goal that the plan begins to unravel.
And that is where the concern lies. The attack of Germany has utterly decleated nearly every defense it’s faced thus far. Can the United States truly play a defensive style and expect to come out with a 1-0 win against a team like that?
Jill Ellis has this USWNT performing exactly how she wants it to at the moment, but when the time comes to put her money where her mouth is so to speak, the fate of the United States’ World Cup hopes lies firmly with the back line. If they can hold the best attacks in the world off the scoreboard, the United States will rumble, bumble, and stumble its way across the finish line to hoist the trophy that has so eluded Abby Wambach and the rest of her teammates. If they can’t, they will go home empty-handed.
The future of Lionel Messi has largely been linked with another season at Paris Saint-Germain or a move to Major League Soccer, but his former club is an option and no longer just lurking in the weeds.
“If we talk about La Masia academy and youth players, we are talking about Leo,” Yuste said. “He arrived here when he was 12 years old. Of course, I would love to have him back. I say it personally. But I think that many of our supporters would love that too.
“For everything he would represent if he came back. Not only talking about a sportive, economic, and social levels, among other issues.
“But also because I think that all beautiful stories must have a happy ending. And answering your question, my answer is yes. We are in contact with them (referring to Messi and his father and agent Jorge Messi).”
Barcelona beat Real Madrid last month to virtually assure a return to La Liga’s champions circle. Xavi’s side has only allowed nine goals in La Liga play, but it’s scoring totals are down and a Messi and Robert Lewandowski pairing remains terrifying despite their advanced age (and don’t forget Raphinha).
As for Messi, he’s far removed from his days of threatening to score 100 goals in a calendar year but he’s still the most prolific player in Ligue 1. Messi has 26 goal contributions this season including a league-best 13 assists. FotMob’s player rating system has him as far-and-away the best player this Ligue 1 season.
Does Barcelona or PSG offer him a better chance to win another European Cup, and would that even matter if the alternative provided by MLS is generationally lucrative in how it sets up his already potential-filled future.
Can Borussia Dortmund keep its position in the catbird seat with a Klassiker win over reigning champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday?
Or will they former manager land a major blow for his new side, as Thomas Tuchel takes the reins of wounded Bayern. The 10-time defending champions fell out of first with a 2-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen that sent Julian Nagelsmann packing (for North London?).
BVB is in pursuit of its first Meisterschale since the 2011-12 season, its eighth in history. It’s been all Bayern since then, as the Bavarians have claimed 10-consecutive league crowns.
Here’s the thing: If Bayern really had problems between its players and Nagelsmann, they weren’t totally manifesting themselves on the pitch. Bayern’s 72 goals are 17 more than anyone else in the Bundesliga and its 27 conceded are one better than second-place Union Berlin.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund.
How to watch Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel/Online:Stream via ESPN+
Updates: Scoreboard, stats, more at Scoreboard.nbcsports.com
Key storylines & star players
Bayern’s all about controlling the game, and it does so with aplomb thanks to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. The side has pace for days and has also gotten monstrous amounts of creativity from Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala. There’s no Robert Lewandowski, but Bayern spreads the goals around through Musiala (11), Choupo-Moting (10), and Serge Gnabry (9). Manuel Neuer’s out, but the club’s quickly filled his space with Yann Sommer.
Dortmund slipped itself a couple of matches ago, a 2-2 draw in the Revierderby, but it bounded back with a 6-1 demolition of Koln. Bundesliga assist hero Raphael Guerreiro scored in that game while Sebastien Haller and Marco Reus both posted braces. Reus remains the heart of the club and has been a boon for Edin Terzic. A wild card is USMNT star Giovanni Reyna, who has posted terrific advanced stats in Bundesliga play but is still mainly just getting 15-20 minute cameos if he plays at all for BVB.
Bayern Munich team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (back), Paul Wanner (adductor), Jamal Musiala (hamstring), Mathys Tel (muscular), Arijon Ibrahimovic (virus). OUT: Lucas Hernandez (ACL), Manuel Neuer (leg)
Borussia Dortmund team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Mateu Morey (fitness), Thomas Meunier (back), Youssoufa Moukoko (ligaments), Karim Adeyemi (muscular), Giovanni Reyna (illness).
How to watch Bournemouth vs Fulham live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday TV Channel: Peacock Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Gary O’Neil has set Bournemouth up to be dangerous on the counter attack and that works well against teams who love to dominate possession. Fulham love to do that and this tactic could suit the Cherries in this game. Dominic Solanke has led the line superbly, Neto has been excellent in goal and Dango Ouatrara has been sensational since arriving in January as his speed and direct running has given Bournemouth an extra dimension.
Fulham have just lost their way after an incredible season so far. They are still in the battle for European qualification as they sit in the top 10 and now they have to finish the campaign strong to keep positive vibes flowing. Marco Silva wants them to snap into challenges, press high and keep the ball when they have it and they are horrible to play against.
Bournemouth team news, injuries, lineup options
QUESTIONABLE: Junior Stanislas (undisclosed), Marcus Tavernier (thigh), Illia Zabarnyi (foot), Adam Smith (groin)
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Arsenal push them all the way? Will Chelsea and Liverpool recover to finish in the top four? Can Manchester United’s new-look side surge into the title race? What about Tottenham? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
2:45pm: AFC Bournemouth v Brighton
2:45pm: Leeds v Nottingham Forest
2:45pm: Leicester vs Aston Villa
3pm: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Wednesday 5 April
3pm: Man United v Brentford
3pm: West Ham v Newcastle
Saturday 8 April
7:30am: Man Utd v Everton
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
12:30pm: Southampton v Man City
Sunday 9 April
9am: Leeds v Crystal Palace
11:30am: Liverpool v Arsenal
Saturday 15 April
7:30am: Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
Wolves v Brentford
12:30pm: Man City v Leicester
Sunday 16 April
9am: West Ham v Arsenal
11:30am: Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Monday 17 April
3pm: Leeds v Liverpool
Friday 21 April
3pm: Arsenal v Southampton
Saturday 22 April
7:30am: Fulham v Leeds
Brentford v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Everton
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Sunday 23 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
9am: Newcastle v Spurs
Postponed due to European action
Man Utd v Chelsea
Brighton v Man City
Tuesday 25 April
2:30pm: Wolves v Crystal Palace
2:45pm: Aston Villa v Fulham
2:45pm: Leeds v Leicester
Wednesday 26 April
2:30pm: Nottingham Forest v Brighton
2:45pm: Chelsea v Brentford
2:45pm: West Ham v Liverpool
3pm: Man City v Arsenal
Thursday 27 April
2:45pm: Everton v Newcastle
2:45pm: Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
3:15pm: Spurs v Man Utd
Saturday 29 April
7:30am: Crystal Palace v West Ham
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
12:30pm: Arsenal v Chelsea
Sunday 30 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
9am: Fulham v Man City
9am: Man Utd v Aston Villa
9am: Newcastle v Southampton
11:30am: Liverpool v Spurs
Monday 1 May
3pm: Leicester v Everton
Wednesday 3 May
3pm: Liverpool v Fulham
3pm: Man City v West Ham
Thursday 4 May
3pm: Brighton v Man Utd
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Spurs v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Aston Villa
12:30pm: Liverpool v Brentford
Sunday 7 May
9am: Man City v Leeds* subject to possible Champions League schedule
11:30am: Newcastle v Arsenal
2pm: West Ham v Man Utd
Monday 8 May
10am: Fulham v Leicester
12:30pm: Brighton v Everton
3pm: Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool