Krieger credits Ellis, communication for United States’ defensive success

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The United States defense has been immense throughout the World Cup. Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn and Meghan Klingenberg have played tremendous, keeping a 513-minute shutout streak and keeping most shots from reaching goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The U.S. has been scored on only once, in the opener against Australia. U.S. coach Jill Ellis has finally found a perfect back-four grouping of players that communicate, play well together, and shutdown the oppositions biggest threats.

Lotta Schelin, Caitlin Foord, Asisat Oshoala, Lady Andrade, Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic were all pretty much neutralized and on an island when up against the No. 2-ranked United States. The Americans will hope to do the same on Sunday in the World Cup final against Japan.

[KASSOUF: 2011 memory still burns Wambach | Lloyd, Brian revitalize US]

Much of the credit for the U.S. success has been given to a solid defensive game plan. In any team sport, communication and an understanding is a huge factor for teams that win championships. Krieger knows the importance of having excellent dialogue and communication on the pitch.

“Every single game we are trying to have quality performances and when we do make a mistake right after we speak about it, and we fix it,” she said. “Then at halftime we’ll say what do you need from me, what do I need from you. This is how I feel, what can be better, what needs to be better, and what do we need to fix in order to help the team or the front-six to be successful and score goals. I think that we’ve just done a great job of communicating and making sure that each of us are feeling comfortable and confident in our position.”

While other teams — including the hosts Canada — have preached about being the most connected and together team, the U.S. have proudly shown how much support they have for one and other. Players aren’t afraid to comment and make tactical suggestions off the pitch and during actual game action. In-match adjustments are key, and not every player is comfortable with one and other to make such a switch during the course of play. Krieger and Johnston make a habit of staying organized throughout.

“It’s all about the communication, ‘hey’ from J.J… ‘Ali you can push wide or stay and hold,'” Krieger said, describing some of the communications. “I think that we have that down pat and I think that we’ve done such a great job of really organizing and staying compact and just expecting a lot of that out of each other. I think that all starts with having good communication and that’s also having good relationships with the players around you. As long as you have that good communication, the pressure and cover balance has been excellent for us. We just try and stay comfortable, and confident as a collective group and that’s what I think we’ve done really well at.”

[MORE: Krieger says posing naked in magazine ’empowering’ for women]

Ellis has added an emphasis on team defending and that includes her taking an initiative to help improve the back line. While she could have delegated coaching duties, Ellis has taken an active role as a line coach for the defense. This has helped immensely in structuring the team play in front of Solo. This has also helped players to quickly understand areas for in-game situations where they might need improvement.

“It starts with the team defending at first and then at times she’s our line coach as well so I think that, that is also important,” Krieger said. “That’s what helped me personally in the last World Cup. I think we had Erica Walsh as our line coach. I think it’s just finding little details like maybe my footwork and maybe in the Australia game when I got caught back twice in some of their opportunities.”

Japan and the U.S. have a history and because Japan claimed victory over the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup final, there has to be somewhat of a small revenge factor. Both teams have different styles and tactics, and formations have completely evolved. However, whichever way you slice it, the United States would like nothing better than to beat Japan.

Krieger missed out on the 2012 London Olympics — where the U.S. beat Japan in the final — with a torn ACL and MCL. Her memory of the 2011 World Cup final is something she isn’t willing to over-think it and focus on with this World Cup final on the horizon.

“Obviously you think about that, but it’s four years later,” she said. “It’s a new team – both sides, it’s a new tournament and I think we’re obviously very happy we’re playing against Japan in the final. It gives us a little bit more motivation because of that loss four years ago, but that I don’t think that has anything to do with their team now, and our team now because it’s a lot different than it was four years ago.”

The U.S. and Japan always seem to produce breathtaking matches with end-to-end action up and down the pitch. Sunday should be no different. These teams know each other well and Japan coach Norio Sasaki and Ellis will be doing their best to make sure their team comes out on top in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final match from BC Place.

Messi, Griezmann, Suarez turn on style with stunning goals in Barcelona win

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Barcelona are still in the La Liga title race. Just.

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez combined to score stunning goals in a 4-1 win for Barcelona at high-flying Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona’s win means they are now four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with five games to go, as Real beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 earlier on Sunday.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

Barcelona took the lead as Messi crossed for Griezmann and he didn’t convert his clever flick but Pau Torres put the ball into this own net.

Villarreal then equalized as Samuel Chukwueze launched a counter which Gerardo Moreno finished off after Santo Cazorla’s shot was saved.

Then Barcelona kicked on.

Suarez made it 2-1 with a stunner as Messi set him up and then Griezmann turned on the magic as Messi grabbed another assist.

Another Barcelona attack saw Suarez find Messi on the edge of the box and the Barcelona legend set up Griezmann with a delicious back heel flick.

The French striker, who was criticized by his manager Quique Setien in recent weeks, then clipped home a majestic chip to put Barcelona 3-1 up at El Madrigal.

Ansu Fati scored late on to seal the win as Messi hit the crossbar and scored another which was chalked off via VAR, as Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the final weeks of the La Liga season.

Barca aren’t giving up their La Liga title without a fight and they looked in superb form ahead of the Champions League resumption in August.

Tottenham – Everton preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Tottenham – Everton is an intriguing clash on Monday (start time, 3pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) between teams who are separated by just one point and one place in the table but have been heading in very different directions since new managers arrived midseason.

TOTTENHAM – EVERTON STREAM LIVE

Spurs lost last time out at Sheffield United in very controversial fashion as Jose Mourinho now has a very tough task to guide them back to the Premier League ahead of the final six games of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti has Everton surging as they have lost just three of his 14 Premier League games in charge and those defeats came at Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Tottenham – Everton is a game both teams will go all out to win in their pursuit of European action and this should be a beauty.


Team news

Tottenham may have Dele Alli available, as he suffered a slight hamstring injury after coming on as a sub in their defeat at Sheffield United. Aside from that Japhet Tanganga will return to training next week.

Everton should have Richarlison back fit as the Brazilian suffered a knock in their win against Leicester City.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on Carlo Ancelotti: “I think everyone in football admires Carlo as a coach and as a person. If you don’t know him as a person, at least you know him as a coach. It’s not because I like him so much as a person that I’m going to say the obvious, which is: he’s one of the top managers in the world of the last two decades and of course now. I think it’s a privilege for the Premier League to have Carlo back, it’s a privilege for Everton to have Carlo as manager, or head coach, whatever way you want to call him.”

Carlo Ancelotti on teenager attacker Anthony Gordon: “He is doing really well and is ready to play for Everton, no doubt. He improved in the past six months and how he is playing [in training and games] gives me a lot of confidence and trust in him. He is a player with personality. You can find a lot of players with quality, but you have to show strong personality. In football, you need players with personality and character. Players who are not afraid to make decisions. Anthony is one of these. He is ready to be with us and part of what we are doing.”

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Tottenham (+107) are the slight favorites but this should be a very tight game as Everton (+265) have been in really good form and look solid defensively. The value here is in a win for Everton or a tie (+250) in north London.

Prediction

Tottenham basically have to win all of their remaining games to have a chance of finishing fifth and a potential Champions League spot. Mourinho’s side won’t really want to be in the Europa League next season so if they don’t win here, what do they do? Everton would be delighted to be in the Europa League and I could see the Toffees edging this, especially if Richarlison is fit. I’m going for Tottenham 1-2 Everton.

Heroic Southampton stun Man City

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Southampton beat Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a heroic defensive display and a Che Adams wondergoal at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Adams lobbed home from over 40 yards out in the first half to score his first Premier League and Southampton goal in style and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dug deep and held off wave after wave of Man City attack, as Pep Guardiola’s side followed up their 4-0 demolition of Liverpool by losing in disappointing fashion.

With the win Southampton move up to 13th in the table and have 43 points as they are three points off ninth, while Man City stay in second on 66 points and they are now 23 points behind Premier League champions Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Saints can defend: They had a few slices of luck but Saints’ defensive unit stood tall and they deserved this marquee win. Center backs Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens were particularly brilliant, throwing themselves in the way of everything and leading by example. Full backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand covered so much ground, Alex McCarthy made a string of fine saves and Oriol Romeu in front of them shielded the back four superbly. What a result for Hasenhuttl as his project at Saints is kicking on very nicely since the restart. It take a lot to come back from the start they had this season (ahem, 9-0 defeat to Leicester) but the spirit is good and the spine of this team is solid. With Ings, Redmond and others in attack, Saints could be a top 10 team next season.

2. Man City leggy: You can forgive City for this win. They were bright and went close on several occasions but let’s not forget, they tore Liverpool apart on Thursday and had just over 48 hours rest before this game. Southampton had a week of rest and a week to prepare. It showed. Man City had an off day and just kind of ran out of ideas. That dominate the game but they lost and that has happened to them a few times this season (Norwich away, Chelsea away) and that is why they are so far behind Liverpool.

3. Priority is FA Cup, Champions League: Pep Guardiola clearly wants to focus on winning the FA Cup and the Champions League and that is fine. People will point to Guardiola losing three consecutive league games away from home for the first time in his career as a sign that Man City are in decline, but they lost at Man United and Chelsea and luck wasn’t on their side at Southampton. Let’s get some perspective here. Man City proved their point by hammering Liverpool 4-0 on Thursday and they will be back better next season. The changes Pep made for this game underlines that Man City’s head is elsewhere. They are going to finish second in the Premier League so why not focus on winning more trophies.

Man of the Match

Jan Bednarek – Basically every Saints player deserved this but I’m going for Bednarek, closely followed by Stephens, McCarthy and Ings. The spine of this Saints team worked so hard to preserve their early lead and they actually looked dangerous on their rare forays forward. What a win and win a defender Bednarek has become, as the ‘Polish Maldini’ continues to improve from a positional point of view.


The first real chance of the game arrived for Southampton and they took it in some style.

Oleksandr Zinchenko gave the ball away and Adams lobbed Ederson from 40 yards out to score his first Premier League goal in style as his teammates mobbed him.

Gabriel Jesus then almost finished at the back post as Man City kicked on after falling behind.

Raheem Sterling then sent in a wonderful cross to the center of the goal which almost found Jesus but Ings cleared away from danger. Sterling was then denied by Alex McCarthy, then Fernandinho hit the post and McCarthy denied David Silva as Man City came roaring back.

McCarthy then denied Mahrez at the near post as Man City continued to press for an equalizer, while Nathan Redmond had a shot which Ederson saved. Before the break Southampton settled themselves and Ings volleyed over after a great ball from Kyle Walker-Peters.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half Jesus flicked a header from a corner just wide as Man City continued to create chances.

McCarthy then denied Jesus’ header and Stephens hacked away as Southampton were under severe pressure with McCarthy then denying David Silva.

Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden came on for the final 30 minutes as Man City cranked through the gears with James Ward-Prowse blocking a goalbound Bernardo Silva shot. Jesus had another header saved by McCarthy as Saints had a brief break which saw Adams close down Ederson who cleared.

Substitute Shane Long ran in on goal and that led to Stuart Armstrong having a shot on goal which Ederson saved brilliantly down low.

Late on Man City chucked everything at Southampton but some heroic defending sealed a huge win for Hasenhuttl’s side.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for a handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns.

The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22, as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Watford v. Norwich City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal v. Leicester City, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Man City v. Newcastle United, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham v. Burnley, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Everton v. Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa v. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City v. West Ham, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Watford v. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool v. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Brighton v. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Wolves v. Everton, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham v. Arsenal, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth v. Leicester City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 13: Man United v. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea v. Norwich, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Man City v. Bournemouth, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET