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The Clean Sheets: When a Draw Feels Like a Loss

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 9:22pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: The Clean Sheets - USA v. Portugal


I just finished watching the USA-Portugal match and am genuinely stunned by what I witnessed. Obviously, Geoff Cameron's dreadful clearance gift wrapped Portugal's opening goal, but after that blunder, I believe America rallied well and ultimately controlled the game. They created a number of scoring chances and impressively kept Cristiano Ronaldo very quiet all the while.

Jermaine Jones' goal was sensational, as was the feeling once Clint Dempsey's stomach scored what seemed to be a dramatic late winner. Klinsmann and Co. had a date in the knockout round booked, when Ronaldo's perfect cross set up a gut-punch of an equalizer mere seconds before full-time.

Now, the pressing question is: how does the US respond?

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 9:40pm
To: Nick Pitner
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - USA v. Portugal


With 54 seconds left, substitute DeAndre Yedlin had the ball in a Portugal corner, ready to simply watch the seconds tick away. Needless to say, they didn't tick away fast enough.

But what I keep going back to is, what the hell is going on with Michael Bradley? He was awful against Ghana, and while he played much better Sunday against Portugal, his costly turnover with 10 seconds remaining directly led to the equalizer. As much as people want to talk about the terrible defending on the goal, or Ronaldo's prefect cross, we cannot ignore Bradley's turnover.

For as poor as Bradley has been, how good has Jones performed? Other than maybe Dempsey, there is not a better player wearing a USA shirt in this tournament than Jones. He said a few days before the World Cup began that if he scored against Germany, he wouldn't celebrate the goal. I'd be perfectly content watching him not celebrate a game-winner against the Germans on Thursday.

Speaking of the Germans, they smashed a 10-man Portugal squad 4-0 in their opener, then drew 2-2 with Ghana, a team the US beat 2-1. A lot of very important players were banged up before the trip to Brazil, including Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but they all seem to be fit now, which isn't great news for the Americans. Thomas Muller has been dominant through two games and will be a handful for the US' back four.

You also have to hope that the heat and humidity in Manaus doesn't completely drain the US heading into Thursday.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 10:36pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - USA v. Portugal


You're certainly justified in criticizing Bradley and praising Jones, two players in opposite form at the moment. I thought Bradley was far improved against Portugal and was fairly unlucky to have a would-be goal cleared off the line, but he undoubtedly switched off seconds too soon, which is inexplicable for one of the team's leaders.

US right-back Fabian Johnson also deserves a mention, as I've enjoyed his contributions down the flank, something America will need versus a pretty tidy German defense.

Overall, we've seen an absolutely wonderful World Cup thus far. Goals galore, surprise results, and varying climates highlight just a few of the features that have made the tournament so riveting already.

We discussed Spain's early elimination in our last conversation and since then England has suffered the same faith. Thanks to the Cinderella story that is Costa Rica, Group D has more than solidified itself as the "Group of Death," with England being its first casualty.

The final games of each group will be played concurrently during this week and some interesting story lines lead us into the action. For example, who will win Group B (Netherlands or Chile) to likely avoid facing Brazil in the next round? Does Italy or Uruguay join Costa Rica in advancing out of the brutal aforementioned Group D? Will goal difference become a deciding factor in any group?

Needless to say, it should be another captivating week in Brazil.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2014 7:27am
To: Nick Pitner
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - USA v. Portugal


Johnson did look great Sunday, but it should be noted that Ronaldo was mostly playing on his side and could not have been less interested in defending, which opened up space for the youngster.

Speaking of youngsters, how about Jurgen Klinsmann calling on 21 year old John Brooks in the game against Ghana and then 20 year old Yedlin against Portugal? Both made big contributions to the game and hopefully they will become the core of a strong back line that the US has been sorely missing over the last few World Cups.

Staying in defense, it was disappointing to see Cameron have such a poor game against Portugal because he has been our best defender for a while now. He's a consistent player at Stoke City and seems poised to have a decent career in the English Premier League. Hopefully he can bounce back against a German attack that, despite not having a real striker, is still very dangerous around the goal.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2014 2:17pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: re: The Clean Sheets - USA v. Portugal

Another hope should concern the US squad's health. All of Matt Besler, DeMarcus Beasley, Jones, and Dempsey picked up knocks during Sunday's match and face a quick turnaround ahead of Thursday's final group game. The Dutch just topped Chile 2-0 to win Group B and I must say, I was wrong about Louis van Gaal's side. Not only did the Oranje finish with a perfect nine points, but their goal difference of +7 is currently the best in the tournament. Also, with three goals and one assist, Holland's Arjen Robben is a leading candidate for the Golden Boot at this stage.