Featured Matches
Previous
Internazionale
Manchester United
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
AS Roma
1:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Sunderland
0
1
FT
Game Details
Sparta Prague
Malmo FF
4
2
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Sparta Prague
Malmo FF
4
2
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Slovan Bratislava
Sheriff Tiraspol
2
1
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Debrecen
BATE Borisov
1
0
FT
Leg 1
Game Details
Wealdstone
Wycombe Wanderers
1
2
FT
Game Details
Frickley Athletic
Scunthorpe XI
0
1
FT
Game Details
Exeter City
Swansea City
0
2
FT
Game Details
Alfreton Town
Rotherham United
0
2
FT
Game Details
Burton Albion
Derby County
0
1
FT
Game Details
Lincoln City
Mansfield Town
1
3
FT
Game Details
Newport County
Coventry City
1
0
FT
Game Details
Notts County
Birmingham City
0
4
FT
Game Details
Portsmouth
AFC Bournemouth
2
3
FT
Game Details
Stevenage
Reading
0
0
FT
Game Details
Altrincham
Accrington Stanley
1
1
FT
Game Details
Cambridge United
Milton Keynes Dons
3
1
FT
Game Details
Cheltenham Town
Bristol City
1
4
FT
Game Details
Concord Rangers
Dagenham & Redbridge
0
2
FT
Game Details
Dumbarton
Carlisle United
0
2
FT
Game Details
Hyde
Burnley XI
2
3
FT
Game Details
Kidderminster Harriers
Shrewsbury Town
1
1
FT
Game Details
Leyton Orient
Queens Park Rangers
2
2
FT
Game Details
Luton Town
Colchester United
2
2
FT
Game Details
Margate
Barnet
2
1
FT
Game Details
Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers
0
1
FT
Game Details
Preston North End
Burnley
2
1
FT
Game Details
Sheffield United
Huddersfield Town
0
1
FT
Game Details
Southend United
Ipswich Town
1
2
FT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Sunderland
0
1
FT
Game Details
Valerenga
Stabaek
3
2
FT
Game Details
Defensor Sporting
Nacional
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 2
Game Details
Guadalajara
Coras Tepic
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Irapuato
Queretaro
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Lobos BUAP
Chiapas
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Mineros de Zacatecas
U. de G.
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Correcaminos
Monterrey
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Tijuana
Zacatepec
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
U.A.N.L
Altamira
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Náutico
Icasa
0
0
LIVE 14'
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Oeste
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Internazionale
Manchester United
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
AS Roma
1:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Cienciano del Cusco
Alianza Lima
0
0
FT
Game Details
Next

MLS Review: L.A. struggles

MLS Jul 7, 2014
Read

Toe Poke: Tim Howard airport?

Toe Poke Jul 3, 2014
Read
Jun 21, 2014

Jones and Beckerman invaluable

The United States' Jermaine Jones spoke about his side's upcoming match against Portugal, as well as the keys to stopping Ronaldo, touching on the fact that a harmonious team is always stronger than just one player, citing the NBA Finals.

RECIFE, Brazil -- Two of the most maligned players during this World Cup cycle have become indispensable components for the U.S. national team.

The duo in question is Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, and in last Monday's World Cup opener against Ghana, both players were immense. Jones broke up play after play, and he showed plenty of street smarts, including one sequence where he shielded the ball for what seemed like an eternity before winning a throw-in deep in Ghana's half. On the surface, it seems an inconsequential play, but on a night when the U.S. struggled to keep possession, it allowed the Americans to catch their breath, get their bearings and keep the ball for a bit.

Beckerman meanwhile was doing his bit on defense, as well, providing his usual bulwark in front of the back line. He was also one of the few players on the night to take care of the ball, completing 85 percent of his passes. Even better, his precision increased as the match wore on and the Americans were trying to protect a slender one-goal lead.

For former U.S. international Kasey Keller, it was a match that was less about beautiful soccer and more about "run, tackle, fight, kick, scratch. It fit those two players perfectly."

Jermaine Jones has become the perfect foil to Michael Bradley in the U.S. midfield.

Yet it was about a year ago that both players were drawing the ire of a considerable segment of the U.S. fan base. In Jones' case, this seems to have been a result of high expectations that come with being a Champions League regular with German side Schalke, combined with some uneven play on the field for the national team. It rankled that Jones' play at club level for Schalke, even in the Champions League, seemed several notches above what he showed in a U.S. shirt.

"I think a little bit with Jones was fans thought he was a liability, that he would pick up a second yellow," Keller said. "I think there was a worry about that. I also think at times he tried to be a little bit more of a playmaker than he actually is."

When Jones suffered a concussion against Jamaica last June, he was replaced in the lineup by Geoff Cameron, who delivered a sharp and composed performance. At this point, the number of calls for Jones to be replaced reached a crescendo.

But U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann has always valued the physicality and presence that Jones brings. And he's found a system and position that plays to Jones' strengths.

- Davis: Memories of Portugal '02 live on
- McIntyre: Bradley must improve against Portugal
- Cox: Howard ready for Portugal challenge

Now stationed just to the left and a bit in front of Beckerman, Jones provides plenty of midfield steel. He contributes to the attack, as well, but now as more of a complementary piece. He's also shown an impressive amount of discipline that has largely flown under the radar, having now gone 11 straight matches without a yellow card.

"Jones isn't trying to be a playmaker now, he's making plays. There's a big difference," former U.S. international Taylor Twellman said. "Whether it's defending in front of DaMarcus Beasley, defending next to Beckerman, or keeping possession or running out of midfield as that fourth or fifth guy in the attack, I think that's where he excels."

The ire directed in Beckerman's direction is a little harder to fathom. He's never been the fastest player, but his astute positioning, hard tackling and efficient passing ought to have been more appreciated. Instead, a poor match at Jamaica in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying seemed to stick with him.

The turnaround for Beckerman started at last year's Gold Cup thanks to a series of sharp performances, and then accelerated in the home World Cup qualifier against Mexico, a night when injury and suspension forced Beckerman and Jones to be paired together for the first time in the Hexagonal.

Kyle Beckerman's composure makes him the perfect fit for Klinsmann's ideal U.S. midfield vs. Ghana.
Kyle Beckerman's responsibility has made him invaluable in midfield.

"I think Beckerman was underrated for what he brings," Twellman said. "I think he's also a player that has to be in the right system. And I think since the Gold Cup in '13, every single game it's almost as if he gets better. Part of that is the system in 2014, part of that is confidence in the sense that he's proven."

That aforementioned system seems to have brought the best out of both players. Beckerman's one-man shield routine is similar to the one he plays for club side Real Salt Lake, one that enables him to play the kind of passes that help maintain possession. Jones' two-way role allows him to play within himself offensively, while still providing the kind of borderline intimidating presence on defense.

Of course, part of the reason Jones and Beckerman stood out against Ghana was because the U.S. was forced to defend for the vast majority of the match. Against Portugal, the U.S. will be hoping to do more to control the pace of the game.

Either way, a repeat performance in midfield by Jones and Beckerman will be needed against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates. If they can deliver, then once again they'll have observers singing their praises.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.