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Snap judgments: Quick reactions to Saturday’s early Premier League results

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With Aston Villa-Manchester United moments from kickoff, we take a few moments to look back on the Premier League’s first set of Saturday results. Here are the day’s Snap Judgments:

Arsenal 3-3 Fulham – Mark Schwarzer’s save on Mikel Arteta’s 94th-minute penalty perserved the result for Fulham, the Cottagers putting three goals past what used to be the league’s best defense. Defending was the one thing Arsenal could do at the beginning of the season, but having given up 12 goals in their last four games, the Gunner’s defense has assumed the attack’s former struggles.

Impact – Right next to each other. That’s where they started the day, and there’s where they’ll end it. Arsenal and Fulham are seventh and eighth in England, both on 19 points. For Fulham, it’s what they’d homed for when the season began. For Arsenal, it’s reason to improve.

Everton 2-1 Sunderland – What a mixed bag for Sunderland fans. They played much better than why had in recent weeks, but with a goal and an assist from Marouane Fellani in a three-minute span of the second half, the Black Cats were unable to make Adam Johnson’s opener hold up. Sunderland fans can take solace in the fact that, although it seems like we’re well into the season, they have 28 matches in front of them. There’s still time.

Impact – Everton temporarily sit fourth, a lofty perch for the habitual slow starters. David Moyes says this is his best Everton team, and it shows. Sunderland, however, will likely finish the round in 16th place.

Reading 0-0 Norwich City – Perhaps the least surprising result of the day. Reading has been scrappy but ineffective all season. Norwich has been bad with two tinges of good. Their meeting produced only three shots on goal, the Royals left waiting for their first win upon return to the Premier League.

Impact – The Royals have yet to show they belong in the Premier League. They sit 18th, while Norwich, despite a worse goal difference, remains 15th.

Southampton 1-1 Swansea City – Saints manager Nigel Adkins placed a lot of importance on this match, so he’ll likely be disappointed with defender Maya Yoshida, who had the ball taken from him by Nigel Dyer ahead of Swansea’s second half equalizer. It was another decent performance with no victory for Southampton, who may have no choice but to persist and hope.

Impact – Southampton climb out of the basement and into 19th while Swansea, having lost only one in five, stay mid-table.

Stoke City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers – The only other team besides Reading who have failed to win is Mark Hughes’ well-funded Rangers, who fell to 20th place with Saturday’s loss. Time has to be running out for the QPR boss, whereas Stoke appear to have re-group after last season’s struggles.

Impact – Despite scoring only nine times in 11 games, Stoke sits 12th. After today’s result, Hughes may not make it to Saturday’s match at Loftus Road. If he does, the match versus Southampton becomes a must-win.

Wigan Athletic 1-2 West Bromwich Albion – We’re too early in the season to call this more than a hot start, but with three strong points from the DW, West Brom is even with Everton in fourth place. Where did this come from?

Whether you think West Brom can maintain that stature likely influences how you feel about Wigan’s result. If you see West Brom falling back at some point, today was a missed opportunity for Wigan.

Impact – West Brom gave another indication they intend to compete for Europe, while Wigan, regardless of the result, remains ahead of their usual pace (currently sitting 14th).

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. West Brom (Lineups, Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and Joleon Lescott of West Brom battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on November 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea hosts West Bromwich Albion from Stamford Bridge (Watch live, 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blues look to extend their eight-match win streak.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

The Blues make one change from last weekend’s 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Manchester City as Cesc Fabregas makes way in the starting XI for Nemanja Matic.

Antonio Conte‘s side will be opposed by a West Brom side that is unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches. The Baggies remain unchanged from last week’s 3-1 win over Watford as the side looks to move above eighth in the table.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. Subs: Begovic, Aina, Ivanovic, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.

West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Yacob, Fletcher (c); Brunt, Morrison, Phillips; Rondon. Subs: Palmer; Olsson, Robson-Kanu, Gardner, McClean, Galloway, Chadli.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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TORONTO — Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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TORONTO — Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — When it came down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t land the title.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clearance.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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