Rebecca Lowe will host NBC’s coverage of the Premier League

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Rebecca Lowe, a reporter and presenter for ESPN UK, has been hired by NBC as the lead host for the network’s coverage of the English Premier League.

American audiences will remember the West London-born Lowe as one of ESPN’s studio team hosts for the stateside coverage of UEFA Euro 2012 and the critically acclaimed and Sports Emmy-nominated presentation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.

Lowe began her career in England in 2002 by working at talkSPORT, a football-heavy, 24 hour sports radio service broadcast from London to the United Kingdom. She broke into sports television by winning the 2002 BBC Talent Search for a football reporter, outlasting a field of 650 candidates. She thereafter spent the next five years at the BBC where she was a critical contributor to the network’s key football programs. Between reporting for Final Score and Football Focus, she presented a “Football in the Community” feature every Sunday morning on Match of the Day and served as a regular contributor for Match of the Day 2. Lowe also served as a reporter for BBC Two’s coverage of the 2004 African Cup of Nations and as the England team reporter for BBC One’s coverage of the 2005 Women’s European Championship.

In 2007 Lowe moved to Setanta Sport where she served for two years as a presenter and reporter, in addition to her duties co-hosting Football Matters, Setanta’s Premier League studio program. She joined ESPN in 2009 as co-host of ESPN UK’s live coverage of the Premier League, working alongside Ray Stubbs, with whom she also co-anchored Between the Lines, ESPN UK’s weekly debate and opinion program on all aspects of football.

A pioneer of female television broadcasters in world football, Lowe became the first woman to host the FA Cup Final in the 2012 contest between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. The highly-rated Lowe is believed to have had more than one offer from a number of networks, with both ESPN and BT Sport eager to retain her services.

After confirming the deal, Lowe was asked what she wanted stateside Premier League fans to know about her. “Just that I’m excited to bring them the best possible coverage, all the storylines and EPL sagas with a committed team who love the game,” Lowe said. “We hope to be authentic but fresh. I should probably also admit now to my allegiance to Crystal Palace FC. We have a good chance of promotion to the Premier League this season but I promise to be totally neutral if I do end up presenting the Eagles!”

In addition to her promise of balanced coverage, Lowe pledged to maintain her English vernacular. “I will still call it football, I’ll still say a penalty not a PK, and a fullback and not an outside back,” Lowe said. “If I start trying to translate in my head, it could get messy. Having said that, living in America will no doubt rub off on me and I’m sure a few Americanisms may creep into my vocabulary over time. I certainly don’t want to use words or phrases that the U.S. fans don’t understand but I’m sure I’ll be told if no one knows what I’m meaning!”

Lowe’s deal with NBC runs for three years, covering the length of the network’s rights agreement. She will be based at NBC’s new headquarters in Stamford, Conn. where she will anchor five live games over a Premier League weekend.

With the hiring of Lowe, NBC has answered the first question regarding the talent it will utilize to cover the Premier League. From all accounts, it looks to be an incredibly saavy hire. Not only will Lowe’s hiring please old school Premier League fans who prefer Anglo-influenced coverage but it will also bring a young, vibrant, enthusiastic feel to the broadcast that reflects the nation’s insatiable hunger to grow both the men’s and women’s game.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia