: Francine Daveta/NBC Sports

NBC Sports finalizes TV talent for Premier League coverage

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NBC Sports Group announced its on-air talent for coverage of the Barclays Premier League will feature Arlo White as lead play-by-play voice, Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux as match analysts and Gary Lineker as special contributor. The commentating team will be supported domestically by Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, who will join host Rebecca Lowe as studio analysts in Stamford, Conn.

The England-based commentating team will call the matches live, on-site. White (pictured with Lowe), who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC’s coverage of MLS and the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the United Kingdom to partner with former England internationals Dixon and Le Saux, who will split time in the booth working as color commentators. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will support the telecasts as a special contributor and will also host on-site coverage throughout the season.

White burst onto the U.S. Soccer scene as the television and radio voice of the Seattle Sounders at the start of the 2010 season. His smooth play-call and intricate insight won immediate plaudits from the soccer-impassioned Cascadia region, leading to NBC hiring his services to cover its MLS and Olympic coverage. Before coming to the States, White spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live, Saturday 5 Live Sport, and the Monday Night Club and has covered a variety of BBC events including the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

MORE: NBC Sports’ programming plans for Premier League

Dixon and Le Saux are no strangers to the soccer savvy U.S. public. Dixon earned 22 caps with the English national team from 1990-99 and played for five English clubs including, most famously, Arsenal, where he played from 1988-2002. Dixon began as a color commentator for BBC before switching to rivals ITV, where he will continue to contribute in addition to his duties with NBC. Le Saux played 36 times for the Three Lions from 1994-2000 and played for Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and Southampton over his 17 year career. Since retiring from professional football Le Saux has worked for BBC as a color commentator and an analyst on Match of the Day 2.

Lineker will contribute to NBC’s Premier League coverage while continuing to host BBC’s flagship show, Match of the Day. As a player Lineker earned 80 caps for England and famously won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals. His 17 year career began at Leicester City before moving on to Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight. After retirement Lineker entered the sports broadcasting world working for the BBC, Al Jazeera Sports and Eredivisie Live.

NBC’s commentating team will be supported by the studio team, which will provide coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford. Lowe, who was recently named lead host for NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League, will team up with former Jamaican international Earle and former English footballer Mustoe.  Since retiring from playing, Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN while Mustoe has enjoyed a six year stint providing color commentary and analyst work for ESPN.

The full press release is below

NBC SPORTS GROUP’S PREMIER LEAGUE ANNOUNCERS

ARLO WHITE NAMED LEAD PLAY-BY-PLAY VOICE WORKING WITH LEE DIXON AND GRAEME LE SAUX; WILL CALL GAMES FROM THE U.K.

LEGENDARY GARY LINEKER TO SERVE AS SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR TO PREMIER LEAGUE TELECASTS

FORMER JAMAICAN NATIONAL TEAM PLAYER ROBBIE EARLE AND FORMER ENGLISH FOOTBALLER ROBBIE MUSTOE TO SERVE AS STUDIO ANALYSTS WITH HOST REBECCA LOWE

NEW YORK – April 16, 2013 – NBC Sports Group has announced on-air talent for its coverage of Barclays Premier League soccer, starting in August.

  • Arlo White will serve as the lead play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s Barclays Premier League coverage beginning in August, calling games on-site from the U.K.;
  • Former Premier League stars Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will join White, on-site in the U.K. as analysts on NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage;
  • Legendary U.K. footballer and presenter Gary Lineker will serve as a special contributor to NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage, and occasionally host on-site studio coverage in the U.K.;
  • Former Jamaican National Team player Robbie Earle and former English footballer Robbie Mustoe will serve as studio analysts, alongside studio host Rebecca Lowe from NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn.

ARLO WHITE – PLAY-BY-PLAY: White, who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage, and was NBC’s voice of soccer for the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the U.K. to call Premier League matches on-site for NBC.

Prior to joining NBC, White was the play-by-play voice of the Seattle Sounders FC of MLS on television and radio. He previously spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live and hosted the station’s flagship Premier League Football show, Saturday 5 Live Sport, as well as the Monday Night Club alongside BBC football commentator John Motson. From 2002 to 2005, White was part of the 5 Live Breakfast program on the BBC, where he covered, among other events, the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

LEE DIXON – GAME ANALYST: Dixon will work alongside White on Premier League matches on NBC. A right back, Dixon was an English international earning 22 caps. He started his career with Burnley in 1982, playing for Chester City, Bury and Stoke City before joining Arsenal in January, 1988. He played for Arsenal for the rest of his career, retiring in 2002. He was part of four League Championships, three FA Cup wins, a European Cup-Winners’ Cup and a league cup. Dixon, who has worked as a color commentator for BBC, will continue his work for ITV.

GRAEME LE SAUX – GAME ANALYST: Le Saux will split time in the booth with Dixon working with White on NBC Sports Network’s Premier League matches. A left back and midfielder, Le Saux played 36 times for England, including the 1998 World Cup. He started his career with Chelsea in 1987, and also played with Blackburn Rovers and Southampton before retiring in 2005. He won the FA Cup in 2000 and also won a League Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup. Le Saux has worked for BBC as an analyst on Match of the Day 2, and as a color commentator.

GARY LINEKER – SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR/ON-SITE HOST: – Lineker will serve as a special contributor for NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage. He will also host some on-site coverage throughout the season. Lineker a forward, played 80 times for England, scoring 48 times, second most all-time for the Three Lions. He won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals and added four more in 1990. Lineker started his career with Leicester City in 1978 and played there until 1985, when he moved to Everton FC. He moved abroad with FC Barcelona a year later and after success in Spain, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1989. He finished his career in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1994. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will continue to host Match of the Day, BBC’s flagship show.

REBECCA LOWE – STUDIO HOST: As previously announced, Lowe will relocate to the U.S. this summer, and will host Premier League coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Lowe joined ESPN UK in 2009 to co-host its Premier League matches as well as its FA Cup coverage, and co-anchor Between the Lines, a football debate and opinion program. Lowe co-hosted ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, in Germany, and its Euro 2012 coverage from Bristol, Conn. In May, 2012, Lowe became the first woman in UK history to host the FA Cup Final – a six-hour live broadcast from Wembley Stadium. Lowe will conclude her Premier League and FA Cup duties with ESPN UK in May.

ROBBIE EARLE – STUDIO ANALYST: Earle will work alongside Lowe and Robbie Mustoe as an analyst in NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. A midfielder, Earle played 33 times for Jamaica, scoring eight times, including Jamaica’s first ever goal in a World Cup. English-born, Earle qualified to play for Jamaica thanks to his heritage. Earle started his career with Port Vale in 1981, before moving to Wimbledon in 1991. He played 10 seasons with Wimbledon before he retired. Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN.

ROBBIE MUSTOE – STUDIO ANALYST: Mustoe will join Earle and Lowe in the Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. Mustoe, a midfielder, started his career with Oxford United in 1987. He moved to Middlesbrough in 1990 and played there for 12 seasons, before ending his career with Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday. He played in two FA Cup finals and one league cup final. Mustoe has worked with ESPN since 2008, working as color commentator on matches and as a studio analyst on ESPN Soccer Press Pass.

For more information about NBC Sports Group shows and properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios and headshots, please visit NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com (http://nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com)

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.