Week 3: “View from the Booth” with Arlo White

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When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks?

Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In our new series “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White will be joining us each week to talk about the hot topics in the beautiful game and preview the weekends upcoming Premier League action, as well as chatting about the latest news from MLS and the US national team.

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This weekend Arlo is off to two massive games for very different reasons. First up is Crystal Palace against Sunderland on Saturday (12:30pm ET, watch live on NBC and via NBC Sports Live Extra) as both sides aim for their first win of the season. And then it’s the big one, Liverpool vs. Manchester United on Sunday (8:30am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) at Anfield as two of England’s most famous clubs clash in a bitter North West rivalry.

Enjoy it folks, now it’s over to Arlo.

Looking ahead to the games this weekend, obviously Liverpool vs. United sticks out. Can Liverpool keep their good early season form going despite plenty of injury worries?

What a fascinating match-up this is, and one that hopefully will add more goal mouth action to the tactically intriguing game on Monday between United and Chelsea. I think everyone present (except perhaps the traveling support) will have goosebumps when Anfield pays tribute to the great Bill Shankly before the game, by celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday.

The big injury worry for Liverpool is Kolo Toure. It was well publicized before the game at Villa last week that Liverpool had left themselves a touch short in central defense after the retirement of Jamie Carragher. Martin Kelly can fill in, but he’s returning from an ACL tear. Andre Wisdom is a center back of the future. but I think Brendan Rodgers is keen to get him out on loan to gain more experience. Sebastian Coates also suffered an ACL tear on International duty recently. It all means that Martin Skrtel, who was perhaps surplus to requirements before these injuries, is now a vital player this weekend, alongside Daniel Agger.

source: AP
Can RVP fire United to victory at Anfield?

I think Rodgers would like to see a 90 minute performance from his side at the level they managed for the first 45 at Villa. They were stroking the ball around with real authority and comfort. They were purring. Gerrard and Lucas dictated the game from their deep lying midfield positions. Coutinho showed the odd flash of brilliance (particularly his dummy for the goal) and Daniel Sturridge continued his rich goal scoring form. They are coping brilliantly without the suspended Luis Suarez.

Liverpool might be kicking themselves at taking their eye off the ball against Notts County during the week and being forced to play extra time in the League Cup, but they have started the season well. Let’s see how they fair against the major step up in quality presented by the Champions.

And for David Moyes, this match will have extra importance after managing on Merseyside. Will murmurs of discontent start to be heard amongst United fans if they lose this one?

Will there be crushing disappointment, of course, it’s a derby. Will there be discontent with the manager, I very much doubt it. Moyes was greeted with a rapturous welcome at Old Trafford on Monday night. There is now a permanent banner across the Stretford End that reads ‘The Chosen One’ with his image. United played very well against Chelsea, but were stunted by a somewhat timid tactical approach from Jose Mourinho. United fans are well aware that they have an important role to play as the club transition from 26 years of Sir Alex Ferguson to the start of the David Moyes era. It may require some patience, and it will certainly require support.

I think Moyes and Manchester United have handled the Wayne Rooney situation superbly. He was terrific against Chelsea, full of energy and intent. In the absence of any major signings so far in the transfer window, Moyes should at least be credited for his part in that turn around.

Of course we have to talk about Arsenal vs, Spurs on Sunday too. Are these two teams closer than they’ve ever been in the past? And is this the season Tottenham finally overtake the Gunners and move into the top four?

Things could change significantly before 11pm BST on Monday, but I said before the season started that Spurs will take 4th place and Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League spots this season, and Tottenham’s dealings in the transfer market have only strengthened that conviction. I haven’t seen Capoue play live yet but the early reports are very good (I even read this week that he’s being compared to Patrick Vieira, steady on!). Soldado hasn’t scored from open play yet, but confidently banged in 2 penalties against Crystal Palace and Swansea. AVB now has a deep cast of talent to call upon to challenge those top spots.

Now, if Arsenal land Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil from Real Madrid, it could all change (btw, will Daniel Levy do the Bale deal as late as possible to help scupper Arsenal’s plans of recruiting those potentially surplus Real stars??)

One of the painful offshoots of Arsenal’s transfer window malaise is the lack of squad depth. They’ve already been forced to play full back Sagna in central defense, and it’s only August. Podolski’s injury is a huge blow which leaves them short up front, and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be missing for a while, weakening them on the flanks.

Was Flamini converted into a goal sniffing center forward at AC MIlan?

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Arlo tipped Cardiff for success this season. Can they build off their stunning win against Man City?

I seem to remember you picking Cardiff City as your “surprise package” at the start of the season… you must have had a chuckle to yourself when they beat Manchester City on Sunday. The Bluebirds have impressed but have you been impressed with Everton under Roberto Martinez so far?

I’ll hold my hand up. Yes, I did say that Cardiff would be a surprise package this season, but I also went out of my way in last week’s column to say they wouldn’t get anything against Manchester City. In fact, the only thing I got right about that extraordinary game, was a complete no-brainer anyway; it was a great atmosphere!

Did you watch Malky MacKay during the game? He was calm, composed and authoritative. His in-game signals to the players were very clear, after he’d already sent them out with a brilliant tactical game plan to stunt Manchester City.

We go to Goodison Park after the International break and I’m looking forward to seeing Everton in the flesh. Watching Roberto Martinez at press conferences, you can see how much the transfer window is irritating him. He knows that Baines and Fellaini are vulnerable to late bids, and is well aware that if Bill Kenwright receives an irresistible offer on Monday, he will be left with precious little time to re tool sufficiently. Worrying times for the Toffees. Roll on Tuesday morning!

Everton related, their former loanee Landon Donovan signed a new “multi-year” deal with LA Galaxy earlier this week. What do you make of his decision to stay in MLS? Should he have come back to the Premier League to have one last go?

I’m torn on Landon. I love Major League Soccer and I’m so impressed with it’s growth. Landon Donovan has played a huge part in that, and he will continue to do so with his exceptional play.

The devil on my other shoulder argues that a re-energized Landon could be a smash hit once again in the Premier League, and I would love to have seen him give it a go.

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Arlo would like to have seen Donovan have one last hurrah in the Premier League.

I sat down with Landon in May 2012 with my NBC colleagues and we had a fascinating chat. He revealed so much about his state of mind before the US game against Scotland (in which he scored a hat-trick by the way) that it came as no surprise when he announced that he was stepping away from the game for a while. What a great move that turned out to be. We re-connected before the Gold Cup, and the difference was palpable. Landon isn’t a particularly demonstrative or excitable character when we all chat, he is calm, level headed and articulate. The Landon we sat down with before the Gold Cup was very different from May 2012. The language was all positive and content.

It’s a great boost for LA and for MLS. I think the league is entering a new exciting phase now that Clint Dempsey has returned as well. Do I wish I could call an Everton or a Manchester United game with Landon Donovan on the field? You bet. Should we respect his decision and enjoy his play for LA and the US National team for the next few years? Absolutely.

Another USMNT forward will take center stage live on NBC this Saturday lunchtime. We spoke about Altidore before but can he really spearhead Sunderland into the top 10 this season?

Having spoken to both Jozy and Paolo Di Canio over the passed few weeks, I’m excited for him. Di Canio is a big fan, hence why he paid $9M to AZ Alkmaar for his services. He says he has that rare ability to sense where the goal is, and that he has matured from the young man who struggled in a bad Hull City team a few years back.

Jozy seems happy at Sunderland. He joked that he had to ‘get his head around’ some of Di Canio’s managerial eccentricities, but that he’s raring to go.

We’ll see on Saturday if he can make an impact against a team like Crystal Palace who are favored to be relegated, but will be tough to beat at Selhurst Park.

Hernandez, Araujo score in 1st half, Mexico beats Costa Rica

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Javier Hernandez and Nestor Araujo scored in the first half, and Mexico overcame the absence of half a dozen players to beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Friday night in a World Cup qualifying match.

Hernandez scored on a cross from Carlos Vela to open the score in the seventh and Araujo added a goal on a header in the 45th.

[ USMNT: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

Hernandez scored his 46th goal with the Mexican team and tied Jared Borgetti as the all-time leading scorer.

With the win, Mexico remains undefeated and has seven points after three rounds to take sole command in the six-nation tournament. Costa Rica stays on six points and is second and Panama is third with four.

The top three teams qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Mexico beat Costa Rica for the first time since September 11, 2012, when they prevailed 1-0.

Running Away With It

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Christian Pulisic scored and played a part in three other goals as the United States rained goals down on Honduras in a 6-0 win at Avaya Stadium in San Jose early Saturday morning.

Clint Dempsey scored two goals, and Michael Bradley and Sebastian Lletget also scored as the U.S. moved into fourth place in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Their next match is Tuesday in Panama.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things ]

The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes got off to a flying start.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal. Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

The Yanks didn’t stop, and Lletget drew a yellow card when he beat Ever Alvarado down the right flank and forced a take down from the Honduran defender.

Alberth Elis slipped John Brooks’ mark, and the Houston Dynamo man turned to fire on goal. Tim Howard was well positioned to scoop it up.

Lletget turned out to be injured by the Alvarado foul, and Bruce Arena turned to Alejandro Bedoya in the 17th minute.

Geoff Cameron was given a yellow card in the 25th minute for a foul on Roger Espinoza. That gave a free kick to Honduras from 30 yards out, and Romell Quioto fired right at Tim Howard.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

Honduras then took a bigger hit: the loss of star attacker Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo) to an apparent shoulder injury.

Brooks bailed out an out-of-position Gonzalez just before halftime to keep the lead 3-0.

The Yanks needed 15 seconds to make it 4-0, with Dempsey winning a 50-50 tussle and finding Altidore for a flick to Pulisic. He netted his fourth USMNT goal. He’s 18.

Pulisic then won a free kick 25 yards out from goal by embellishing a foul, and Dempsey’s free kick tricked Escober. 6-0. For real.

A scary moment late as a dazed and wobbly John Brooks was forced off despite no apparent injury. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks (Ream, 70′), Cameron (Zusi, 58′); Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′, 49′, 54′), Pulisic (46′)

 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

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Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.

Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]

The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

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The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & videoPlayer ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.

But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.

Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Sure, having Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.

Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

And don’t worry, the old boss was pleased for his former charges.


The future is now…

I Tweeted the following after a late second half pass from Pulisic, and there was little disagreement.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.

One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.

There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.


…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.

Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.

Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.

The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.

The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

And don’t sleep on Howard’s early performance as Honduras tried to find some sort of foothold in the match. Always well-positioned, the team just feels safer with the Colorado Rapids man between the sticks.