Aaron Ramsey dazzling, tough start for Jozy Altidore – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

1 Comment

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 the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about the situations at Chelsea and Manchester United, lauds Arsenal’s main man, assesses Jozy Altidore’s situation and touches on plenty more Premier League news.

(MORE: View from the Booth Archive)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on NBC and NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

Let’s get to it.

Jose Mourinho seems to be back to his marauding best, on the training ground and with the media. Do you think he’s now really starting to sink his teeth into the task second-time around at Chelsea?

He’s been sinking his teeth into the role since the moment he arrived back. His side showed tremendous spirit to roar back against Spurs on Sunday and grab a vital point, before dismissing Steaua Bucharest on the road in Romania during the week.

A lot was said about Mourinho abruptly leaving a pre-match press conference this week, but I have sympathy with his situation. He’d just spent the best part of three weeks dealing with constant questions about Juan Mata and why he wasn’t playing regularly in the Chelsea starting XI. Mata was on the trip to Romania, so one journalist started digging into why Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t on the plane. I thought Mourinho gave a very honest answer.

source: Getty Images
Jose Mourinho may have treated the Mata situation perfectly.

I understand why he left the press conference at that point, and also his general exasperation with questions about who is not playing in his side rather than who is.

As the uninitiated in the United States may have noticed, the media build-up to big games in the Premier League is dominated by a cycle of personality clashes amongst managers, perceived slights and apparently disgruntled players. Those clashes fill endless column inches in the sports sections of the national newspapers in England.

It’s all part of the Premier League’s appeal to some, but who can blame Mourinho for giving a straight answer then deciding not to stick around and field endless questions on the same subject?

As we enter October, Juan Mata is playing well, working hard, smiling and being praised by his manager. So maybe Jose knows best on this one.

Have Manchester United reached crisis point already? And what is the answer for David Moyes to turn things around at Old Trafford? Many believe a splurge in the January transfer window is the answer. Surely they will beat Sunderland on Saturday…

I think ‘crisis’ is a word too often used in Football, but there is certainly concern about Manchester United’s start to the season.

I was fascinated watching the former United defender Gary Neville analyse the United v West Brom game on English TV earlier this week. He couldn’t believe how passive and deep United’s players were once Wayne Rooney had equalised at 1-1. He expected United to then “get after” West Brom, “chase the ball down”, “create loads of chances”, and that they would “inevitably” run out winners. But they didn’t. The stats revealed that in the 10 minutes between Rooney’s equaliser and Berahino’s winner, West Brom enjoyed 69% possession and had five attempts at goal to United’s none. Those are incredible numbers for a game played at Old Trafford against a side not expected to challenge for the top 4 positions.

Now, Sir Alex Ferguson lost Football matches when he was in charge at Manchester United, but his sides rarely turned in meek performances. Steve Clarke quite rightly demanded that people talk about how good West Brom were rather than how bad United were, but what Neville pointed out is clearly an area that David Moyes has to address.

source: Reuters
What next for Moyes and United? More new faces in January according to Arlo.

Are we seeing good players take their foot off the gas because the great man is no longer around to inspire and/or strike fear into them? Or are we seeing something far more worrying, an ageing side that needs to be re-built?

Moyes will be handed cash in January, and I’m sure he and Ed Woodward will perform better in the transfer market than they did in the summer. The club can handle not winning the Championship in the short term as there was always going to be a period of transition. But if United’s current form continues and they’re presence in the Champions League is threatened, then the current media pressure will become a feeding frenzy.

And after Paolo Di Canio’s departure and all the unrest at Sunderland, do you fear for Jozy Altidore’s success in the Premier League?

It’s a shame that Jozy’s re-introduction to the Premier League has come in such turbulent circumstances. I thought he gave the Liverpool center backs a decent test on Sunday, and was unlucky not to win more free kicks for his side. This is definitely a period of uncertainty for him. He was signed under the Paolo Di Canio regime. Director of Football Roberto Di Fanti will have been a prominent figure in the move, and he remains at the club. Steven Fletcher is currently out injured, so Jozy may get a run of games under interim manager Kevin Ball, but it’s his relationship with the next permanent manager that will define his future at Sunderland. It’s a tough situation for him, particularly in a World Cup season, but he’s a good player who has the confidence to back himself.

There’s a big London Derby on Sunday between Tottenham and West Ham, have you been impressed with Spurs’ start to the season?

Absolutely. I think they left two points on the table against Chelsea after a very good first half performance. That would have been a real statement victory for Spurs, who have now failed to win either of their ‘big’ games against Arsenal and the Blues. But the general trend at White Hart Lane is upwards. AVB has built a very powerful side capable of playing excellent Football. My fear for them is their participation in the Europa League. I’m just not a fan of the competition’s format. I think the sheer volume of travel and games hampers teams ability to make an impact in their domestic leagues. Spurs will have to travel to Dagestan in Russia during the week. It’s just north of Iran! How AVB rotates his squad will be crucial, so I’m sure he’ll draw on last year’s experience for that.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Chelsea and Arsenal both face tricky away trips to Norwich and West Brom respectively. Can the two capital clubs keep up their good form following big midweek wins in the Champions League?

I was at the Liberty Stadium last Saturday and at the Emirates on Tuesday night, and I thought Arsenal were magnificent in both games. The Gunners first goal against Napoli was sensational. The ball from Giroud to Ramsey down the right hand side. Ramsey’s assertiveness to get to the byline and then his vision to pull the ball back for Ozil.  But the finish by Ozil, with the side of his left foot with the ball rising, was other-worldly.

They are playing with such confidence at the moment and there was a genuine belief around the Emirates that this team is for real and that they can do something special this season. West Brom will be brimming with confidence after their exploits at Old Trafford, but they have a very difficult game against Arsenal, who are chasing a 9th consecutive road win in the Premier League, which would be a new club record.

source: Getty Images
Arlo hails Aaron Ramsey as the player of the season, so far…

Finally, heading into the second international break, who has been your player of the season so far?

Aaron Ramsey. Considering the horrific injury he suffered just over three years ago, and the criticism he faced last season, his early season form has been wonderful. In addition to scoring goals, he is demanding the ball all the time and is putting in some great challenges all over the field. His energy, desire and conviction are impressive. There have been major doubts about his ability to raise his game to a level demanded at a club like Arsenal, but not only does he look comfortable in the that company, he is actually excelling.

Enjoy the Premier League weekend everyone.

MLS roundup: FCD win battle of unbeatens; POR rebound vs. VAN

AP Photo/LM Otero
Leave a comment

With seven MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 27 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

FC Dallas 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

The only two remaining unbeaten teams faced off in Frisco on Saturday, and only one came out still unblemished. FCD dominated in the two most important facets of the game — chances created, and goals.

Maynor Figueroa scored the game’s only goal, a 77th-minute header to put home Michael Barrios’ floated cross toward the back post. If not for the (increasingly typical) heroics of Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia (five saves), FCD would have already been 3-0 or 4-0 in front by that point. Sporting’s only shot on target didn’t arrive until the 47th minute, and it was far from a clear-cut chance, as Jimmy Medranda fired from the corner of the 18-yard box and hardly tested Jesse Gonzalez with the effort.

The win sees FCD move to six games unbeaten to start the season (three wins, three draws), while Sporting suffer their first defeat in seven games.


Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks bagged goals for Portland, who wasted little time in bouncing back from last weekend’s home defeat to Sporting. Nagbe’s goal, a stunner from outside the penalty area (WATCH HERE) opened the scoring in the 18th minute, and Mattocks made it 2-0 five minutes before halftime.

Fredy Montero scored his third goal in two games to bring Vancouver back to 2-1 just before the hour mark, but that’s as close as the visitors would get.

Diego Valeri was carried off the field in the 80th minute, which is the worst scare that Timbers fans could have possibly imagined, though the Argentine superstar told reporters after the game that he was feeling much better.


Real Salt Lake 1-3 Atlanta United

The honeymoon period is over for Mike Petke who, after back-to-back wins to open his tenure as RSL head coach, suffered his first defeat since taking over for Jeff Cassar five games into the season.

A series of comedic errors doomed RSL just about from the start, as Hector Villalba (9th minute) and Yamil Asad (46th), two of Atlanta’s South American starlets, put the visitors 2-0 ahead a minute into the first half — the latter was set up by Miguel Almiron, another of the young, South American attackers at Gerardo Martino’s disposal. Albert Rusnak pulled RSL back to 2-1 in the 69th minute, but it would remain that way until second-half stoppage time, when Brandon Vazquez beat Nick Rimando for a 3-1 clincher.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 Columbus Crew SC

Columbus’s defeat away to New York went from bad, to worse, to worst, in 39 minutes’ time on Saturday. Midfield revelation Artur went off with a nasty arm injury in the 6th minute, Alex Muyl put the home side 1-0 up in the 11th minute Daniel Royer made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, and defensive revelation (and rookie) Alex Crognale went off injured immediately thereafter.


Houston Dynamo 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes

Wilmer Cabrera’s side will live and die by the form of his young attacking quartet this season. On Saturday, Erick Torres and Alberth Elis delivered the goals (read: goals) as Houston picked up a rather comfortable him win over San Jose.

Torres opened the scoring in the 9th minute, and though Elis didn’t double the advantage for another 63 minutes, the result was rarely, if ever, in doubt. San Jose managed just two shots on target (Houston had just three, for what it’s worth), as Adolfo Machado, Tyler Deric and Co. kept their first clean sheet of the season.


New England Revolution 2-2 D.C. United

In a battle of bottom-half Eastern Conference sides, New England and D.C. drew 2-2 after Lee Nguyen and a Sean Franklin own goal stalemated tallies from Jared Jeffrey and Sebastien Le Toux.

Ligue 1: Cavani, Di Maria score as PSG win to leapfrog Monaco

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Striker Edinson Cavani scored his 44th goal of the season and created the second goal as Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier 2-0 to go top of the French league on Saturday.

Cavani thumped home a cross from midfielder Blaise Matuidi in the first half, with winger Angel Di Maria involved in the buildup. It took Cavani’s career-best tally to 31 league goals and he thought he had another later in the half, but his powerful header was ruled out for offside.

Three minutes after the break, Cavani back-heeled to Di Maria, who curled in from just outside the penalty area for his fifth goal in five games.

Defending champion PSG is three points ahead of Monaco, which has led for most of the season.

Monaco has played two games less and can return to the top on goal difference by winning at Lyon on Sunday.

Both sides are doing well in Europe.

Monaco reached the Champions League semifinals and Lyon got through to the last four of the Europa League this week.

PSG has won eight straight games in all competitions to keep the pressure on Monaco. They meet each other on Wednesday in the French Cup semifinals. PSG then faces a tough away trip at third-place Nice next weekend as the hard-fought title race heats up.

“Monaco’s had a great season and you have to congratulate them,” PSG left back Maxwell said. “But we’re still in it.”

Bordeaux beat last-place Bastia 2-0 at home to move up to fourth spot, with striker Malcom getting the first goal.

But Lyon needs only a draw at home to Monaco to regain fourth spot.

After struggling for most of the season, Lorient is suddenly playing like a team near the top.

The Brittany-based side moved out of the relegation zone and up to 16th place after thrashing Metz 5-1 at home for a fourth win in five games. Midfielder Jimmy Cabot scored two and striker Benjamin Moukandjo grabbed his 13th goal of the season.

Elsewhere, striker Yacine Bammou scored both as Nantes beat struggling Caen 2-0.

Two goals from center forward Lois Diony helped Dijon beat Angers 3-2 at home; while Nicolas De Preville scored a brace as Lille beat Guingamp 3-0.

In Sunday’s other matches, Nice is away to Toulouse and Saint-Etienne hosts Rennes.

La Liga: Griezmann scores no. 25 in Atleti’s win to stay 3rd

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann kept Atletico Madrid focused on a strong finish to the Spanish league on Saturday despite its looming Champions League semifinal with Real Madrid.

Griezmann struck late in the second half at Espanyol to earn a 1-0 victory that kept Atletico in third place, three points ahead of Sevilla, and on course for a return to Europe’s top competition next season.

Atletico moved within four points of second-place Barcelona, which visits leader Real on Sunday trailing the pace-setter by three points. Real also has a game in hand as it tries to win the domestic title for the first time since 2012.

On Friday, Atletico and Real were drawn to face each other for a third time in four seasons in the Champions League. Real won the other two meetings in the finals of 2014 and 2016.

While Atletico has two league matches against Villarreal and at Las Palmas over the next week, its hopes for silverware rest squarely on their European clash with Madrid beginning on May 2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“2017 is shaping up better than 2016,” Atletico manager Diego Simeone said. “We are defending well and finding the moments to win games. I am sure we could perhaps play better, but the team is winning. There is still a ways to go before the semifinals.”

At Espanyol, Simeone made only one change in his starting 11 from the team that drew at Leicester on Tuesday to advance in the Champions League on a 2-1 aggregate score.

His side, however, showed little signs of weariness against an Espanyol that won four straight at home.

Griezmann decided the contest in Barcelona dominated by both defenses in the 73rd minute when he used one touch of his left boot to volley home a rebound of a strike by Saul Niguez that came off a defender.

The goal was his team-leading 16th in the league and 25th overall.

“We knew we would have a difficult time against a team that is so good at home,” Griezmann said. “But we tried until the end and then held on.”

Cedric Bakambu scored twice, including the stoppage-time winner apparently with his hand, to ensure Villarreal strengthened its hold on fifth place and a Europa League berth.

Villarreal created several scoring opporunities but needed Bakambu to slot home the opener in the 68th.

Leganes was close to grabbing a late draw when Miguel Guerrero struck in the 90th, but Bakambu appeared to use his hand to redirect Jonathan Dos Santos’ cross into the net two minutes later.

The result left Leganes winless in seven matches and clinging to the final spot above the relegation zone.

“He scored with his hand,” Leganes goalkeeper Iago Herrerin said. “We are fighting for our lives. It was impossible not to see it.”

Villarreal coach Fran Escriba acknowledged Bakambu “touched the ball with his hand” after watching replays, but “I didn’t see it live.”

Sandro Ramirez continued his good scoring form, ensuring a third win in four rounds to dispel any relegation fears for Malaga. The former Barcelona forward has scored in all three of those victories.

Ramirez blasted in his own rebound from a free kick just minutes after Jose “Recio” Garcia headed the hosts in front in the 36th.

Before he scored, Ramirez’s powerful free kick struck Valencia’s Ezequiel Garay in the head, leaving him visibly groggy as he remained on the turf. The defender underwent tests at a hospital that indicated mild head trauma. He was released from the hospital soon after the tests.

Last-place Osasuna couldn’t have done much more to crush its fans’ spirits than go up by two goals only to concede twice in the final 11 minutes.

The draw left Sporting also in the drop zone at four points from Leganes and safety with five rounds left.

Serie A: Fiorentina, Inter Milan thrill in 9-goal instant classic

Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Inter Milan lost at Fiorentina 5-4 in one of the most incredible Serie A matches of the season on Saturday and left its European hopes hanging by a thread.

Inter led 2-1 at halftime, Fiorentina led 5-2 after 79 minutes, Inter scored its fourth in stoppage time and watched its equalizer attempt cleared off the goal-line.

Just over a month ago, Inter was hoping to sneak into the Champions League after a 7-1 victory over Atalanta but two points from five matches has seen it slip to seventh, two points behind AC Milan, which occupies the last qualifying position for the Europa League.

Milan hosts Empoli on Sunday.

“We have to understand why what happened happened,” Inter coach Stefano Pioli said. “What we saw in the second half can’t be my team … we played for only 45 minutes. Then there was an inexplicable blackout.

“Since the Atalanta match we haven’t had the right mental attitude. We are Inter and we can’t play like this. We’ve reached the bottom. … We can’t throw away matches like we did in the second half today. Unfortunately this month we’ve thrown away everything we built.”

Fiorentina, which also missed a penalty, moved to within one point of Inter, which hosts third-placed Napoli next weekend.

Matias Vecino broke the deadlock for Fiorentina early but Inter appeared to swiftly turn the match around with two goals in five minutes.

First, Ivan Perisic slotted home Antonio Candreva’s low cross, then Mauro Icardi fired Joao Mario’s through ball across into the bottom left corner.

Fiorentina should have equalized after halftime when it was awarded a soft penalty after Danilo D’Ambrosio was adjudged to have pulled back Khouma Babacar, but Federico Bernardeschi’s weak spot kick saved by Samir Handanovic.

Davide Astori headed in the equalizer shortly after the hour mark, and Vecino again gave Fiorentina the lead two minutes later with his second of the match.

Babacar appeared to seal matters for Fiorentina with two strikes into the bottom right corner in the 70th and 79th minutes to make it 5-2.

But Inter wasn’t finished.

Icardi controlled Perisic’s pass in the area and fired in off the post two minutes from time, and headed in a corner in stoppage time to complete a hat trick.

Inter threw everyone forward and almost leveled from another corner which came out to Marcelo Brozovic, whose effort was cleared off the line by Astori.