Aaron Ramsey dazzling, tough start for Jozy Altidore – 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 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.

Benevento remains alone in Europe without a point

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ROME (AP) Benevento remained the only club in Europe’s top five leagues without a point after losing at basement rival Hellas Verona 1-0 in Serie A on Monday.

[ MORE: USA U-17s top Paraguay in convincing style ]

Romulo scored with a long volley to conclude a counterattack in the 74th minute.

Benevento center back Luca Antei was shown a direct red card for a sliding tackle late in the first half and Verona striker Giampaolo Pazzini nearly took advantage immediately when he hit the post.

With its first win of the season, Verona moved up to 16th place with six points.

Benevento has lost all eight of its matches.

All of the top-division squads in England, France, Germany and Spain have earned at least a point.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Calls for exiled player to go to WCup stirs storm in Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Soon after Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, a hashtag began trending on social media: “Aboutrika to the World Cup.”

In a country where soccer and politics often mix, and often with explosive results, the pro-government media didn’t like that.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

The hashtag unleashed an intense online campaign by tens of thousands of fans calling for former star midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who is now living in exile in Qatar, to come out of retirement and play for Egypt at the World Cup in Russia next year.

It stirred a storm in the Arab country because of Aboutrika’s alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist group that has been outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the government. The Brotherhood was outlawed after the military’s ouster of a freely elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013.

The 38-year-old Aboutrika faces a host of charges rooted in his alleged financial support for the Brotherhood and lives in exile knowing he risks arrest if he returns home. His assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and his name is on a terrorism list. He now makes a living as a soccer pundit on the Qatar-based sports channel beIN.

Aboutrika turned down the call to return in a message to his supporters.

“These are kind feelings for which I thank you,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “But realism is better and I don’t steal the efforts of others. Those men (on the current team) deserve to be there alone.”

Yet that gentle refusal didn’t stop the storm around him, and the unfavorable comparisons made by some between Aboutrika and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, the team’s current star and new darling of the pro-government media.

“Mohammed Salah is the player who stood by his country, not like the other one (Aboutrika),” said Ahmed Moussa, perhaps the most ardent government supporter among TV talk show hosts. “He (Salah) is Egypt’s only star.”

The 25-year-old Salah endeared himself to fans with both goals, including an injury-time penalty, in a 2-1 win over Republic of Congo on Oct. 8 that ensured Egypt qualified for the World Cup for just the third time, and first time in nearly 30 years.

Salah has also been embraced by the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and its supporters in the media as a patriot. A donation of 5 million Egyptian pounds (nearly $300,000) Salah made in December to a development fund founded by el-Sissi has gone a long way to endear him to them.

In the week since qualification, Salah has been branded “golden boy,” “legend” and “genius.”

One media commentator, Dandarawy el-Hawary of the daily “Seventh Day,” wrote of Salah’s decisive goal against Republic of Congo: “It touched off the volcanoes of patriotism, sense of belonging and love of one’s country.”

Not long ago Aboutrika was the national hero – he still is to many – after playing a central role in Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Now, the pro-government media refers to him as a traitor.

Another talk show host, Amr Adeeb, suggested the campaign to bring Aboutrika out of retirement was the work of government critics and berated him for his failure to lead Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Aboutrika has been labeled a mercenary, with his job with the Qatar-based beIN used as evidence of his lack of patriotism because of Egypt’s diplomatic spat with Qatar over the tiny Gulf nation’s alleged support of terrorism.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Aboutrika’s supporters argue that to have him back on the team would be a just reward for his dedication to Egypt and compensation for his failed efforts to get the team to previous World Cups. They point out that Argentina great Diego Maradona and Cameroon’s Roger Milla both came out of retirement to play for their countries at the World Cup.

Responding to the criticism from government supporters, Aboutrika’s fans have also been posting videos of him scoring goals for club and country in years past, with commentators lavishly praising him for his skill and passion.

MLS playoff scenarios heading into the final weekend

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Time certainly has flown by, and just like that the MLS Cup playoffs are well within sight.

While the Eastern Conference is all locked up in terms of which teams will be in the postseason, seeding can change drastically on the final weekend.

[ MORE: Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job ]

Meanwhile, the West sees three clubs vying for one final spot in what has proven to be a very intriguing battle over the last several weeks.

All eyes will be on three teams in the Western Conference as the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all have an opportunity to move into the sixth spot.

Below, PST takes a look at where clubs can finish in relation to the playoff race.

Eastern Conference

#1 seed: Toronto FC is locked into the top spot

#2 seed: NYCFC — clinches the two seed with a win; Chicago Fire — clinches two with win and NYCFC draw or loss; Atlanta takes two with win plus NYCFC loss/draw and Fire loss/draw

#3 seed: Fire — finishes third with win; NYCFC — takes third with loss to Crew and Fire win; Atlanta — third with win and Fire loss; Crew — finish third with win over NYCFC and don’t overtake NYCFC on GD, plus losses by Fire and Atlanta

#4 seed: NYCFC — fourth with loss to Crew and overtaken on GD, plus Fire win; Fire — finish fourth with loss and Atlanta win, plus NYCFC win or draw; Atlanta — takes fourth with loss and NYCFC/Fire wins; Crew — fourth with win over NYCFC, Fire win and Atlanta loss/draw

#5 seed: Crew — finish fifth with loss/draw; Atlanta — finishes fifth with loss and Crew win; Fire — takes fifth with loss and Atlanta/Crew victories; NYCFC — drops with loss to Crew, Atlanta win and Fire win/draw

#6 seed: New York Red Bulls are locked into sixth spot

Western Conference

#1 seed: Whitecaps — clinch top spot with win; Timbers — finish first with win and Whitecaps loss

#2 seed: Whitecaps — finish second with loss to Timbers; Timbers — second with loss/draw and Sounders/Sporting KC losses; Sounders — finish second with win and Whitecaps win

#3 seed: Timbers — third with loss and Sounders win; Sounders — loss to Rapids and Sporting KC/Dynamo losses; Sporting KC — finish third with win, Sounders loss and Whitecaps/Timbers draw; Dynamo — third with win, Sporting KC loss and Sounders loss

#4 seed: Whitecaps — finish fourth with loss to Timbers, Sounders/Sporting KC wins; Timbers — loss to Whitecaps, plus Sounders/Sporting KC victories; Sounders — finish fourth with loss/draw and Sporting KC win; Sporting KC — fourth with loss and Dynamo loss/draw; Dynamo — finish fourth with win and Sporting KC loss

#5 seed: Timbers — fifth with loss to Whitecaps and Sounders/Sporting KC/Dynamo wins; Sounders — loss to Rapids, plus Sporting KC/Dynamo victories; Dynamo — finish fifth with loss; Sporting KC — fifth place with loss and Dynamo win

#6 seed: San Jose Earthquakes clinch with win; FC Dallas takes sixth with win/draw and Earthquakes loss/draw; Real Salt Lake clinch with win/draw, Earthquakes loss and Dallas loss/draw

The next Pulisic? A 10-year-old American is heading to AS Roma

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With everything that has transpired since last week’s U.S. Men’s National Team debacle, American soccer fans can use a pick-me-up.

What better could there be than perhaps another young star-in-the-making? Dare I say, the next Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: Bruce Arena is out as USMNT manager ]

Perhaps, but it’s way too early to say that.

His name is Alessandro Cupini, a 10-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri that is about to complete a dream that a soccer player of any age would be thrilled to achieve.

Less than two weeks ago, Cupini and his family announced that the Kansas City Fusion midfielder/striker would be accepting a spot in the AS Roma academy starting in the Spring 2018, after having trained with the club for the better part of two years off and on.

Pro Soccer Talk had the opportunity to speak with Cupini’s father, Eddie, ahead of his son’s big move to Italy.

“This is something that Alessandro has worked really hard for,” Eddie Cupini told PST. “There are times where I tell him that he needs to take a step back and be a normal kid, but he doesn’t have any of that. He’s an incredibly hard-working and driven kid that does more than most people regardless of his age.”

Alessandro — who recently turned 10 years old — isn’t the typically American youngster though, according to his father.

“There are times where I wish Alessandro would take a break and be a kid, but that’s just not in his desire,” Cupini said. “We built him a mini stadium downstairs where he trains basically every day after school. As soon as he gets home from school he’s doing work down there and always looking for other kids to come over to practice with.”

That’s where the comparisons to Pulisic can be worked into the conversation.

Pulisic followed a very similar path to the professional level when he left his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 to sign with Borussia Dortmund. Now, he’s U.S. Soccer’s most promising star as the USMNT looks to rebuild.

“We’re very familiar with Christian’s story, and he’s certainly somebody that Alessandro looks up to,” Cupini said.

Cupini is already on the radar of U.S. Soccer and the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which helps identify young talent in the United States starting at the Under-12 level.

However, because of Cupini’s Italian heritage and his unique opportunity to move to Italy next year, Alessandro could potentially have the chance to represent either the USMNT or the Azzurri in the future.

“It’s a long ways away and we’re taking things slow in that regard,” Cupini said in regards to his son’s international plans. “We’d certainly be willing to explore our options, but I think it would be a real dream and his main goal to play for Italy.”

New Jersey-native and former Italy international Giuseppe Rossi made a similar career choice when it came down to choosing a national team. Despite living in the United States for much of his youth years, Rossi appeared for a number of Italy’s youth teams before holding a stint with the senior side from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to making the announcement that Roma would be where Cupini will ply his trade next year, the young American also had the opportunity to train with Italian academies Empoli and Atalanta.

“My father is from Rome, so for Alessandro to have the opportunity to play for his hometown club it was almost a no-brainer,” Cupini said. “We were very grateful to the other clubs for the chance Alessandro had to train with them, but Roma is a club that is very close to our family.