Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Newcastle to win, Southampton to earn point

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This article is late, I know.

But trust me, I’ve missed you.

I’ve missed you like Kenwyne Jones misses somersaults.

Like Wilshere misses cigarettes.

Like United misses Sir Alex. I’ve missed you like. . . dare I say it. . . Tottenham misses Bale.

Low blow, Spurs fans. My bad on that one. Feeling a bit frisky after 13 days off.

Praise Buddha the Premier League is back. Let’s get to the picks.

UPSET SPECIALS

Newcastle United v. Liverpool (Sat 7:45am ET on NBCSN; St James’ Park)

I’m taking Newcastle, you should just know that up front. It’s not that I don’t think Liverpool are good. I think Liverpool are awesome.

It’s because one of these days, Newcastle is going to snap out of its slumber and recognize the ridonkulous talent it has and start playing like a club possessed.

Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loic Remy, Yohan Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko, Cheik Tiote, Mathieu Debuchy, Tim Krul? These guys are incredible. So how are they soooo bad?

The sharps love to pin it on the two donkeys running the club, Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear. And I’m down with that. They don’t seem to have a clue.

But I also have little to no faith in Alan Pardew. He seems an awful motivator.

And that’s all his squad needs – a good speech. A little bit of love. Some laughs. Maybe a good headlock and a nuggie or two. I don’t know, mix it up a bit.

But show some love for your players, for crying out loud.

Anyway, I’m taking Newcastle to win this match because I’m hoping (I don’t actually think it will happen) that tomorrow is the day Pardew wakes up and finds the words to get these players to do the business.

Who knows – maybe he can put a smile on the faces of the 50,000 supporters who show up at St. James’ Park every two weeks and sing their lungs out for 90 minutes.

Prediction: Newcastle 3 Liverpool 2

Manchester United v. Southampton (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Old Trafford)

Match of the day, this one.

If you haven’t sat down and really watched Southampton, you need to. Young kids, developed in the academy, with pace, skill and desire. They may not beat United tomorrow but you’ll be impressed by the character they all display. It starts with the owner (Nicola Cortese), trickles down to the manager (Mauricio Pochetino), the players and the fans.

A remarkable story, this club.

Prediction: Manchester United 1 Southampton 1

Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun 11:00am ET on NBCSN;Villa Park)

Supposedly, Christian Benteke could play in this match. If he does, I’m all about ‘Tekkers imparting that ‘lost child‘ look on the face of Andre Villas-Boas.

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 0

Crystal Palace v. Fulham (Mon 3:00pm ET on NBCSN; Selhurst Park)

Love this matchup. Looks like such a clunker but I bet it’ll tickle your fancy.

Crystal Palace stink on the road. They’re so bad I’m thinking they may not win an away fixture all year. But at home it’s a different story. Eagles fans are crazy loud and the squad clearly responds to their noise.

Martin Jol, you’ve been warned.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 2 Fulham 1

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Arsenal v. Norwich City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Emirates Stadium)

Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey are both healthy after picking up knocks in international play. Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott are both back after prolonged injury absences.

Shield your eyes, Canary fans.

Prediction: Arsenal 5 Norwich 1

Chelsea v. Cardiff City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Stamford Bridge)

So, Jose Mourinho wants to develop Chelsea players. How nice!

Now I’d like to see his squad duplicate the first 45 minutes they played against Hull City in the opening match of the season. Since then it’s been disappointing.

Prediction: Chelsea 3 Cardiff 0

Everton v. Hull City (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Goodison Park)

When Romelu Lukaku wins the scoring title, you’ll thank me for telling you to put a cheeky 10er down on the Belgian at 12-1 (the current odds). Tomorrow he’ll score his first hat-trick of the season and guess what all the pundits will be talking about?

You heard you.

Prediction: Everton 4 Hull City 0

West Ham United v. Manchester City (Sat 12:30pm ET on NBC; Upton Park)

I imagine East London has been drunk for the last two weeks after that incredible 3-0 win at White Hart Lane. Here comes the inevitable ‘crash back to earth‘ match.

Prediction: West Ham United 0 Manchester City 2

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Britannia Stadium)

Are the Baggies for real? I’m not so sure. Yes, they’ve looked quite strong over the last four weeks but now let’s see if they can deal with something different: Stoke at the Britannia.

Something tells me they can.

Prediciton: Stoke City 0 West Bromwich Albion 1

Swansea City v. Sunderland (Sat 10:00am ET on Extra Time; Liberty Stadium)

Welcome to the league, Gus Poyet! Love the fact that we now have a coach called “Gus”.

The man who literally sounds like a more intelligent version of Paulo Di Canio has arrived on Wearside to save the Black Cats from relegation. Can he do it? I think he can. Loved him from his Chelsea days.

But will he get it done tomorrow? Patience, child. Patience.

Prediction: Swansea City 2 Sunderland 1

Player ratings from USMNT’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica

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The U.S. national team is headed to the final of the 2017 Gold Cup after knocking off Costa Rica 2-0 on Saturday.

Who stood out for all the right — and wrong — reasons, as Bruce Arena’s side prepares to face either Mexico or Jamaica in Wednesday’s final?

[ RECAP: Super-sub Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica ]

GK — Tim Howard: 7 — Forced to make two saves, the first of which was a hero’s intervention with Marco Ureña racing in one on one. The second came not long before the opening goal, and he did well to spill it no more than a foot or two in front of him. Howard looks at the top of his game, again.

LB — Jorge Villafaña: 6.5 — For the first time all tournament, he got forward with regularity and served the ball into the box. With the entire flank open ahead of him, Villafaña had to fill the void of width. Still, not a ton of quality. Fortunately, he was tested very little in open space.

CB — Matt Besler: 7.5 — Best of the defensive unit, perhaps so much so he’s vaulted himself back into the four-man rotation for the World Cup.

CB — Omar Gonzalez: 6 — Besler stood out as the star, hardly putting a foot wrong all night, thus overshadowing Gonzalez for the most part. Costa Rica opted to build with the ball on the ground, thus negating Gonzalez’s greatest strength, his aerial presence. That said, he wasn’t remotely exposed in the weakest facet of his game, either.

RB — Graham Zusi: 6 — Paul Arriola’s presence ahead of him was immeasurably important. I’m still bullish on Zusi as a right back, with the necessary shading of defensive help. Before you lose your mind, consider the italicized part.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

CM — Michael Bradley: 7 — Not his most influential game, but it didn’t need to be. With Kellyn Acosta doing much of the heavy lifting, in terms of covering acreage, Bradley played the part of disciplined organizer slightly deeper in midfield than we’re accustomed to seeing. It’s a role that suits him well, with the right partner ahead of him. His influence on Acosta will also benefit the USMNT for years to come.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 7 — The kid is (still) alright, even after a couple subpar games during the group stage. As stated above, the partnership matters. Afforded a bit more time and space by the Ticos, Acosta pushed into the final third all night long and provided the extra man to play with possession high up the field.

LM — Darlington Nagbe: 6.5 — He’ll always shade more toward the center of the field, even when played as an out-and-out wide midfielder, and that’s what he did against Costa Rica. It’s nice having that extra man in the middle, but it turns the left wing into a barren wasteland. Take the good with the bad.

RM — Paul Arriola: 6.5 — You may not get a ton of final product from Arriola, but with Zusi playing an out-of-role right back behind him, it’s vitally important that the wide player on that side of the field offers defensive cover from the front. Arriola does so, and gets into (and wins) more than a winger’s fair share of 50-50 challenges. He’s a net positive in a lot of things that don’t show up in boxscores. There’s always a place for a player like that.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

FW — Jozy Altidore: 6.5 — We’ve known this for a while, but Altidore is far more effective playing with a partner up top. His tendency to drop into midfield helps to link play with someone ahead of him. When he’s all by his lonesome, who/what’s he to link?

FW — Jordan Morris: 7 — Piggybacking on the above point about Altidore, Morris is the perfect complement — quick in short bursts, a burner in the open field, and a smart runner of channels on occasion. He was the best player on the field the opening 30 minutes or so. Faded down the stretch, but the strong first half earns him positive marks.

Sub — Clint Dempsey: 9 — An assist and a goal, all in 24 minutes’ work. More on the hero of the day in a bit.

Sub — Gyasi Zardes: N/A — 7 minutes on the field, with little to no real impact on the game.

Sub — Dax McCarty: N/A — 5 minutes off the bench, but he served his purpose in helping to keep possession and put the game to bed.

Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica, into Gold Cup final

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It took considerably longer than Bruce Arena would have hoped, but the U.S. national team edged its way past Costa Rica, courtesy of Jozy Altidore‘s 72nd-minute goal, in the two sides’ 2017 Gold Cup semifinal in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

It was Arena’s injection of Clint Dempsey just six minutes earlier which would prove to be the game-changing moment. The soon-to-be all-time leading scorer in USMNT history created Altidore’s goal, the 38th tally of his international career, with a silky smooth turn and through ball that unlocked an otherwise formidable, frustrating Ticos defense. The Nacogdoches, Tex., native pulled level with Landon Donovan on the USMNT’s scoring charts 10 minutes later as he sealed the Yanks’ passage into the final.

The clock read 11 seconds when the USMNT’s first scoring chance arrived. Straight from the kickoff, they worked the ball to a streaking Jordan Morris, who in full stride unleashed a hard, right-footed strike from 10 yards out. Post.

For all the early excitement, and the massive possession advantage (61-39), it was the closest the USMNT would come to beating Patrick Pemberton, as the Yanks failed to put a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Tim Howard was called into heroic action in the 37th minute, when Bryan Ruiz dribbled through the heart of midfield and played Marco Ureña into the penalty area. The San Jose Earthquakes striker went low and far post with his effort from 12 yards out, but Howard was quick to get down and make the one-on-one save.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

The Americans’ first chance of the second half didn’t come until the 70th minute. Clint Dempsey played a simple square ball to Kellyn Acosta, whose first-time shot forced Pemberton into a tough save to push the ball high into the air.

Two minutes later, the breakthrough. Dempsey slipped Jozy Altidore through with a delicate through ball into space, and the Toronto FC man latched onto it quickly and slotted it past Pemberton despite the ‘keeper getting a hand on it.

Dempsey’s history-making moment seemed innocuous enough from the start — a free kick from all of 25 yards out, at a difficult angle. Whatever, said Dempsey, who went for goal anyway. His bouncing ball evade Pemberton at the near post and gave him 57 international goals.

The winner of Mexico versus Jamaica, the second semifinal which will take place on Sunday, awaits the USMNT in the final on Wednesday.

Mexico block out drama before Gold Cup semifinal vs. Jamaica

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) After nearly two years as Mexico’s head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio is used to constant criticism of his tactics and lineups. He isn’t surprised by regular calls for his firing from fans, media and former national team players — and that’s just when Mexico is playing well.

“We do our best so that the players cannot feel the criticism,” Osorio said Saturday. “We try not to translate it to the players. We try to maintain the best spirit in the team.”

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

Yet for all of the drama and distraction around El Tri this summer, Osorio is one win from getting a young roster with an ever-changing lineup into the CONCACAF Gold Cup final while he coaches from the stands, thanks to a FIFA suspension.

Mexico faces Jamaica on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl, El Tri‘s home away from home, for a spot in the championship game.

Osorio is already proud of his experimental roster’s Gold Cup success despite a steady drumbeat of criticism from those who don’t like the Colombian coach’s plans or his players’ execution of them. He chose a youthful group for this tournament to build Mexico’s base of experience for next year’s World Cup and the years ahead.

“Our goal is to build a team that can compete at any level,” Osorio said. “We’ve had some losses that have been very difficult, and the scars are there. But at the same time, they show that we’re strong and moving forward, and this team has won much more than it has lost. We are very motivated, and we want to continue building and growing. We want to have more players competing for a spot that can help us. We want to have a present and a future.”

Mexico has won three of the last four Gold Cups, beating Jamaica 3-1 in the 2015 final. These teams also met at the Rose Bowl 13 months ago during the Copa America, when Javier Hernandez scored an early goal in a 2-0 win.

West Ham-bound Chicharito is among several tested veterans not participating in the Gold Cup. Mexico has struggled to replace his offense, scoring half of its six goals in this tournament back in its opener.

“We are all motivated and ready to give our all for the team,” said midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who got the only goal in Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. “We all want to be part of this.”

Osorio will watch from the crowd while serving the fifth game of his six-match suspension for what FIFA deemed aggressive behavior toward officials during a match against Portugal in the Confederations Cup, where Mexico finished a disappointing fourth.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw 10 days ago during Gold Cup group play in Denver. El Tri dominated possession, but Mexico’s fans booed their own team after it failed to find the net behind stalwart Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Mexican fans booing their own team is nothing new, but El Tri can also count on wild support from Los Angeles’ vast Latino population.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledges his Reggae Boyz are underdogs, but he believes his players raise their level whenever they get the chance to wreck the plans of the U.S. or Mexico, the pre-tournament favorites.

“I think our confidence is high,” Whitmore said. “We don’t want to be overconfident going into the game. We know the Mexican team has a lot to offer. It is a team that we have to give a lot of respect, based on what they’ve been through over the years.”

Jamaica is also playing without top talent, including Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes and all of its England-based players. Darren Mattocks, the Portland forward who has excelled in the Gold Cup, also could miss the semifinal due to an injury, Whitmore said.

Jamaica showed its offensive potency last Thursday with a pair of beautiful goals in a quarterfinal victory over Canada. Whitmore plans a “totally different approach” from the defensive caution with which Jamaica played El Tri earlier in the month.

“We try to be mean in conceding goals, and that’s been working for us,” Whitmore said. “We want to be still disciplined. We want to be compact in defense, but on the other hand, I think the transition game in defense is important if we want to get past this Mexico team.”

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

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The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]