Behind the scenes as Tim Howard prepares for NBCSN commentary debut – 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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about how USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard has been preparing for his NBC Sports commentary debut live on NBCSN for Chelsea vs. Manchester City on Sunday. Everton star Howard will become the first active PL player to call a NBC Sports game, when the Blues host the Citizens at 12pm ET at Stamford Bridge.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

How are you feeling about being alongside Tim Howard for the call on Sunday?

I am absolutely delighted that Tim’s on board for this weekends game, it’s going to be fascinating to hear the insight of a current player. When you think about it, he’s going to be alongside me, talking into a microphone less than 24 hours after he’s played a Premier League game himself for Everton against Aston Villa.

How much of an asset will it be to have an active Premier League player on board? What preparation work has Tim been doing?

Here’s a guy who has played against both team that we’re going to be commentating on this Sunday. Everton had a famous win, 1-0 over Chelsea which was actually Chelsea’s only defeat this season. And they had a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City, so when it comes to playing these sides and facing the strikers, the ball players, the free kick takers and the corner takers on both sides, Tim is going to have insight like no other. I sat down with him for two or three hours during the week, as we talked with our bosses about exactly what was expected of Tim. He came armed with a ton of questions, bags of enthusiasm and a lot of soccer savvy. He can’t wait. He’s of course now focused on the Villa vs. Everton game though, as he should be.

source: Getty Images
Howard is prepping for how he’s going to hold the mic…. Good posture, Tim.

As a great professional, I’d imagine Tim was extremely thorough with the prep work. So, how prepared are you guys for Sunday?

Well, the sort of questions Tim had were far reaching. I mean this is his first time doing this. It was everything from player pronunciation, if he knows a player through a different pronunciation than I’ve got should he adhere to me or should we have a chat about that before the game. Which I said yes, we should. We will make sure we get it right, but it was great that he was concerned. Everything from ‘what should I wear,’ to ‘headphones am I wearing’ and ‘which microphone am I using.; He is very, very thorough. He’s preparing for this with the meticulousness of a professional, in the same way that he prepares for a stint between the sticks in the Premier League.

Run us through the game on Sunday, how will things go from when you arrive at Stamford Bridge?

In terms of preparation, we will get to the stadium a little bit earlier than usual. Probably three and a half hours rather than the usual three. We’re going to go through a couple of rehearsals, we’re going to talk to each other and I’m going to show Tim exactly what buttons to press to speak with the studio back in Stamord, Connecticut or also the truck we have outside Stamford Bridge. It’s all about getting Tim comfortable in his surroundings and inevitably, as is the case with all of us as football fans, when the game starts I’m sure we will snap into a nice rhythm because we get on very well away from work anyway.

It must be a huge advantages to have Tim on board, seeing as he plays against these guys week in, week out?

As I said, to have someone who played against these guys and to have insight into, for example, the mindset of Joe Hart because the two of them have had a chat recently… I won’t tell you exactly what was said, we’ll have to wait for the broadcast. But that’s what we are looking for. I’ll have the facts and figures and players stats, story lines and histories between the clubs all written down as per usual. That’s what the week is for to prepare for, and it’s down to me to get the very best out of Tim. I think he’s going to be really up for it, and I’m looking forward to working with him.

What kind of co-commentator will Tim be?

source: Getty Images
Arlo explained exactly how Howard has been preparing for Chelsea vs. Man City, live Sunday, at 12pm ET on NBCSN.

I honestly don’t know. Until we get out there and actually do it for real. I think inevitably, he is a current professional in the Premier League. So, it’s going to be a challenge for him to be able to criticize other professionals. He will have to find a way of not upsetting anyone I suppose, but still doing his job on behalf of the viewers of the United States. He’s aware of that, and I think he’s got to think about that, exactly how he does it. He’s got to have his view, but he’s not an egotist Tim. he loves the game. He’s not keen to say ‘I would have done this,’ because he doesn’t want to come across as someone being wholly arrogant. He knows how difficult it is to be a goalkeeper and a player at this level. Tim brings a great deal of intelligence, enthusiasm and considered thought to the situation. And obviously working with Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux is phenomenal. Every game is like an education. They have so much knowledge, are terrific broadcasters and very decent chaps as well. They are our guys and I know the viewers rate them very highly as well. Tim will bring a different edge to this weekend.”

Obviously Tim is someone respected across the game, how long have you two known each other?

I’ve known Tim for a couple of years. Every interaction I’ve had with him has been a very positive one. He has been in the Premier League for eleven years, he has played for Sir Alex Ferguson and for David Moyes… two guys who just happen to be in the news quite a lot at the moment. He’s played against all the players you could possibly imagine in the Premier League that have been lighting it up. He’s played in World Cups, he’s qualified with the United States. Tim’s been at the forefront of the game internationally and domestically for a long time.

What will be the some of the challenges you face on Sunday’s broadcast?

One of the challenges will be, he’s probably got so much to say and so much information he wants to impart, that we have to temper it and make sure we don’t talk too much. It’s about getting the best stuff out of him. That’s going to be the challenge.

Brazilian league filled with possible transfer targets

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SAO PAULO (AP) While soccer takes a rest in Europe and the Brazilian league gets going again, many local players have already caught the eyes of foreign clubs.

[ MORE: Confed Cup scenarios before final group stage matches ]

A few of them are already in Brazil coach Tite’s plans for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and signing them now instead of next season could be a real bargain.

Here are some names to know:

LUAN

A 24-year-old striker at title-favorite Gremio, Luan has yet to play abroad and his coach has already said it will be hard to keep him in Brazil until the end of the season. After eight matches, Luan has scored four goals. Gremio executives have said they won’t take less than 24 million euros ($27 million) for him. Luan was part of Brazil’s gold-medal winning team at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He began the tournament on the bench, but eventually took a place in the starting lineup alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Ronaldinho said Luan deserves to be at Barcelona. “Luan would fit in perfectly there, he is very creative,” Ronaldinho said.

GUILHERME ARANA

More than 20 percent of the goals scored by Corinthians this year have come from the left foot of 20-year-old defender Guilherme Arana. An excellent Brazilian-style dribbler, Arana had several assists in the derbies against the team’s three Sao Paulo city rivals. Arana has yet to make his international debut, but he believes his short time with Tite at the club could help him get to Russia next year. Many in Brazilian media have dubbed him “the new Marcelo.”

LUCAS LIMA

A close friend of Neymar, 26-year-old midfielder Lucas Lima has been frequently linked with a transfer to Barcelona. In the first 100 days of 2017 he had 10 assists – the same number he produced all of last season. He is in top physical shape, something that has earned him praise from coaches and a series of callups from Tite to play with Brazil. Lima has rejected a series of offers from Chinese clubs because he wants to play in Europe.

GUSTAVO SCARPA

Fluminense midfielder Gustavo Scarpa is classy and cerebral, traits he tries to mirror from his hero Andres Iniesta. But the 23-year-old Brazilian can also provide some stunning shots from long distance, like the goal he scored from his own half in February in a Brazilian Cup match against Globo. Scarpa likes to play as a left winger, but he can also be used in a central midfield position and as a left back. Tite called on him for a friendly against Colombia in February. In the 2016 Brazilian league, he scored eight goals and had 10 assists. He has just finished recovering from a right foot injury.

DUDU

A fan-favorite at defending champion Palmeiras last season, 25-year-old striker Dudu has yet to score in this year’s competition. Still recovering from injury, Dudu is fast and often runs right at goal. He played at Dynamo Kyiv without much success from 2011-14, and he admits he was not very mature when that transfer happened. In March, he was part of the Brazil team for World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay and Paraguay, as a replacement of injured Douglas Costa.

RODRIGO CAIO

A 23-year-old Sao Paulo defender who has frequently been called up by Tite, Rodrigo Caio has played more than 200 matches for his club. Caio wants to go to Europe after a first attempt at Valencia fell through — he failed a medical check because of a now-healed knee injury. Also a gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics, the defender can play as a defensive midfielder. Although he looks a lot like Kaka, his style is more like Dunga’s: great tackles, accurate passing and leadership.

Red or Blue: Revisiting the first two years of the Hudson River Derby

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When two sides meet at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon the tension between players will be high and even more so when the supporters cross paths.

It may be nearing the end of June, but the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC will meet for the first time this season in MLS play on Saturday as the two clubs renew their Hudson River Derby (New York Derby, for some) rivalry.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 17: East leads way at the top ]

Some still question the validity of the rivalry given the brief history in which the two clubs have faced off against one another, but that little percent of the population is completely outweighed by those that really follow MLS.

Now entering the third year in which the Red Bulls and NYCFC meet, there’s more dislike between the two clubs, the players and certainly the managers as well.

Albeit a lopsided first six encounters, five wins to one in favor of the Red Bulls, every time the sides meet is another opportunity to not only build the rivalry but also expand on the question: Is New York red or is it blue?

This has become a popular topic between supporters of each team and subsequently turned out to be a marketing dream for the clubs and MLS as a whole.

When it comes down to the on-field play, many of the same faces are still intact with their clubs from when the teams met a little over two years ago. David Villa and Bradley Wright-Phillips spearhead the attacks for their respective sides, but the star strikers have performed in very different manners in the previous derbies.

Wright-Phillips has scored an impressive eight goals in six MLS meetings against NYCFC, while Villa — who has 51 MLS goals — has just found the back of the net once against the Red Bulls.

Outside of the Red Bulls’ 7-0 thrashing last year, the majority of the matches between the two teams have been close encounters. And this time around should be no different.

The teams met just a week-and-a-half ago at RBA in a U.S. Open Cup match that saw the hosts narrowly come away with a 1-0 victory, which has been the story of the Red Bulls season thus far.

Only four Red Bulls players have scored goals in 2017, which in comparison to NYCFC’s 10 players is a stark difference. Patrick Vieira’s side has scored 12 more goals this season as well, which certainly plays into NYCFC’s hands, however, when these two clubs get together there’s been a noticeable struggle for NYCFC in the attacking third.

Vieira’s men have scored just five goals over the first two seasons of this matchup, while the Red Bulls have found the back of the net 18 times.

Here’s a brief breakdown of results when the two sides have met since 2015. (Winner in bold)

May 10, 2015 — Red Bulls 2-1 NYCFC
June 28, 2015 — NYCFC 1-3 Red Bulls
August 9, 2015 — Red Bulls 2-0 NYCFC
May 21, 2016 — NYCFC 0-7 Red Bulls
July 3, 2016 — NYCFC 2-0 Red Bulls
July 24, 2016 — Red Bulls 4-1 NYCFC
June 14, 2017 — Red Bulls 1-0 NYCFC (U.S. Open Cup match)

MLS at Week 17: New York Derby headlines host of intriguing fixtures

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It’s hard to believe the MLS regular season is already halfway done, but that’s the truth.

Two Eastern Conference sides continue to dazzle in the Supporters’ Shield race, and while one of them was expected to have success in 2017 the other is putting on a surprise performance for the ages.

The Texas Derby will kick off one of several rivalry matches this weekend, while will be headlined by Saturday afternoon’s clash at Red Bull Arena between the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC.

The weekend will come to a close late on Sunday night when a Cascadia rivalry is renewed as the Portland Timbers host the Seattle Sounders in a critical Western Conference bout.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Here’s a full look at the MLS docket ahead of a busy weekend.

Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution — 8 p.m. ET Friday

The Revs spoiled TFC’s impressive unbeaten run just two weeks back but Toronto is back on track and once again looks like the best side in MLS. Jay Heaps and Co. will likely have a difficult time north of the border when these sides meet at BMO Field.

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas — 9 p.m. ET Friday

The first rivalry matchup takes place down in Texas this weekend and few would’ve thought that Houston would be sitting above Dallas in the Western Conference standings to this point. Led by goalscorer Erick “Cubo” Torres and his 10 finishes this season, the Dynamo have been one of the most potent attacks in MLS in 2017. Dallas’ backline has been a stalwart though through 15 matches, with the club only allowing 14 goals (second-fewest in MLS).

New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

NYCFC has undoubtedly been the better of the two sides as the MLS season nears the halfway point, but to say this rivalry has been one sided in its now third year is an understatement. The Red Bulls have won seven of their eight matchups against their Bronx foes across all competitions, including last week’s U.S. Open Cup win at Red Bull Arena. Patrick Vieira and Co. will be seeking their first win at RBA on Saturday, while also attempting to create some separation from the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference table.

Atlanta United vs. Colorado Rapids — 7 p.m. ET Saturday

This matchup is a tale of two very different teams. Atlanta continues to bounce up and down in its debut season, although largely impressing in the attacking third in many of its matches. Meanwhile, the Rapids are struck at the bottom of MLS on 16 points, and there’s little sign of improvement from Pablo Mastroeni’s group.

Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday

Something has to give when these two clubs meet. D.C. is coming off of a nice home win against Atlanta, so advantage to Ben Olson’s group despite the club’s poor goalscoring form. The ninth-place side has just 12 goals this season, which is three less than the next worst team in MLS.

Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Crew have reverted to their defensive tendencies from a season ago, allowing the most goals in the Eastern Conference so far (29). The Impact, however, are finally finding their groove after going unbeaten in their last four.

Minnesota United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 8 p.m. ET Saturday

The Loons have had a rough go of it so far in MLS, but the good news is the club is certainly improving. Wednesday’s performance against the Timbers was a real bright spot in the team’s inaugural season, and now they can look to follow up that effort with their second consecutive win, which Minnesota hasn’t done in 2017. Vancouver has shown its own improvements recently, going unbeaten in five of its last seven matches.

Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday

When these two sides met a few weeks ago, all we had was an uneventful 0-0 draw. Expect something much different this time around, particularly from the Fire, who have built up a full head of steam as they enter Saturday’s contest unbeaten in their last eight matches.

LA Galaxy vs. Sporting KC — 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

This has the makings of a quality playoff matchup down the road, especially given the Galaxy’s resurgence as of late. Like the Fire, the Galaxy have their own eight-match unbeaten run to boast and it has propelled them up to fifth place in the West. Sporting KC continues to run the Western Conference with 27 points and a stingy backline that has only conceded 11 goals in 17 matches. That’s pretty unheard of stuff.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake — 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Neither side has managed to find a rhythm this season, but with seven teams separated by six points in the Western Conference playoff race it’s a match like this that holds extra weight.

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders — 10 p.m. ET Sunday

The Cascadia battles have become some of the best in MLS, and while the Sounders are still struggling to find their form from a season ago this one has all the makings of another massive clash. Neither side enters Sunday’s matchup in the finest form, but there’s nothing that could be more beneficial for either club than a rivalry victory.

Portugal considers resting Ronaldo ahead of group stage finale

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Portugal is on the verge of reaching the semifinals at this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup, and the reigning European champions could be set to rest their biggest star ahead of their group stage finale on Saturday.

[ MORE: Confed Cup scenarios before final group stage matches ]

The team currently sits tied on four points with Group A leaders Mexico through two matches, and with New Zealand — who is already eliminated from advancing — left on the docket for Portugal, manager Fernando Santos is prepared to rest Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Everybody wants to watch Cristiano Ronaldo, even I want to watch Cristiano Ronaldo,” Santos said on Friday.

“I don’t know if I’m going to play with Cristiano or without Cristiano. Obviously, rotation will take place, that I can tell you.”

Portugal will be playing its third match in a seven-day span on Saturday, which certainly warrants a rest for Ronaldo and possibly some others for Santos’ side.

Hosts Russia sit one point behind Mexico and Portugal though, so it would be a bit of a gamble for Ronaldo to miss the New Zealand match, which will be played at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.