Prindi’s Premier League Picks: West Brom to upset Newcastle

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and frankly, I’m crap at it.

But I love the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments.

So let’s get it on.

UPSET SPECIALS

Newcastle United v. West Bromwich Albion (Sat 12:30pm ET on NBC; St James’ Park)

Weird times at Newcastle United.

The club is playing well, hopes of European nights are creeping into fans’ minds, the rancor concerning Joe Kinnear is dying down but two of their best players, Yohan Cabaye and Fabricio Colocinni, are both rumored to want out of St. James’ Park.

West Brom, on the other hand, keep getting the short end of the stick. With a unique array of firepower between Saido Berahino, Shane Long, Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano, among others, they’re a side who can beat anyone.

This could be a sneaky good match. Newcastle are heavy favorites but something tells me this weekend the Baggies finally get something to go their way.

Newcastle 1 West Bromwich Albion 2

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

Aston Villa v. Sunderland (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Villa Park)

Impressive comeback by Aston Villa last Monday at West Brom but perhaps if Paul Lambert started Andi Weimann, Gabby Agbonglahor and Fabian Delph – rather than bringing them off the bench as a 57th minute triple sub – they wouldn’t have been in the hole to begin with.

This weekend expect all three men to start, which means Christian Benteke can return to his favored lead striker role, which means Sunderland’s defense will have to be in top form, which I don’t see happening.

Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 1

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

Last week’s derby was an emotional journey for Everton but they’ll need to put it in their rear-view if they’re to take all three points against Stoke City.

The Potters were impressive in their 2-0 win over Sunderland, even if they did benefit hugely from the ridiculous sending off of Wes Brown.

Gut-check time for the Toffees. If they have hopes of a Top 4 finish, matches like this are a must win.

Everton 2 Stoke City 1

West Ham United v. Fulham (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Upton Park)

Don’t look now but the only thing separating West Ham from the relegation zone is the five goal difference between them and Fulham. With both clubs on 10 points and desperate to separate themselves from the bottom of the table this match has the potential to be a real belter.

West Ham United 2 Fulham 1

Norwich City v. Crystal Palace (Sat 10:00am ET on Live Extra; Carrow Road)

Can’t wait to see Tony Pulis’ baseball cap, track suit and tugboat-sized sneakers on the sideline this weekend. The former Stoke boss will be installing Route 1 football at Crystal Palace and with the players gaining confidence by the week, it might just work.

But as pressing as issues are at Selhurst Park, they’re nearly as dire at Carrow Road. Chris Hughton needs to keep his job. Norwich City needs to stay clear of the relegation zone. Beat the clubs who they should beat and the Canaries should come out top bird in this match.

Norwich City 2 Crystal Palace 1

Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United (Sun 7:00am ET on NBCSN; White Hart Lane)

Last year Spurs had United’s number, defeating the Red Devils at Old Trafford and scrambling for a late point at White Hart Lane.

This year it’s difficult to foresee a repeat performance. Last week’s shellacking aside, Tottenham are a side that simply lack cohesion among the players. What should be an entertaining, high-flying side has become dull, unimaginative and predictable. And now, with many believing AVB’s days are numbered (an opinion I don’t agree with, by the way), question marks are omnipresent throughout North London.

It’ll be closer than you think but expect United to capitalize on their mid-week thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen.

Manchester United 1 Tottenham 0

Chelsea v. Southampton (Sun 11:10am ET on NBCSN; Stamford Bridge)

If Chelsea’s mid-week loss to Basel has you thinking they’re on the decline, think again. Jose Mourinho’s side had already qualified for the next round of the Champions League before Wednesday’s loss and while they will want to finish atop their group, that can still happen with a win over bottom-of-the-barrel Steau.

Jose Mourinho’s men were dominant in the 3-0 win over West Ham last weekend and while I expect this match to be tight, I think ‘The Special One’ keeps that precious Stamford Bridge unbeaten streak in tact.

Chelsea 2 Southampton 1

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS

Cardiff City v. Arsenal (Sat 10:00am ET on NBCSN; Cardiff City Stadium)

True to form, the Bluebirds have once again made Cardiff City Stadium a fortress this year. The two Manchester sides failed to win there and Steven Caulker ensured derby success over Swansea with a towering header.

Cardiff will be thinking that with Arsenal playing three matches in one week, the Gunners will be prime for the picking as well.

Ain’t happenin’, pal.

Arsenal are too comfortable on the ball. Too mentally strong.

Cardiff City 0 Arsenal 2

Hull City v. Liverpool (Sun 9:05am ET on NBCSN; The KC Stadium)

With a lack of attacking danger and a defense on the mend, things don’t look good for Hull in this one.

Hull City 1 Liverpool 4

Manchester City v. Swansea City (Sun 11:10am ET on Live Extra; Etihad Stadium)

Manchester City at home.

Swansea City coming off a Thursday night Europa League match plus injuries to Michu and Wilfried Bony.

Enough said.

Manchester City 4 Swansea City 1

MLS: Rookie Ebobisse stars as Timbers win in Vancouver

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers, thanks to a standout performance in rookie striker Jeremy Ebobisse’s first MLS start, put to bed a six-game winless skid with a 2-1 win away to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday. The run of poor form stretched back to early June, and saw Caleb Porter’s side slip from contention for the Western Conference’s top spot, into the jumbled mess surrounding the playoff cut line (four teams separated by one point, either side of sixth place, coming into Sunday). Ebobisse scored the opening goal less than a quarter-hour into the game, and delivered the beautiful backheel assist to Sebastian Blanco to restore the Timbers’ lead four minutes into the second half, after watching it disappear just before halftime. The victory sees Portland leapfrog Vancouver to move into fourth place in the West, just four points off the top spot once again.

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

Three moments that mattered

14′ — Ebobisse touches home his first MLS goal — Sometimes you don’t really have to do much beyond simply existing in the right place. Ebobisse existed in the right place.

45′ — Jacobson heads home before halftime — Update: Portland still have issues defending set pieces.

49′ — Blanco slots past Ousted for 2-1 — No one really stepped up to deny Blanco’s marathon dribble, and Ebobisse did so much more than simply existing on this one.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jeremy Ebobisse

Goalscorers: Ebobisse (14′), Jacobson (45′), Blanco (49′)

FOLLOW LIVE: Mexico vs. Jamaica — who’ll face USMNT in final?

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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It’s Mexico versus Jamaica in the second semifinal of the 2017 Gold Cup on Sunday, facing off for the right to play the U.S. national team in Wednesday’s final.

When: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

It’s the second time these sides have met this summer, having already played to a scoreless draw in the second game of Group C play, en route to Mexico finish top of the group, besting Jamaica by two points on the final day of the group stage.

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

Hit the link above, or click here, to follow along with Sunday’s semifinal action.

Gonzalez follows heart in switch from Mexico to USMNT

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jesse Gonzalez started in the 2015 Under-20 World Cup for Mexico, his parents’ homeland. Then last month, the 22-year-old FC Dallas goalkeeper switched his affiliation to join the United States, his home country.

Gonzalez just felt more comfortable in the red, white and blue.

“The U.S. has given me a lot. I’m grateful for what they have given me and the opportunity they have given me,” he said after joining the U.S. roster for the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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

Tim Howard, now 38, remains the top U.S. goalkeeper as the Americans try to qualify for next year’s World Cup. Brad Guzan, who will be 33 in September, is entrenched as the No. 2.

After that, no keepers have emerged at the top level in the next generation. Gonzalez, and fellow 20-somethings Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, Cody Cropper and Ethan Horvath all figure to compete with Guzan for the starting job in the 2019-22 World Cup cycle.

“I don’t have any doubt that he will be one of the best keepers in America,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said of Gonzalez after discovering the teen prospect when he was playing in a youth tournament.

Gonzalez’s parents emigrated from Mexico, and he was born in Edenton, North Carolina.

“My parents didn’t really find anything around North Carolina,” Gonzalez said. “They thought it was a lonely state, so they got out of there.”

His family moved to Houston and then on to Dallas when Gonzalez was a child. After spotting Gonzalez on a recreational team, Pareja persuaded the family to switch the keeper to the FC Dallas youth academy. He played there alongside midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who has broken into the U.S. starting lineup this year.

“They taught me how to be more responsible,” Gonzalez said. “It was almost like a job at the time, just waking up early and being on time to training.”

[ USA 2-0 CRC: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

Pareja, a Colombian national team midfielder in the early 1990s, said the 6-foot-4 Gonzalez’s long arms and quick reflexes immediately reminded him of late Colombian keeper Miguel Calero. Gonzalez debuted for Dallas’ under-16 team in September 2010 and was signed to a professional homegrown player contract in March 2013. Just more than two years later, he became the youngest keeper to start in team history: at 20 years, 89 days.

By then, Mexican team scouts had noticed Gonzalez at a showcase in Sarasota, Florida, and asked whether he had interest in playing for El Tri.

“Richard Sanchez, one of my old teammates, he was there. He talked very well about them,” Gonzalez recalled.

Gonzalez started Mexico’s first four matches at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, then had a pair of saves during penalty kicks to lift Mexico over Panama in the final. At the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand, he played in Mexico’s second and third games,

The following January, Gonzalez turned down an invitation from U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to attend a national team training camp in Carson, California. Instead, Gonzalez went to a Mexican Under-23 team camp ahead of the Olympics, but he was not picked for El Tri’s Rio de Janeiro roster.

Gonzalez spent a long time before deciding this spring to apply to FIFA for a change of affiliation. Because he had not played a competitive match for Mexico’s senior national team, he was allowed a one-time switch.

“Whatever you decide, you’re going to be right, because that’s going to be your heart,” Pareja recalled telling him.

“Any time a soccer player is making a choice, whether it’s club or country, it’s important that they analyze the options carefully, they seek input from people they trust, and that they come to a decision that they’re happy with,” said Gonzalez’s agent, Richard Motzkin. “That’s the process Jesse took in making his decision and, rest assured, it wasn’t done lightly or without a lot of forethought. Ultimately, Jesse was fortunate in that he had two very good choices.”

After the switch was announced, Gonzalez received text messages from surprised friends.

“They were funny,” he said without going into detail.

[ MORE: Mexico blocking out drama during deep run at Gold Cup ]

Howard is the U.S. starter as the Americans head into Wednesday’s Gold Cup championship against Mexico or Jamaica, and Hamid is the backup while Guzan settles in with Atlanta. For now, Gonzalez’s role is limited to training and pushing others on the practice field.

“We just want to see what he’s about,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Gonzalez is with the national team to learn. A full international debut might take a while.

“He’s not much of talker, which is good. I think young guys talk too much nowadays,” Howard said. “You’re naive in a good way and you think you know it all, and really it’s the opposite. You have it all to learn. At this age they’re using their athletic ability and their raw talent to keep their head above water, and through that process you learn. It is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation. It’s got to be everything to you. You’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices to get there.”

Gonzalez is willing to wait. He just hopes his absence from Dallas doesn’t cost him playing time in Major League Soccer.

“My backup could come in and have great games. He could stay there,” he said. “It’s difficult for me. I want to be over there, but I want to be here because this is an amazing opportunity for me.”

Pique with the scoop? Neymar “staying” at Barcelona

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While the entire world waits for official word — any word, really — on the possible world record-shattering transfer of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, Gerard Pique just became the world’s most appreciated breaker of transfer news.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Pique, Neymar’s teammate for four seasons at Barca, tweeted (and posted to Instagram) a photo of himself and Neymar, captioned, “Se queda,” or, “He stays.”

[ MOURINHO: United not signing Bale | De Gea not going anywhere ]

Whether he stays or goes this summer, Neymar is about to get paid, and deservedly so. An unquestionable top-five (or -three?) player in the world, he doesn’t turn 26 for another seven months. There has to be someone awaiting the passing of the torch from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, both four years Neymar’s senior, some day soon(-ish), so it should come as no surprise that Barca appear to have moved heaven and earth to retain their Brazilian superstar.