Chelsea vs. Man United, Suarez and Sturridge, Saints turmoil – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

Leave a 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” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White as Liverpool’s S.A.S striker partnership is reunited, Aston Villa’s relegation worries mount and the big match between Chelsea and Manchester United on Sunday takes center stage. Plus Arlo shares his opinion on the situation at Southampton, as turmoil off the field has put the South Coast club in turmoil.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

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

So, let’s get to it.

Liverpool finally have Suarez & Sturridge back fit together. Is it vital those two stay fit for the rest of the season if the Reds want to make the top four?

source: Reuters
With the S.A.S. back together, Arlo believes Liverpool’s top four hopes rest on their shoulders.

Well I think at various times during this season Liverpool have proved they can get results without either of them in the side. But they are clearly better off with Suarez and Sturridge both in the starting XI. The eye-watering fact is that they’ve scored 32 goals between them in the Premier League but they also seem to have this intuitive, symbiotic relationship on the field, as we saw evidence of that after Sturridge came onto the field at Stoke in that enthralling 5-3 win at the Britannia Stadium last weekend. It’s interesting, Sturridge can quite often be very demonstrative, a lot of arm waving if he doesn’t receive the pass he wants, when he’s in a good position, from Suarez.

(MORE: Can S.A.S. destroy Villa at Anfield?)

I’ve looked very closely at the behavior and the body language between the two and you often wonder if the relationship will erode but their bond just seems to be very strong, it seems to be getting stronger and able to cope with the odd little disagreement or act of petulance at times. I think with Coutinho, Sterling, Henderson and Gerrard in support, this is a very potent Liverpool side but Suarez and Sturridge are the stars and they could be the two players that rubber-stamp their top four ticket this season.

As for Aston Villa, who are heading to Anfield on Saturday, do you think they will get sucked into another relegation battle?

It’s very possible. They are only five points off the bottom three, they’ve won one of their last seven, they’ve taken four points out of the last 21 points on offer. It just isn’t very good form. Although right now going into the weekend, they top of the bottom half of the table in 11th spot. I think the hopes that Villa fans will take to Anfield are that Benteke inspired 3-1 win last season at Liverpool, and the fact their away form is marginally better than their form at Villa Park, although that is not difficult. They’ve been woeful at home, and that’s a real problem for Paul Lambert and Aston Villa. I counted back and they’ve won seven of their last 43 games at Villa Park, you wouldn’t think they’d have a chance of survival over the last couple of seasons with form like that. It means they must be gathering points on the road and this season they’ve won four games away, that’s twice as many as they’ve won at home and it just gives them a glimmer of hope.

Maybe as a young side they’ve found it a little easier and a little less of a pressure environment when they’re on the road being supported by a group of away fans in the corner, rather than the stage-fright of a 35,000-40,000 crowd at Villa Park. So if Benteke, who scored against Arsenal on Monday, can go on a run then Villa have hope. That might need to happen for them not to get dragged into another relegation battle.

The big game of the weekend is at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, can Chelsea and Jose Mourinho pile more pressure on Manchester United and David Moyes?

source: AP
Who will win the battle of the dugout at Stamford Bridge? Mourinho is one short of 100 PL wins for Chelsea.

Yeah of course they can, Mourinho is searching for a 100th Premier League win and the coincidence is that his first came against Manchester United in 2004 and the century could be reached against the same opposition on Sunday. I am really looking forward to this game, which will be live on NBCSN at 11am ET as Gary Lineker and Lee Dixon will be hosting a pregame show live from the Bridge, while myself and Graeme Le Saux will be in the booth calling the game.

(MORE: Mourinho warns Chelsea players to not underestimate Man United)

We know that Stamford Bridge is an absolute fortress, 19 games unbeaten for Chelsea right now, the last team to beat them was QPR in the first home game of 2013 and of course Mourinho is unbeaten in 70 at home. What I think has characterized recent Chelsea performances is if you look at their body of work this season, they only kept four clean sheets in their opening 16 games. That wasn’t very Mourinho like. But they’ve kept five in their last six games, he’s found a formula to get results in a way and a manner that he enjoys.

There’s a little bit of the grind about it, a little bit of attrition at times. The front three midfielders, although they can be devastating in attack at times, are also working very, very hard when they don’t have the ball to win possession back as high up the field as possible. They are excellent at counter-attacking, these are the hallmarks of a Chelsea side. The classic performance was against Liverpool when they fell a goal back early on, they came roaring back and were scintillating for the rest of the first half to lead 2-1 at half time. Then the second half was anti-football, attrition and grind, lots of free kicks. Jose Mourinho warned us before the Arsenal game that it would be easy to win 1-0. The approach earned him a point at the Emirates, and they’ve won their last 4 games. So, it’ll be interesting to see their approach is against United on Sunday.

So then, will this match be different to the 0-0 bore draw at Old Trafford back in August between these two?

source: AP
Will a fired up Torres get Chelsea off to a flying start on Sunday? Watch live, 11am on NBCSN.

From a neutral perspective, from an NBC viewers perspective… I certainly hope so! Mourinho went to that game virtually without a striker, Andre Schurrle was loosely playing up top in that game. There was a period of 15-20 minutes in the second half when he threw Fernando Torres in and thought ‘well, I might be able to get a goal here and get that classic smash and grab victory at Old Trafford.’ That was before the dust had settled on the season and Mourinho didn’t know what to expect of Manchester United, so he might decide to have more of a go at them early and just have a feel out of Manchester United and see where they are at the moment. But United are in an interesting situation, they’ve won five out of six in the Premier League.

(MORE: RVP and Rooney both out for United against Chelsea)

And United have been pretty good away from home, if the table was based on away form they would be in third placed behind Arsenal and Spurs, with Chelsea in fourth. United have won their last three away matches, and since that famous 4-1 drubbing at Manchester City on September 22, they are unbeaten in seven on the road. That’s not a bad away record for a club in ‘crisis’. Their two road defeats have come at the fortresses of Anfield and the Etihad, and although their road wins have been at the likes of Swansea, Sunderland, Villa, Norwich and Hull, it’s evidence that United have displayed some form and mettle away from the pressure cooker of Old Trafford. This is a huge test for them, the odds are stacked against them, so let’s see their response.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

source: Getty Images
Pochettino has been placed in an unenviable position at Southampton, as Chairman and close ally Nicola Cortese walked out.

West Ham passed their big test last week didn’t they? Which was interesting. I am looking at Southampton away at Sunderland this weekend, Nicola Cortese leaving is a pretty profound loss for the Saints. It was his vision, his attention to detail, his eye for managerial talent that really raised Southampton from League One to the fringes of the top six in the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino says he’ll stay until the end of the season, that’s encouraging and it’s absolutely vital for Southampton. They had gained only five points out of 27 before that win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend, so a crucial win before the drama during the week at St. Mary’s. But they face a desperate Sunderland side, that are coming off a terrific win at Fulham and could climb out of the bottom three with a win in front of their own fans.

(MORE: Pochettino will stay on as manager of Southampton)

It’s a huge test for Southampton. A test of their togetherness and where they are psychologically after the departure of Nicola Cortese. Pochettino has a big job on his hands to get them focused for what will be a very difficult game at Sunderland. I am looking forward to seeing if Southampton can pass the test.

Jamaica upset Mexico to reach 2nd straight Gold Cup final, face USMNT

AP Photo/Jae Hong
Leave a comment

For the second straight tournament, Jamaica are headed to the final of the Gold Cup after knocking off Mexico, the side which beat them in the 2015 final, in the 2017 semifinal on Sunday.

New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence scored the game’s only goal in the 88th minute, making the most of Andre Blake’s man-of-the-match goalkeeping performance which spanned the entirety of 90 minutes.

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

Blake put forth a stellar display of goalkeeping in the game’s opening 45 minutes, facing three shots on target and denying El Tri’s attackers on each and every occasion.

The pick(s) of the litter came in the 12th minute, when the Philadelphia Union ‘keeper pulled off a stunning double-save to deny Jesus Dueñas and Erick Torres. Dueñas fired first, aided by a wicked deflection, but Blake pulled off the reflexive kick-save, followed by Torres’ powerful strike through traffic seconds later.

15 minutes later, Torres earned himself a yellow card for what was undoubtedly, unquestionably a red-card, lunging “challenge” against Damion Lowe.

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

The second half consisted of much the same things as the first, as Blake continued his clinic in the 65th minute. Jesus Gallardo fired a free kick through the Raggae Boyz’ wall, a knuckling shot which Blake didn’t see until very late but managed the put two fists behind the ball and punch it anyway anyway.

Blake’s counterpart, Jesus Corona, joined the fun in the 78th minute. Lowe rose highest to get to Owayne Gordon’s free kick, heading it inside Corona’s right-hand post, but the Cruz Azul ‘keeper was quick to scramble across his goal and palm the ball away at full-stretch.

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

Two minutes before full-time, Lawrence produced the game’s only piece of purge magic, a curling peach of a free kick from 24 yards out. Corona went one way, Lawrence went the other and Jamaica are headed to their second straight Gold Cup final.

Jamaica will take on the U.S. national team in Wednesday’s final, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

MLS: Rookie Ebobisse stars as Timbers win in Vancouver

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”