NBC's lead soccer announcer Arlo White

Liverpool, Manchester City continue to shine – 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 Manchester City’s massive clash against Arsenal, Liverpool’s title credentials, some massive matches in the relegation zone and much, much more.

(MORE: VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games every 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.

After Arsenal’s midweek draw with Swansea, does Saturday’s match with Man City now become a must win if the Gunners are going to win the title?

It has to be, and Arsene Wenger has admitted as much. What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday, they went to Stamford Bridge knowing a win would place them one point behind Chelsea at the top, with a game in hand.  A 6-0 dubbing and a midweek draw with Swansea later, and they are clinging onto the fringes of the title race by their finger tips.

I said during the call last Saturday that teams who ship 17 goals in three visits to their top four rivals can’t be considered legitimate title contenders, and I stand by that. Arsenal’s failure to adapt their approach after previous thrashings is very concerning for Arsenal fans. If they lose to City, then another concern is the form of Everton right behind them. The Toffees are six points behind the Gunners with a game in hand.  Arsenal visit Goodison Park next weekend, which could be vital in deciding who finishes in 4th place.

What about Man City… were you impressed with their derby day demolition of Man United in midweek? Are they the Champions elect?

source: Getty Images
City ran rings around United all night long, as they’re timing their title change masterfully well.

They are one of the favorites, four has definitely become three. They were clinical in their dismantling of United at Old Trafford. Much of the press has been about how poor United were, but you have to look at City and the way they got after United from the very first kick of the game. They had a couple of opportunities very early on and they were camped in the United half. Then they took the lead after 40 seconds, which was a great start. Graeme Le Saux, who called the game alongside me, his concern is that City have to put a consistent 90 minutes together and not have these spurts of activity and then sit back a little. They have players on terrific form, Vincent Kompany was excellent, Joe Hart hasn’t conceded a goal for 508 minutes, Yaya Toure is in dominant form and is scoring bags of goal, David Silva is at his ghost like best. Even though they aren’t getting the best out of Alvaro Negredo at the moment, Edin Dzeko filled in brilliantly at Old Trafford.

It looks like they are the favorites for the title, as Jose Mourinho has been saying all along. If they can get a fit and firing Sergio Aguero back into the side, they are looking very good indeed. But they still have to go to Liverpool and Everton, they will be big trips after this tricky encounter vs. Arsenal at the Emirates.

Let’s look at Liverpool vs. Spurs, both teams need the win for different reasons, Liverpool in their title charge and Tottenham to make the top four. What do you expect from this?

source: Reuters
With the S.A.S. in form, Arlo believes the title could well be on its way to Anfield.

On paper you’d expect a Liverpool victory, they’ve won seven in a row, the S.A.S. are firing on all cylinders and they were cruising to victory against Sunderland on Wednesday. But that late goal seemed to instill a few nerves into Liverpool in the closing stages. Whether that was because they realize the enormity of the situation they’ve got themselves into, or just that they aren’t used to being in tight games at the end of matches, I’m not sure. There was a slightly nervy crowd at Anfield, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it as they still played their natural game for 75 minutes of that encounter. Liverpool are very much in the title race.

We now know Tim Sherwood is able to rouse his troops to get decent results, that comeback against Southampton last weekend was a big result for Spurs and Sherwood after some recent disappointments. We will see what happens in this one, but you’d expect Liverpool to make it eight in a row… however Spurs are capable of causing an upset.

One game that stands out at the bottom is West Brom vs. Cardiff. Simple question: which way do you see this going?

This one is very hard to call, but teams are desperate for the win. You have to say, with West Brom at home, they should be the slight favorites. Despite being very well liked, their new manager Pepe Mel has come in and struggled to get results for the Baggies. I do look back to the sacking of Steve Clarke earlier this season and how big of a decision that was for West Brom. Okay, they weren’t doing fantastic, but they weren’t doing too bad either, so you still have to question why they would get rid of him, especially if Mel can’t turn things around.

As for Cardiff, it really is do or die for them. They need to start winning games, and fast, if they’re going to dig themselves out of trouble. This is a classic example of a relegation six-pointer, this time of the season it is vital to pick up points at the wrong end of the table.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

source: Getty Images
Ross Barkley and Everton are on a roll.

The game on Sunday between Fulham and Everton at Craven Cottage is a very intriguing game. For the home side, they must start winning if they are going to survive, but they come up against a very strong and in-form Everton unit. The Toffees have won four on the spin, and everyone thought their season would peter out after a sensational start saw them in the top four for most of the season. However coupled with Arsenal’s recent poor form, if Everton can win on Sunday and Arsenal lose against Manchester City on Saturday, all of a sudden Everton welcome Arsenal to Goodison Park on April 6 in a massive clash where a win could see them regain fourth spot.

In Ross Barkley they have a real talent who is a making a concerted push towards England’s World Cup squad for this summer, and his stunning midweek goal against Newcastle was reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne in his prime. The way he picked the ball up on the halfway line, slalomed past several players and finished superbly, he’s a real gem and if he keeps performing well for Everton then he could well be on the plane to Brazil. If Roberto Martinez’s men somehow finish in the top four this season, it would be a monumental achievement for the Toffees.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
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When it comes down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clear.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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Three things we learned from Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup triumph

Seattle Sounders players chase defender Roman Torres (29) after he scored the game-winning shootout goal to defeat the Toronto FC during shoot out MLS Cup soccer final action in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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MLS Cup 2016 was the most well-played game of soccer all year — far from it, in fact — but the Seattle Sounders are MLS champions for the first time in their eight-year history anyway.

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

Three thoughts on a poorly-played, but thoroughly intense 2016 finale…

A cup final, it most certainly was

The numbers of cup finals which feature brilliant, composed attacking play is hugely outweighed by the number of cup finals featuring a total lack thereof. Whether it was down to nerves, the frigid conditions in which the game was played, or a combination of the two, Saturday’s final at BMO Field was yet another example of the latter.

The telling stats: 40 fouls between the two sides (just three yellow cards shown); zero first-half shots attempted by the Sounders, and just three shots in total over 120 minutes (zero on target).

The only moment of true quality came in the 108th minute, when Stefan Frei made the best save you’ve seen all year to deny Jozy Altidore and keep the Sounders on level terms (WATCH HERE).

Michael Bradley, man of the match (until his PK)

As we’ve come to expect, Bradley was anywhere and everywhere on the field for TFC, at all the right times. With Osvaldo Alonso playing the part of warrior in the Sounders midfield, and Jonathan Osorio’s attacking prowess preferred to the defensive chops of Will Johnson alonside Bradley, it was up to the U.S. national team captain to singlehandedly track and mark Nicolas Lodeiro out of the game. He did just that, and so much more.

Then, came his penalty kick, TFC’s second, which was hit with so little pace and no more than three feet to Frei’s left for the easiest save he’d make all night.

The greatest comeback in MLS history

You’ve heard it all by now, but it doesn’t make what the Sounders did from August to December any less remarkable — from ninth place on the day Sigi Schmid was fired (two days before Lodeiro arrived), to the MLS summit in four and a half months. Clint Dempsey, the Sounders’ highest-paid player, was then lost for the rest of the season a month later (irregular heartbeat). No team in MLS history had ever overcome a points gap that large (10) that late in the season to even qualify for the playoffs, let alone advance in said playoffs, reach MLS Cup, and lift the trophy.

Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle native and member of the Sounders family since his own playing days beginning in 1980, replaced Schmid with (presumably) the idea that he’d see out the lost season as interim head coach before making way for a big-name hire this winter. He won eight of his first 14 games as a head coach instead, led the Sounders to the four-seed in the Western Conference, and delivered to his hometown the ultimate prize on Saturday.

Watching the Portland Timbers lift MLS Cup 2015 was undoubtedly the toughest pill to swallow for anyone in Rave Green, but to end their Cascaida Cup rivals’ reign as defending champions by winning that very piece of silverware themselves … that’s a one-up that’ll last a lifetime.