NBC's lead soccer announcer Arlo White

Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Mourinho’s antics and Moyes’ reign – 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 Liverpool vs. Chelsea at Anfield, Jose Mourinho’s latest antics, David Moyes reign at Old Trafford and 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.

The big game of the weekend sees Liverpool hosting Chelsea at Anfield. Can the home side hold their nerve?

This 11-game winning run has been a thrilling high-wire act and the Reds only have a few more steps to reach the other side. It hasn’t been all straightforward for them but they are reaping the rewards from adopting the only approach that could possibly win them the title: a positive, high-pressure, explosive brand of attacking football. They have thrashed some teams on this run, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs and Cardiff have been put to the sword but they’ve also snatched the odd goal in dramatic high-scoring affairs against Swansea, Manchester City and Norwich. They’ve wobbled but they haven’t toppled. They’ve bent but they have not broken. I’m sure that Jose Mourinho will devise a game plan to create anxiety at Anfield but with Brendan Rodgers in charge of Liverpool I think they have sufficient nerve in reserve throughout the rest of this title chase.

 

source: Getty Images
Liverpool and Chelsea square off at Anfield, with the Blues not having happy memories of Merseyside in past seasons.

Jose Mourinho has already started the mind games by saying he’ll play what is in essence his ‘B’ team. What do you make of all this?

Chelsea face the first leg of an FA Youth Cup semifinal on Monday, so I would be surprised if he uses many “kids” at Anfield. We know he is without Terry, Cech and Ramires but Lampard and Mikel are suspended for the second leg vs. Atletico so are therefore available, Salah and Matic are ineligible, therefore available, and Ashley Cole could get another start like he did in Madrid. For me, the options are one wide midfielder and the two center backs, does he want to risk one of Cahill and Luiz or both of them and a striker. After Sunday, he may feel as if he’s out of the title race so it just depends on what agenda he believes he is serving. Jose is in quite a dark mood at the moment. Does he want to hand Manchester City fresh impetus to win the title by beating Liverpool? Questionable. Does he want to make a point about having to play all of these Champions League ties and not being given time off or having games rearranged by the Premier League? That’s possible. Is he unhappy at FA charges against him? That’s possible as well.

Can you see Mourinho going to a place like Anfield and being able to suffer a defeat? I just don’t buy it. He’d love to win, I don’t think he’d be desperately unhappy with a draw. I certainly don’t think he wants to lose at a ground where he already has some very bad memories.

Manchester United finally fired David Moyes after just 10 months in charge at Old Trafford. Was his appointment a mistake and what were the major issues?

It is easy with hindsight to say that it was a mistake. It was always going to be a huge challenge. The timing worked against David Moyes and against Manchester United. Once Sir Alex Ferguson had retired there was now way that Manchester City and Chelsea were going to give United the same pass they did last season when the Red Devils deservedly won the title by 11 points. We’ve seen the emergence of Liverpool, Moyes leaving Everton opened up the hotseat for Roberto Martinez to revolutionize things and they’ve challenged for the top four. Moyes wasn’t helped by David Gill’s departure from the Chief Executive role either. Gill and Sir Alex leaving at the same time, you have to ask the club why that was allowed to happen because it created a vacuum of knowledge and experience at the very summit of a hugely successful football club.

source: AP
David Moyes, right, was fired on Tuesday and replaced by current Untied player Ryan Giggs, left, on an interim basis.

That said. United’s decline has been pretty shocking and Moyes is culpable if not solely responsible. If you’re a Manchester United manager and you start painting your team as an underdog or aspiring to be like your neighbors, I think you’re in trouble. United are all about aggression, being on the front foot, not sitting back, not containing. That was the style Moyes had at Everton and that was always going to be the style he brought to Manchester United. You could question the wisdom of originally appointing him. I always felt that the crucial issue was going to be, would they hand him the pot of $200-250 million for transfers and I always felt they’d be reluctant to do that. David has moved on, Ryan Giggs has come in and the first words he has used are passion, speed, tempo, bravery and imagination. Let’s read between the lines and surmise that Ryan Giggs feels that all those elements have been missing from Manchester United this season.

The relegation battle has really tightened up. Will Norwich and West Brom go down? Do you think Fulham, Cardiff and Sunderland have a chance?

Of course I am completely neutral but I do feel a bit sorry for Norwich. They have been handed a hellish last four games of the season and they battled really well against Liverpool last week. They must have looked at Manchester United and seen them so deflated after defeat at Everton and thought, we might have a chance here to go and do something at Old Trafford. Then David Moyes is fired and one of the all-time legends and greats of United history has taken over, you would expect that with only Rafael and RVP unfit to play, that United will come out and show the fans what they think of Ryan Giggs and they want to make a statement in a game that is on national TV. Poor old Norwich might  be on the end of a torrid evening this Saturday.

source: AP
Sunderland have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up after a draw at Man City and beating Chelsea.

Cardiff, Fulham and Sunderland must be thinking to themselves that if we can get to 33 points, we’ve got a chance because Norwich might just drop into that bottom three with the severity of their run in.

Cardiff vs. Sunderland is clearly a massive game on Sunday, Sunderland will go into that with huge confidence. I saw them at Stamford Bridge beating Chelsea, they got four points against Manchester City and Chelsea, both away from home last week. Connor Wickham has started scoring goals at a vital time of the season and Jozy Altidore had a key moment after winning the winning penalty at Stamford Bridge. Maybe Sunderland feel, particularly with a game in hand, that they can put a run together and get out of it. Having said that, we’ve been looking for all these teams at the bottom to put runs together and very few of them have apart from Crystal Palace. Making predictions at this time of the season is a mugs game.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

There is one for the purists, Southampton vs. Everton. The Toffees have an opportunity to maintain the pressure on Arsenal by playing in the early kick off on Saturday. Then, let’s see how the result of Liverpool vs. Chelsea affects Manchester City’s approach at Crystal Palace. That has developed into one of the toughest games in the Premier League. Tony Pulis has done such a magnificent job that if Liverpool do slip up against Chelsea, then there’s no guarantee City go to Palace and win easily particularly with some of the injuries they’ve got.

Once again, there is plenty of intrigue and things to look forward to. Enjoy the weekend.

Cellar dwelling Houston Dynamo, Owen Coyle decide to part ways

TORONTO, ON - MAY 10:  Head Coach Owen Coyle of the Houston Dynamo smiles prior to an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 10, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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A week ago, Owen Coyle was whispered as possibly leaving the Houston Dynamo to lead Celtic.

With that opening filled by Brendan Rodgers, the Dynamo and Coyle cut ties anyway.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

Coyle struggled to pick up the pieces left behind by Dominic Kinnear in Houston, and the Dynamo are dead last in Major League Soccer after a quarter of the season.

On Wednesday night, the Dynamo announced that Coyle wanted to be closer to his family in England and would be leaving the club immediately.

From HoustonDynamo.com:

“I asked Chris (Canetti) if I could speak with him today and I explained to him the challenge of being away from my family and how we all want the best for Houston Dynamo,” Coyle said. “I want to wish all members of the staff, from owner Gabriel Brener to president Chris Canetti to general manager Matt Jordan, everyone has been such a source of support, along with the players and the technical staff. I’d like to thank the Dynamo supporters, who have been outstanding. We have a brilliant club, and I have no doubt success is just around the corner.”

The Dynamo went 14W-21L-11T during his reign, but have also been severely lacking in talent. The long delay from acquiring Cubo Torres to getting him on the pitch was one of the many things that frustrated progress in Houston.

Coyle is best known for his time with Bolton Wanderers, though that ended early in a Championship season following relegation. Houston is 3W-7L-2T this season, and has Vancouver up next.

Wade Barrett and a pair of Dynamo assistants will lead the club in the interim.

Three things we learned from the late USMNT win over Ecuador

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Frickson Erazo #3 of Ecuador battle for control of the ball against Clint Dempsey #8 of the United States in the first half during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Darlington Nagbe was the star against Ecuador, giving the United States the late 1-0 win in Frisco. There wasn’t much to take away from the match, but one attacking setup certainly performed better than the other, and that was the biggest talking point.

[ RECAP – United States earns late win over Ecuador ]

Three things we learned

1 – When the US plays good defense, it has a creativity problem.

This isn’t anything new, as teams who sit back obviously will have less of the ball. But this isn’t exactly that. The US defended quite well through the first 45 minutes, and they held the majority of the possession, but they failed to do much with it. It resulted in…

That. Yuck. It was horrid to watch, and is frustrating given the level of competition being faced compared to the level of competition to come.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings against Ecuador ]

2 – Does the Pulisic-Wood-Nagbe lineup have more to offer?

The United States began with Clint Dempsey isolated up front, supported by Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi, with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones sitting deep. That lineup was utter trash in the attacking half, producing one good chance in the first half which Zardes flubbed. When Klinsmann switched things up soon after halftime, bringing on Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe, and Alejandro Bedoya, the attack began to show life. It certainly helped that all those substitutes were placed in their natural positions, something not always a given for Klinsmann. This may give the US manager a good look at the more creative setup, and could bode well for the aforementioned players heading into the Copa America. There are obvious downsides to this lineup, such as lack of experience, but it might be worth the risk, especially with those players much more likely to be contributors in 2018 given their age.

3 – Christian Pulisic can actually be a useful piece this summer

On for the final half-hour, the young Borussia Dortmund winger provided positive touches along the left flank. He created a few opportunities for Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi, a promising development to push back against the “he’s not ready” crowd. Pulisic was electric down the left, and was vital in the push the last 20 minutes. It’s just 20 minutes, but it’s a promising small sample size.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s late win over Ecuador

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Brad Guzman #1 of the United States blocks a shot against Ecuador in the first half during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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“Fits and starts” is a good way to describe the United States friendly against Ecuador in Texas on Wednesday, a match that ended 1-0 to the hosts after a controlling second half.

The Yanks took more than 20 minutes to get their act together, and then had a bit of trouble penetrating La Tricolor’s back four.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The second half, however, was straight-up dominant. The lack of finish was troubling, but Darlington Nagbe took care of that. The Portland Timbers man not only scored, but also piled vindication on supporters who couldn’t wait to see him up high, and Michael Bradley deep.

And Christian Pulisic, well, he’s a swoon-worthy talent.

STARTING XI

Brad Guzan — 8 — Didn’t have a ton to do, but did it very well. A welcome improvement from the Aston Villa keeper.

Fabian Johnson — 6 — Probably deserves a 7, but that missed trap of a Jermaine Jones cross was just so ugly.

Steve Birnbaum — 6 — Very shaky early, but settled into the game.

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Christian Noboa #6 of Ecuador takes a shot against John Brooks #6 of the United States and Brad Guzman #1 of the United States in the first half during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
 (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

John Brooks (off 78′) — 7 — Played very well after a weak opening 10 minutes or so. Still takes chances like the center back version of Jermaine Jones, but those chances came off well on Wednesday.

DeAndre Yedlin — 6 — Hit and miss from the right back, who had a heck of a task in dealing with Jefferson Montero. Still, the defensive improvement is impossible to ignore.

Kyle Beckerman (off HT) — 6 — Might’ve picked up an injury. Hard-nosed as usual, but feels like he’s a single lost step away from not fitting the bill.

Jermaine Jones (off 64′) — 6 — Playing as an attack-minded mid with some defensive responsibilities may be the role he was meant to play, and his early second half was promising before subbing off for Bedoya.

Michael Bradley — 7 — No surprise that he — and the States — thrived once Klinsmann moved the Toronto FC man deeper in the midfield.

Gyasi Zardes (off HT) — 5 — The effort was there, as were the runs. The kid works hard and has a brain for the game, but his first touch betrayed him once again. Should’ve been 1-0.

Graham Zusi (off, 88′)– 7 — You know what you’re getting with Zusi, and the Sporting KC man was one of several players who played an assist-worthy ball in this one. Bedoya tapped his 72nd minute pass just wide of the far post.

Clint Dempsey (off 63′) — 5 —  Will be kicking himself for a poor first touch on an early second half cross from Bobby Wood. Didn’t get much service in the first half, but did play a great ball to Zardes.

Substitutes

Darlington Nagbe (on HT) — 8 — This guy. We all knew he had it in him, even Klinsmann after a long enough wait. He was the best player on the pitch in the second half.

Bobby Wood (on HT) — 6 — Missed a few key chances, but set up Nagbe’s winner.

Christian Pulisic (on 63′) — 7 — Dangerous, lively, and that touch. More of him, please.

Alejandro Bedoya (on 64′) — 6 — Should’ve scored, but didn’t. Also probably should’ve started, so we’ll cut him a bit of slack.

Matt Besler (on 78′) — 6 — Totally fine, but Ecuador rarely tested during his tenure.

Michael Orozco (on 88′) — N/A

United States 1-0 Ecuador: Nagbe grabs late winner in 90-minute snoozefest

FRISCO, TX - MAY 25:  Gyasi Zardes #9 of the United States controls the ball against Angel Mena #14 of Ecuador in the first half during an International Friendly match at Toyota Stadium on May 25, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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The United States snoozed its way through one half and flubbed its way through another, saved by an 89th-minute winner from Darlington Nagbe that gave the home side the admittedly deserved win over an even worse Ecuadorian side.

Ecuador came to Frisco, TX as both sides get ready for the Copa America to come just days away, and they each left with little to take from the scoreless draw until Nagbe broke the ice with a minute to go.

The first big chance of the game came just on the half-hour mark, as a beautiful chipped ball from Clint Dempsey over the Ecuador back line sprung Gyasi Zardes free. Unfortunately, the famous Zardes touch saw the ball get away from him and out of play.

The rest of the half snoozed by, and after the break, the US spurned another great chance just three minutes into the second half. A beautiful ball from Michael Bradley reached the far post where Steve Birnbaum, John Brooks, and Clint Dempsey were all waiting, and somehow none of them made contact, instead toppling over each other as the ball rolled harmlessly to the goalkeeper.

Soon after, the US conceded its best chance yet to Ecuador. A great touch by Miller Bolanos sends Angel Mena into acres of space through on goal, but Michael Bradley sprinted from the mid-line to recover and punch the ball out as Mena cut back.

Jurgen Klinsmann switched up the attack past the hour mark, bringing on Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe, and young Christian Pulisic. They created a chance with 20 minutes to go as Graham Zusi delivered a ball across the face of goal. It was out of the reach of Pulisic, but it came to Alejandro Bedoya on the far side, who sent it back across the face, again untouched.

As the US took control through the late stages, they got the winner. DeAndre Yedlin sent in a cross that came off the head of Juan Paredes. Bobby Wood won the rebound, heading it back to Nagbe waiting in the middle, and the 25-year-old chested it down and volleyed it in for his first international goal.

The US takes on Bolivia on Saturday before the Copa America begins June 3.