Premier League Playback – Deadline Day madness, Chelsea’s ‘killers,’ Liverpool’s fluid-three

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TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY – THE FINALE ARRIVES

Happy Deadline Day, one and all. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, here it goes. From 11 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (6 p.m. ET) on September 1, no Premier League teams will be allowed to sign another player until January 1, 2015. All 20 Premier League teams have had since July 1 to sign players. With 62 days to sign whoever you want, plus the time before that to line up deals, why on earth would teams wait until the last minute to sign players?

For the same reason why people rummage around in the bargain bucket: one day, just one day, you could pick out a gem. Deadline Day is a strange beast, one that had caught on across Europe, but most notably in the UK, over the past decade since it arrived in 2003. During the last two months, fans and journalists’ very existence has been spent chasing down reports, reading them, absorbing them, trying to unravel them and then having hopes dashed. It is mad, absorbing and utterly preposterous all at the same time. On the day itself, an intriguing game of cat and mouse plays out, all televised across many networks as the media fuels the incessant need for news, updates and pictures of players arriving at training grounds for medicals and contract talks. It has spiraled out of control.

So that you can take a glance at all the action in all its glory, tune in live to NBCSN from 6 p.m. ET as we have a two-hour special on all the deals.

All last week at PST we stated what each Premier League team needed to do in the final few days, and now hours, of the transfer window. Click on each team below to see if they have achieved what they needed or if they’re still scrambling for players. The latter is most likely.

With plenty of names and moves still expected up until the deadline slams shut at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, anything could happen.  The big names expected to be on the move on deadline day include Radamel Falcao, Javier Hernandez, Alvaro Negredo, Daley Blind, Jermain Defoe, Tom Cleverley, Jay Rodriguez, Sandro, William Carvalho and Toby Alderweireld among many others. Plus, there are always plenty of shock last-gasp deals and a boat load of loan moves to fall back on.

British TV stations (see the video above for an example) will cut to shots of Big Ben chiming its little heart out at 6 p.m. ET on Monday and fans of teams around the nation will either be puffing out their cheeks in relief that their clubs’ star player wasn’t sold, punching the air with delight after several shrewd late deals or holding their head up with the palm of their hand in despair. Transfer Deadline Day did not exist a little over 10 years ago, now it is etched into the English obsession with the game as much as pie and bovril.

[RELATED: Deadline Day news]

Love it or loathe it, Deadline Day creates excitement, intrigue and often entails watching TV journalists chase down PL managers in parking lots at the training complexes, as they try to speed away in high-end SVU’s. Past Deadline Days have seen the likes of Carlos Tevez arrive at West Ham, Ashley Cole head to Chelsea and Marouane Fellaini move to Everton. Those were the hits… though there have been some rather awful pickups at the deadline, as Fernando Torres to Chelsea for $80 million and Andy Carroll to Liverpool for $60 million back in 2011 are right up there with the worst. Oh, and Fellaini to Manchester United last summer. Poor old Marouane has had a mixed time of things on Deadline Day.

Gone are the days of PL chairmen nonchalantly calling each other (fax was probably the form of communication back then) cigar in hand, and putting in requests to buy a player. Now, “sources confirm” or “reports suggest” deals are happening. There are middle men for middle men, agents drip-feeding information and fans are caught up in the middle of it all on social media.

If you are new to Deadline Day, my suggestion is to simply embrace it. In the way that draft picks encapsulate fans of the NFL, Deadline Day has created its own mystic. Can it be altered to be made better and more logical? Probably. But right now, gaze on in wonderment at players shuttle across the UK just before midnight local time, are thrown a new team shirt and told to smile as the ink still dries on their new contract. What happens next is that the players, managers, directors and fans all hope the transfer is a successful one. If not, we only have to wait until January 31 to do it all again.

CHELSEA’S ‘KILLERS’ PREVAIL IN CLASSIC

One of the most entertaining matches in recent PL history took place on Saturday, as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3 in a nine-goal thriller at Goodison Park.

Premier League Schedule – Week 3

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City Recap and watch here
Burnley 0-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Everton 3-6 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Manchester City 0-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Newcastle 3-3 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
QPR 1-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Swansea 3-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-3 Southampton Recap and watch here

The game ebbed and flowed, had frenetic periods with tons of goals, Tim Howard almost killed a man (Diego Costa, to be precise) and two teams attacked with pace, precision and power. In a nutshell, this game encapsulated why the Premier League is the most watched league around the world and why, over everything, it is the most entertaining.

Is soccer a sport, or an entertainment business?

Woah, pump the breaks, let’s save that philosophical Rubik cube for another day, shall we. However, watching Chelsea and Everton going at it at Goodison moved that question prominently into my thoughts as goal after goal arrived. After the game, Jose Mourinho lambasted his team for having a lack of balance but then saluted his ‘killers’ as Roberto Martinez bemoaned so many costly defensive mistakes. Everton have now conceded 10 goals in their opening three PL games and even their usual upbeat Spanish coach must have sat in a dark room for a few hours after this performance.

“If the salt and the pepper of football is goals then to have nine goals in a Premier League match is fantastic ingredients,” Mourinho said. “The two teams played fantastically well. I know Everton are a good offensive side and their movement is not easy to control but we concede three goals it is too much. All of them I can clearly identify mistakes and those who are involved but in the end we are killers in attack.”

Mourinho’s main marksmen were Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. The latter now has four goals in three PL starts, as the Brazilian was fired up from the start and has that mean streak all good players seem to possess (more on that shortly), while he was supplied the ammunition by Fabregas. The Spaniard slid an inch-perfect pass through to Costa after 36 seconds to score the opener and Everton just couldn’t stop Cesc’s magic. Although they obviously made a few mistakes at the back, Chelsea looked so deadly in attack. That’s in great contrast to last season when they would grind out wins against teams and defend for their lives. The new-look Chelsea may concede more but they will embarrass plenty more teams if they carry on this offensive assault. Everton weren’t that bad in this nine-goal thriller. Chelsea were just bloody good going forward. With the addition of Loic Remy to replace Fernando Torres, Mourinho’s attacking options have been bolstered further. That’s frightening for the rest of the PL.

LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE CLICK

Another team looked ominous offensively over the weekend: Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling and now, Mario Balotelli, stole the show.

Those three clicked into place perfectly at White Hart Lane, slaughtering Spurs’ defense with blistering counter attacks a Liverpool emanated signs that last season’s success wasn’t just a one-year wonder. Sterling’s star shone bright as the England winger scored the first and could have had two or three more of his own. Spurs just couldn’t deal with the third man runs Liverpool launched time and time again. When Balotelli would check in to receive the ball high, either Sterling, Jordan Henderson or Sturridge would already be making a forward run for the next pass. What this did was totally throw off a Spurs side built on high pressure and thwarting the opposition from getting in behind the defense. Liverpool did it time and time again.

Sterling stole the show. The English winger is so quick over the first 15-20 yards, he is gone before defenders can react. Sturridge was sublime in control of the ball and his passing helped set up numerous attacks, while Balotelli ran himself into the ground for the cause and enjoyed a decent 60 minutes 0n his Liverpool debut. After the game, Brendan Rodgers revealed that he is trying to turn the enigmatic Italian into a team player and revealed the following exchange between him and Mario on the training ground this week.

Remarkable. If Balotelli is to replace Suarez and cause havoc alongside Sturridge and Sterling this season, he will need to continue to buy into the team-first mantra which is effervescent at Anfield. In his first game, the signs are promising that ‘Super Mario’ can be a key part of Liverpool’s phenomenal three-pronged attack. Balotelli’s finishing is usually top notch but he looked nervous after snatching at two early chances. Whatever his finishing lacked on Sunday, he made up for that in effort, link up play and focus.

Rodgers is taking a chance on Balotelli who was the center of attention on debut but with Sterling and Sturridge both reformed and rehabilitated under his stewardship, who’s to say Balotelli isn’t next? Here is his Instagram post after his debut, as he saluted Steven Gerrard after his penalty kick goal. Balotelli would normally take PKs but Liverpool skipper Gerrard pulled rank and instead of Balo sulking, he respected the decision and seems to be buying into Liverpool’s team spirit. Respect and admiration for Gerrard and his teammates will earn Balotelli the same in return. Everything is rosy in the garden at Anfield after Balotelli’s arrival. For now.

STOKE STUN MAN CITY, SILKY SAINTS AND SWANS

Despite salivating over Liverpool’s performance on Sunday, plus the incredible scenes in the shootout at Goodison on Saturday, Stoke City provided the biggest shock of the weekend. The Potters went to Manchester City and won. For the first time in their Premier League existence, Stoke beat Man City away from home and in 12 attempts, they won in Manchester against their two big rivals.

Mame Biram Diouf’s powerful 80-yard run and then a cheeky finish through Joe Hart’s legs succumbed City to just their second home defeat in the PL since

Premier League Star Performers – Week 3

Player Reason
1. Raheem Sterling 1 goal, incredible speed, skill
2. Morgan Schneiderlin 2 goals, sensational CM display
3. Diego Costa 2 goals, clinical forward play
4. Nathan Dyer 2 goals, superb pace on flank
5. Cesc Fabregas Assist, Chelsea’s creative hub

To make his goal even sweeter, Diouf was a former Manchester United player. The bullish Senegalese forward came back to haunt United’s close rivals, a the Citizens were left shaking their heads as Manuel Pellegrini’s men saw their fast start to the season come to a shuddering halt with their first defeat in three.

Elsewhere, two other sides beginning with ‘S’ have been described as a word beginning with ‘S’ for quite some time… no, no, let’s keep this PG. ‘Stylish’ was the word I was looking for, duh, and both Swansea and Southampton have it in abundance. Garry Monk’s side made it three wins from three to start the season as they beat West Bromwich Albion 3-0 with Nathan Dyer grabbing another two goals and Wayne Routledge scoring an absolute stunner. The Swans’ philosophy of fluid, expansive and patient soccer has been carried on under Monk’s stewardship as the former club captain, aged just 34, continues the South Wales clubs stunning start to his first full season in charge. Elsewhere, Southampton are showing signs of recovering and getting back on the horse too. A painful summer exodus at St. Mary’s has been well documented but we are finally seeing the new signings gel as Ronald Koeman’s men rolled over West Ham after going behind early on. Morgan Schneiderlin scored twice and Graziano Pelle scored his first PL goal in a utterly dominant 3-1 win. The Saints, Swans and Stoke went marching on this weekend.

Watch the video above for a recap of Saturday’s action, while the video below recaps Sunday’s three games.

USMNT UPDATE – HEADING TO PRAGUE

Brad Guzan continues to hold onto the “American player of exceptional awesomness” gong after the weekend. Aston Villa ground out another hard-fought win and are now unbeaten through three games, winning twice, as the Villans sit third in the league. Guzan has conceded just once in 270 minutes and the USMNT number one heads over to Prague in fine fettle as the USA’s first choice ‘keeper. Tim Howard, the man Guzan will be taking over from between the posts during his sabbatical, didn’t have such a great weekend.

WATCH: USA vs. Czech Rep. – Live on NBCSN,  Wednesday, 2:15 p.m. ET

Howard let in six goals as Chelsea beat Everton 6-3, the USMNT ‘keeper also got away with handling outside the box and then was booked for his part in a scuffled involving his teammate Seamus Coleman and Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Watch this clip to see Howard’s reaction as Costa taunted Coleman following the latter scoring an own goal to put Chelsea 3-1 ahead. Poor sportsmanship from Costa. Howard wasn’t having any of it. That reaction had been brewing as both players were going at it psychically and verbally during the game in a heated duel. Timmy stepped in to put Costa in his place.

Geoff Cameron was injured in Stoke’s midweek 3-0 League Cup win over Portsmouth and didn’t feature in the Potters’ incredible 1-0 win away at Manchester City. The USMNT defender is said to be on the move during deadline day, with Sunderland, Lazio and Southampton all teams being linked with the Bostonian. As for Jozy Altidore, he jumped off the bench again as Sunderland lost 1-0 away at QPR.

Guzan and Altidore will join up with the U.S. national team in the Czech Republic, as you can watch the USA’s first game since the World Cup live on NBCSN at 2:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Player ratings from USMNT’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica

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The U.S. national team is headed to the final of the 2017 Gold Cup after knocking off Costa Rica 2-0 on Saturday.

Who stood out for all the right — and wrong — reasons, as Bruce Arena’s side prepares to face either Mexico or Jamaica in Wednesday’s final?

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

GK — Tim Howard: 7 — Forced to make two saves, the first of which was a hero’s intervention with Marco Ureña racing in one on one. The second came not long before the opening goal, and he did well to spill it no more than a foot or two in front of him. Howard looks at the top of his game, again.

LB — Jorge Villafaña: 6.5 — For the first time all tournament, he got forward with regularity and served the ball into the box. With the entire flank open ahead of him, Villafaña had to fill the void of width. Still, not a ton of quality. Fortunately, he was tested very little in open space.

CB — Matt Besler: 7.5 — Best of the defensive unit, perhaps so much so he’s vaulted himself back into the four-man rotation for the World Cup.

CB — Omar Gonzalez: 6 — Besler stood out as the star, hardly putting a foot wrong all night, thus overshadowing Gonzalez for the most part. Costa Rica opted to build with the ball on the ground, thus negating Gonzalez’s greatest strength, his aerial presence. That said, he wasn’t remotely exposed in the weakest facet of his game, either.

RB — Graham Zusi: 6 — Paul Arriola’s presence ahead of him was immeasurably important. I’m still bullish on Zusi as a right back, with the necessary shading of defensive help. Before you lose your mind, consider the italicized part.

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

CM — Michael Bradley: 7 — Not his most influential game, but it didn’t need to be. With Kellyn Acosta doing much of the heavy lifting, in terms of covering acreage, Bradley played the part of disciplined organizer slightly deeper in midfield than we’re accustomed to seeing. It’s a role that suits him well, with the right partner ahead of him. His influence on Acosta will also benefit the USMNT for years to come.

CM — Kellyn Acosta: 7 — The kid is (still) alright, even after a couple subpar games during the group stage. As stated above, the partnership matters. Afforded a bit more time and space by the Ticos, Acosta pushed into the final third all night long and provided the extra man to play with possession high up the field.

LM — Darlington Nagbe: 6.5 — He’ll always shade more toward the center of the field, even when played as an out-and-out wide midfielder, and that’s what he did against Costa Rica. It’s nice having that extra man in the middle, but it turns the left wing into a barren wasteland. Take the good with the bad.

RM — Paul Arriola: 6.5 — You may not get a ton of final product from Arriola, but with Zusi playing an out-of-role right back behind him, it’s vitally important that the wide player on that side of the field offers defensive cover from the front. Arriola does so, and gets into (and wins) more than a winger’s fair share of 50-50 challenges. He’s a net positive in a lot of things that don’t show up in boxscores. There’s always a place for a player like that.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

FW — Jozy Altidore: 6.5 — We’ve known this for a while, but Altidore is far more effective playing with a partner up top. His tendency to drop into midfield helps to link play with someone ahead of him. When he’s all by his lonesome, who/what’s he to link?

FW — Jordan Morris: 7 — Piggybacking on the above point about Altidore, Morris is the perfect complement — quick in short bursts, a burner in the open field, and a smart runner of channels on occasion. He was the best player on the field the opening 30 minutes or so. Faded down the stretch, but the strong first half earns him positive marks.

Sub — Clint Dempsey: 9 — An assist and a goal, all in 24 minutes’ work. More on the hero of the day in a bit.

Sub — Gyasi Zardes: N/A — 7 minutes on the field, with little to no real impact on the game.

Sub — Dax McCarty: N/A — 5 minutes off the bench, but he served his purpose in helping to keep possession and put the game to bed.

Dempsey propels USMNT past Costa Rica, into Gold Cup final

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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It took considerably longer than Bruce Arena would have hoped, but the U.S. national team edged its way past Costa Rica, courtesy of Jozy Altidore‘s 72nd-minute goal, in the two sides’ 2017 Gold Cup semifinal in Arlington, Tex., on Saturday.

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

It was Arena’s injection of Clint Dempsey just six minutes earlier which would prove to be the game-changing moment. The soon-to-be all-time leading scorer in USMNT history created Altidore’s goal, the 38th tally of his international career, with a silky smooth turn and through ball that unlocked an otherwise formidable, frustrating Ticos defense. The Nacogdoches, Tex., native pulled level with Landon Donovan on the USMNT’s scoring charts 10 minutes later as he sealed the Yanks’ passage into the final.

The clock read 11 seconds when the USMNT’s first scoring chance arrived. Straight from the kickoff, they worked the ball to a streaking Jordan Morris, who in full stride unleashed a hard, right-footed strike from 10 yards out. Post.

For all the early excitement, and the massive possession advantage (61-39), it was the closest the USMNT would come to beating Patrick Pemberton, as the Yanks failed to put a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Tim Howard was called into heroic action in the 37th minute, when Bryan Ruiz dribbled through the heart of midfield and played Marco Ureña into the penalty area. The San Jose Earthquakes striker went low and far post with his effort from 12 yards out, but Howard was quick to get down and make the one-on-one save.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

The Americans’ first chance of the second half didn’t come until the 70th minute. Clint Dempsey played a simple square ball to Kellyn Acosta, whose first-time shot forced Pemberton into a tough save to push the ball high into the air.

Two minutes later, the breakthrough. Dempsey slipped Jozy Altidore through with a delicate through ball into space, and the Toronto FC man latched onto it quickly and slotted it past Pemberton despite the ‘keeper getting a hand on it.

Dempsey’s history-making moment seemed innocuous enough from the start — a free kick from all of 25 yards out, at a difficult angle. Whatever, said Dempsey, who went for goal anyway. His bouncing ball evade Pemberton at the near post and gave him 57 international goals.

The winner of Mexico versus Jamaica, the second semifinal which will take place on Sunday, awaits the USMNT in the final on Wednesday.

Mexico block out drama before Gold Cup semifinal vs. Jamaica

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PASADENA, Calif. (AP) After nearly two years as Mexico’s head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio is used to constant criticism of his tactics and lineups. He isn’t surprised by regular calls for his firing from fans, media and former national team players — and that’s just when Mexico is playing well.

“We do our best so that the players cannot feel the criticism,” Osorio said Saturday. “We try not to translate it to the players. We try to maintain the best spirit in the team.”

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

Yet for all of the drama and distraction around El Tri this summer, Osorio is one win from getting a young roster with an ever-changing lineup into the CONCACAF Gold Cup final while he coaches from the stands, thanks to a FIFA suspension.

Mexico faces Jamaica on Sunday night at the Rose Bowl, El Tri‘s home away from home, for a spot in the championship game.

Osorio is already proud of his experimental roster’s Gold Cup success despite a steady drumbeat of criticism from those who don’t like the Colombian coach’s plans or his players’ execution of them. He chose a youthful group for this tournament to build Mexico’s base of experience for next year’s World Cup and the years ahead.

“Our goal is to build a team that can compete at any level,” Osorio said. “We’ve had some losses that have been very difficult, and the scars are there. But at the same time, they show that we’re strong and moving forward, and this team has won much more than it has lost. We are very motivated, and we want to continue building and growing. We want to have more players competing for a spot that can help us. We want to have a present and a future.”

Mexico has won three of the last four Gold Cups, beating Jamaica 3-1 in the 2015 final. These teams also met at the Rose Bowl 13 months ago during the Copa America, when Javier Hernandez scored an early goal in a 2-0 win.

West Ham-bound Chicharito is among several tested veterans not participating in the Gold Cup. Mexico has struggled to replace his offense, scoring half of its six goals in this tournament back in its opener.

“We are all motivated and ready to give our all for the team,” said midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who got the only goal in Mexico’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Honduras. “We all want to be part of this.”

Osorio will watch from the crowd while serving the fifth game of his six-match suspension for what FIFA deemed aggressive behavior toward officials during a match against Portugal in the Confederations Cup, where Mexico finished a disappointing fourth.

[ MORE: Mexico beat Honduras, book their place in semifinals ]

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw 10 days ago during Gold Cup group play in Denver. El Tri dominated possession, but Mexico’s fans booed their own team after it failed to find the net behind stalwart Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Mexican fans booing their own team is nothing new, but El Tri can also count on wild support from Los Angeles’ vast Latino population.

Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore acknowledges his Reggae Boyz are underdogs, but he believes his players raise their level whenever they get the chance to wreck the plans of the U.S. or Mexico, the pre-tournament favorites.

“I think our confidence is high,” Whitmore said. “We don’t want to be overconfident going into the game. We know the Mexican team has a lot to offer. It is a team that we have to give a lot of respect, based on what they’ve been through over the years.”

Jamaica is also playing without top talent, including Wes Morgan, Giles Barnes and all of its England-based players. Darren Mattocks, the Portland forward who has excelled in the Gold Cup, also could miss the semifinal due to an injury, Whitmore said.

Jamaica showed its offensive potency last Thursday with a pair of beautiful goals in a quarterfinal victory over Canada. Whitmore plans a “totally different approach” from the defensive caution with which Jamaica played El Tri earlier in the month.

“We try to be mean in conceding goals, and that’s been working for us,” Whitmore said. “We want to be still disciplined. We want to be compact in defense, but on the other hand, I think the transition game in defense is important if we want to get past this Mexico team.”

FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT vs. Costa Rica — Gold Cup semifinals

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The last time the U.S. national team faced Costa Rica, the final score was 4-0 in favor of the home side, in San Jose (not the one in California). Six days later, Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and replaced by Bruce Arena.

On Saturday, it’ll be Arena’s USMNT which takes on Los Ticos with a place in the 2017 Gold Cup final on the line. One of Mexico and Jamaica, who’ll face off in the second semifinal on Sunday, comes next.

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

[ LIVE: Gold Cup scoreboard ]

Arena has made five changes to the team that beat El Salvador 2-0 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. Incoming are Graham Zusi (for Eric Lichaj), Matt Besler (Matt Hedges), Jorge Villafaña (Justin Morrow), Kellyn Acosta (Gyasi Zardes) and Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey).

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