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New York City’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise: “It can only get better”

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(By Jack Harrison, speaking to Joe Prince-Wright)

BACK TO THE START

When I think back to the start of my journey to the USA, it was all my mom, really. I didn’t really have anything to do with it until later on. She was looking for me to go elsewhere when I was around 11 or 12 and in the academy at Manchester United, just because she wanted me to have a better education and something to fall back on if soccer didn’t work out. She spoke to a couple of people and did her own research and it was recommended to her that I come over my freshman year of high school. That was at the age of 14. When I was around 13 she introduced this idea to me.

I was really apprehensive at first. All of the little kids in the academies in England, they all think the same way. They all want to make the first team and that’s it. It is the only thing they’ve got in their brain. She helped me to have an open mind and she said to me ‘go there and visit and if you like it you can stay out there and if you don’t, you can just come back and we can figure something out.’

We didn’t have enough money for us both to travel out to America at the same time. Once I visited Berkshire School, it was amazing. One of the best experiences that I’ve had, the fact that you can go to school, get a good education and play soccer every day. The facilities there, the community there, everything was just so welcoming. It was just so nice.

In truth, I never doubted my decision to come to the USA. The support system I had at Berkshire was amazing. I am a very independent person so I’ve always kind of been by myself. I like living away from home. That wasn’t a big thing for me. I’ve grown up an only child so to be in a dorm was just like a dream come true really.

I had a lot of fun and I could talk to my friends if I had any problems or anything like that. My coach, Jon Moodey, was the biggest support for me I guess. Just because through soccer he would do anything he could to have me out on the field. Then off the field he would help me out as much as he could as well. His family has been like my second family since I’ve been out here. The only issue was the homework at first because in England it’s not really required. You’re supposed to do it but if you don’t, it’s not going to impact much. Whereas over here, it goes towards your grade. It took me a while to manage my time and get my homework done but apart from that the lifestyle and everything was pretty easy to adjust to just because of all the support I had around me.

I have so much to thank my mom for. My mom and dad split up when I was three and ever since she has done nothing but want the best for me and do everything she can for me. Without her I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve only got her to thank really for allowing me to have this opportunity to be out here and doing the things I’m doing right now. It’s all down to her.


THE BIG LEAP ACROSS THE POND

When I think about the future, I’m not sure what lies ahead. That’s exciting. I’m only 19 and I’m in the last stages of my green card process right now. I’m not sure what steps are in order to get citizenship but I think that’s something further down the line. That will potentially take a while anyway and right now I am just focusing on being here and doing whatever I can to help this club.

Looking back on my journey to this point, speaking to anyone in England I’d recommend the route I took to come to the USA at a young age. I know it’s hard to be away from home at such a young age but if you look at the benefits and the outcome of most people who come out here, it’s all been pretty successful. It’s been worth it with the connections you make and I’m just surprised that more people don’t do it to be honest because it is an opportunity you can’t really pass on.

A lot of English kids don’t know the opportunity is out there to do this. When I was first announcing I was leaving to play soccer in the States, everyone was like ‘oh. Why are you going over there to play soccer?’ It is actually much better than what I expected and I don’t think that people in England realize that the standard here is definitely growing now and developing. It is a lot better than what people think and it can only get better from here on out with the players they are bringing in and the youth players developing with the academies now as well. It is only going to keep growing and I think a lot of people in England need to realize that.

Despite what some people may say, college is a good environment to be in for young players. From the high school I was in at Berkshire, it prepared me pretty well in terms of the types of routines you get in for the day but the standard is definitely getting better in college. There is a lot of good development that goes on. I think it is completely different to what it’s like in Europe. Obviously you have the educational piece which is a part of it and I think that’s a massive difference. It is kind of hard to compare the systems in Europe and the USA because the schooling, although some people might not think it, it takes a lot away from the professional side of being a football player.

Like I say, it’s tough to compare. Where I was at, Wake Forest, they did the best they could to create this professional environment. It was good that way but it will never be as good as it could be because of the school side, which is also important. I’m not saying we should get rid of it because it is two massive parts. There’s just a difference between here and Europe. Adding the educational part on too is tough.


GOING PRO

The start to my rookie season was hardly ideal… The injury I suffered was a massive setback. It was a new experience for me. I was just glad to have the support around me. The trainers, Patrick Vieira and then doing rehab with Frank [Lampard] was an experience I will never forget. All the guys have just been great with me so far. That’s really showing in the way we are playing now as a team. We are obviously doing well, at the top of the league and stuff. Patrick has got some great ideas and everyone is believing in him. You can see that in the way we are playing.

Patrick is very demanding. At the same time he can relate to you and makes you feel comfortable. He asks a lot from you and he is never satisfied with what we are doing. There is always something we can do better and I think that’s a good thing because that’s how you improve and develop as a team. That’s the reason why we are playing the way we are today because of him and his attitude towards the team. He is a lot of fun to be around. He makes it enjoyable to come in every day. He’s been a great coach so far.

On the field the likes of Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo have just been amazing, offering their experiences to the group and to myself. People of my age and even those that are older, all we can do is listen and try and take on board what they are saying and try and perform that. That’s been the best part really. These guys, they don’t think they are better than anybody else. That’s a nice part about them because it makes you feel more comfortable around them and when you play with them. They definitely add a lot to this team.

When they talk you listen and being around them, you get the whole package. They give you lots of advice about the little things on the field. It is easier for me to communicate with Frank, speaking the same language, but David has been a lot of help too offering his knowledge and help and Pirlo is still working on his English but he tries to help communicate what might help me in a game. I just try and do my best to take it all in and try and perform what they want doing. It has been good, they have been great on and off the field.

If you look at the players on our team, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be up there with the top teams this season. As soon as Patrick came in, what he wanted was for the club to be successful and we want to win something at the end of the year. With the way we are playing right now and the way he is coaching, it is all starting to come together. I think it can only get better from here as long as we keep humble and keep working hard.


THE FUTURE

One day it would be nice to go back and play in England and the Premier League. Obviously we will have to see what happens down the road but right now I am just trying to focus on doing what I can here. If the opportunity comes up then we can discuss that after the season but that would be a dream come true, to play in the Premier League in front of all those people and at that standard as well. I think that’s something further down the road.

Everyone asks me if I would prefer to represent the USA or England at national team level. I get that question a lot. But, the truth is there’s been no contact from either the U.S. or England. It would be nice to represent my home country and wear that badge on my shirt but at the same time, if the interest is not there, then I’m open to play for the U.S. I think that is something for down the road. It is something to think about later, but right now I just want to focus on being at New York City FC.

When I was growing up I always looked up to the likes of Ronaldinho, Zidane, Michael Owen, David Beckham, all those kinds of players. But I’ve always been a massive Liverpool fan so Steven Gerrard has been up there as well.

Ahead of our game against LA Galaxy last weekend I was like, “I might have to put in a tackle on him…!’ No, no. I’m just joking! It was an amazing experience and something not many people can say they’ve done. Obviously being alongside Frank, I was on the other side of the Liverpool-Chelsea rivalry and we managed to grind out a win! It was awesome to end up facing one of my idols in Stevie G.

PL Sunday preview: Wayward Watford welcome woeful West Ham

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In a reversal of roles, based on preseason projections at least, Watford welcome West Ham United to Vicarage Road on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for a clash of mid-table climbers and relegation fighters, respectively.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Man Utd, Chelsea win big… so do Man City ]

Watford began the 2017-18 Premier League season in fine form, winning four of their first eight games and losing just one (to runaway leaders Manchester City, no less). In their last three games, however, the Hornets have conceded eight goals, while scoring just four themselves, and winning zero points. Coincidentally — nor not, perhaps — that three-game slide began at the same time Watford manager Marco Silva‘s name was linked with the vacant manager’s job at Everton. With Ronald Koeman fired almost four weeks ago now, Watford have rejected approach after approach from Everton owner Farhad Moshiri. Silva, for his first three months of efforts, has been roundly praised by the club’s supporters and players alike.

“Everybody could see he changed a lot of things in the team. We had quite a lot of the same players but we improved a lot,” defender Christian Kabasele said this week. “When you have somebody like this and other teams are looking for him it’s important that Watford try to do everything possible to keep him.”

West Ham, meanwhile, started the season poorly and have remained equally so in recent weeks. Slaven Bilic was subsequently fired two weeks and succeeded by David Moyes, who had been out of a job since guiding Sunderland to relegation at the end of last season. Sunday’s bout with Watford will see Moyes make his debut for West Ham, the fourth club to employ him since leaving Everton four and a half years ago. To make matters more difficult, the Hammers’ leading scorer, Javier Hernandez (4 goals), won’t be available after picking up an injury on international duty.

“It’s a clean slate for the entire squad,” Moyes said last week. “They’ve all worked very hard this week and responded in a positive manner to everything we’ve asked of them. It will obviously take time for the players to fully understand our style and methods but the initial signs are very encouraging — they’ve bought in what we are trying to do and that’s a good base for us to build on.”

INJURIES: Watford — OUT: Troy Deeney (suspension), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Isaac Success (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Sebastian Prodl (hamstring), Roberto Pereyra (hamstring) | West Ham — OUT: Javier Hernandez (hamstring), James Collins (ankle), Sam Byram (thigh), Jose Fonte (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Michail Antonio (ribs)

The 2 Robbies: North London Painted Red

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In today’s pod, the Robbies heap praise on Arsenal’s impressive performance in the North London Derby (00:30), analyze Manchester United’s 4-1 win against Newcastle on the back of Paul Pogba’s return (10:00), ask if this Man City side is the best Premier League side ever (18:25), debate where Kevin De Bruyne’s current form ranks in the league’s greatest ever players (23:45) and pick the best summer signing so far this season (27:15; hint, hint – he might be leading the league in scoring).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Draw in Madrid derby puts Barca 10 clear of capital rivals

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid played to a scoreless draw in their first derby at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium on Saturday, leaving both teams further away from Spanish league leader Barcelona.

Barcelona won at Leganes 3-0 earlier and ended the day 10 points in front of both Madrid clubs after 12 matches. The thriving Catalan club is seven points in front of second-place Valencia, which will try to extend its seven-game winning streak at Espanyol on Sunday.

The draw extended Atletico’s winless run at its new home to five matches. It drew three straight entering this weekend. Diego Simeone’s team has won only two of its last 10 games in all competitions.

Both teams will have to remain nearly perfect for the rest of the season to try to catch up to Barcelona, which has won 11 of its 12 league matches.

It was a tense between Real and Atletico from the start, with hard fouls from both sides.

Real had control for most of the game but was not able to create many significant chances.

Atletico had one of its best opportunities early when forward Angel Correa entered the area free from markers with only goalkeeper Kiko Casilla to beat but sent his shot wide.

Substitute Kevin Gameiro also came close in the second half, but his shot over Casilla was cleared by Real defender Raphael Varane in front of the goal-line.

Real threatened with a few runs by Isco and a couple of free kicks taken by Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was another tough night for Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann. Ronaldo has scored six times in the Champions league but only once in La Liga, while Griezmann has only three goals in 14 matches with Atletico in all competitions. The France forward was jeered when he was replaced by Fernando Torres near the end of the second half.

Luis Suarez scored twice to end a five-match scoring drought in Barcelona’s win.

The Uruguay striker found the net in each half and substitute midfielder Paulinho scored late to give the Catalan club its 11th win.

Leganes, ninth in the standings, had its chances early in southern Madrid but couldn’t beat Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Suarez opened the scoring in the 28th after Leganes goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar dropped the ball in front of the goal after a cross by Paco Alcacer. Suarez’s second in the 60th was a rebound shot after Cuellar parried a shot by Lionel Messi. Suarez hadn’t scored in more than a month.

“What mattered to me was that I was feeling good and was helping the team, and today the goals helped us get the three points against a difficult rival,” Suarez said. “We always try to play better, but it’s not always possible.”

Paulinho sealed the victory in the 90th after a pass by Messi, who was on the ground fighting for the ball when he tipped it back to the midfielder.

Leganes, playing only in its second season in the first division, wore a specially designed purple shirt to promote the fight against gender violence.

“We had our opportunities, but in the end we knew that we were playing against the best team in the world, and with very little they can score on you,” Leganes midfielder Ruben Perez said.

Sevilla recovered from its loss to Barcelona in the previous round by beating Celta Vigo 2-1 to move back to fifth place.

Celta got on the board first through Maxi Gomez, but the hosts rallied with goals by Luis Muriel in the first half and Nolito in the second.

It was the fourth win in five matches for Sevilla in all competitions.

Markel Bergara and Jorge Molina scored in the first 10 minutes to lead Getafe to a comfortable 4-1 win over Alaves at home.

It was the 10th league loss for Alaves, which remains in 18th place. Getafe is 10th.

“Our performance was embarrassing,” Alaves coach Gianni De Biasi said.

Bundesliga: Bayern running away (again) after slow start

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BERLIN (AP) Robert Lewandowski scored twice to help Bayern Munich stretch its lead in the Bundesliga to six points with a 3-0 defeat of Bavarian rival Augsburg on Saturday.

It was the 500th league win for Jupp Heynckes as a player or coach and extends the 72-year-old’s winning start to eight games across all competitions since he returned for his fourth stint.

“That’s a surprise for me. I don’t bother with statistics and numbers,” Heynckes said on being told about his winning landmark. “But it’s an impressive number (500). I had a long career as a player, and now as a coach. It wasn’t planned.”

Heynckes was coaxed out of retirement to take over from the fired Carlo Ancelotti on Oct. 5. Bayern was trailing then-leader Borussia Dortmund by five points at the time. Now the side is nine points ahead of Dortmund, which hasn’t won in the league since Sept. 30, and six ahead of Leipzig, held to a draw at Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern midfielder Arturo Vidal broke the deadlock after half an hour, swiveling to fire home the rebound from a difficult angle after Mats Hummels’s effort was blocked and the ball ricocheted off Niklas Suele.

Vidal turned provider seven minutes later, playing Lewandowski through on a counterattack to shoot past Marwin Hitz.

The Poland striker claimed his league-leading 13th goal of the season early in the second half with a perfectly struck volley to Joshua Kimmich’s precise long cross from the right.

Vidal headed against the crossbar just afterward before Bayern conserved energy for Wednesday’s Champions League game at Anderlecht.

The win stretched the side’s unbeaten record to 28 games at home.

Winless Cologne’s terrible start to the league continued with its 10th defeat in 12 games, while the discussion over video assistance in the league will continue after two mistakes by referee Felix Brych.

Daniel Brosinski’s penalty before the break was enough for a 1-0 win for Mainz against Cologne, but how it came about will ensure the controversy over video assistance goes on.

Brych pointed to the spot when Pablo De Blasis fell under Frederik Sorensen’s challenge. He then consulted the video assistant, who had the benefit of studying replays in Cologne, and stood by the decision – despite television showing that Sorensen made hardly any contact with the Mainz player.

Brych later sent off Mainz’s Giulio Donati for what he perceived as striking Leon Bittencourt after a tussle between the two. However, Bittencourt’s foot struck Donati in the face beforehand. Donati, who was lying on the pitch clutching his face, brushed the Cologne player away when he went to lift him up.

Following controversial decisions in previous games, the German soccer federation said video assistants were only to step in when there was “a clear wrong decision.”

Ten-man Leverkusen came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at home against second-place Leipzig.

Timo Werner’s early penalty put the visitors in front before Leon Bailey equalized before the break.

The home side’s hopes took a blow when Benjamin Henrichs was sent off for handball on the line and Emil Forsberg scored the resulting penalty, but Kevin Volland equalized again with a quarter-hour remaining.

Wolfsburg defeated Freiburg 3-1 at home to give coach Martin Schmidt his first win after he started with seven draws.

On loan from Bayern, Serge Gnabry did brilliantly to set up Mark Uth for Hoffenheim’s injury-time equalizer in a 1-1 draw with visiting Eintracht Frankfurt.