: Francine Daveta/NBC Sports

NBC Sports finalizes TV talent for Premier League coverage

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NBC Sports Group announced its on-air talent for coverage of the Barclays Premier League will feature Arlo White as lead play-by-play voice, Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux as match analysts and Gary Lineker as special contributor. The commentating team will be supported domestically by Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, who will join host Rebecca Lowe as studio analysts in Stamford, Conn.

The England-based commentating team will call the matches live, on-site. White (pictured with Lowe), who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC’s coverage of MLS and the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the United Kingdom to partner with former England internationals Dixon and Le Saux, who will split time in the booth working as color commentators. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will support the telecasts as a special contributor and will also host on-site coverage throughout the season.

White burst onto the U.S. Soccer scene as the television and radio voice of the Seattle Sounders at the start of the 2010 season. His smooth play-call and intricate insight won immediate plaudits from the soccer-impassioned Cascadia region, leading to NBC hiring his services to cover its MLS and Olympic coverage. Before coming to the States, White spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live, Saturday 5 Live Sport, and the Monday Night Club and has covered a variety of BBC events including the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

MORE: NBC Sports’ programming plans for Premier League

Dixon and Le Saux are no strangers to the soccer savvy U.S. public. Dixon earned 22 caps with the English national team from 1990-99 and played for five English clubs including, most famously, Arsenal, where he played from 1988-2002. Dixon began as a color commentator for BBC before switching to rivals ITV, where he will continue to contribute in addition to his duties with NBC. Le Saux played 36 times for the Three Lions from 1994-2000 and played for Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and Southampton over his 17 year career. Since retiring from professional football Le Saux has worked for BBC as a color commentator and an analyst on Match of the Day 2.

Lineker will contribute to NBC’s Premier League coverage while continuing to host BBC’s flagship show, Match of the Day. As a player Lineker earned 80 caps for England and famously won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals. His 17 year career began at Leicester City before moving on to Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight. After retirement Lineker entered the sports broadcasting world working for the BBC, Al Jazeera Sports and Eredivisie Live.

NBC’s commentating team will be supported by the studio team, which will provide coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford. Lowe, who was recently named lead host for NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League, will team up with former Jamaican international Earle and former English footballer Mustoe.  Since retiring from playing, Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN while Mustoe has enjoyed a six year stint providing color commentary and analyst work for ESPN.

The full press release is below

NBC SPORTS GROUP’S PREMIER LEAGUE ANNOUNCERS

ARLO WHITE NAMED LEAD PLAY-BY-PLAY VOICE WORKING WITH LEE DIXON AND GRAEME LE SAUX; WILL CALL GAMES FROM THE U.K.

LEGENDARY GARY LINEKER TO SERVE AS SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR TO PREMIER LEAGUE TELECASTS

FORMER JAMAICAN NATIONAL TEAM PLAYER ROBBIE EARLE AND FORMER ENGLISH FOOTBALLER ROBBIE MUSTOE TO SERVE AS STUDIO ANALYSTS WITH HOST REBECCA LOWE

NEW YORK – April 16, 2013 – NBC Sports Group has announced on-air talent for its coverage of Barclays Premier League soccer, starting in August.

  • Arlo White will serve as the lead play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s Barclays Premier League coverage beginning in August, calling games on-site from the U.K.;
  • Former Premier League stars Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will join White, on-site in the U.K. as analysts on NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage;
  • Legendary U.K. footballer and presenter Gary Lineker will serve as a special contributor to NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage, and occasionally host on-site studio coverage in the U.K.;
  • Former Jamaican National Team player Robbie Earle and former English footballer Robbie Mustoe will serve as studio analysts, alongside studio host Rebecca Lowe from NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn.

ARLO WHITE – PLAY-BY-PLAY: White, who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage, and was NBC’s voice of soccer for the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the U.K. to call Premier League matches on-site for NBC.

Prior to joining NBC, White was the play-by-play voice of the Seattle Sounders FC of MLS on television and radio. He previously spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live and hosted the station’s flagship Premier League Football show, Saturday 5 Live Sport, as well as the Monday Night Club alongside BBC football commentator John Motson. From 2002 to 2005, White was part of the 5 Live Breakfast program on the BBC, where he covered, among other events, the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

LEE DIXON – GAME ANALYST: Dixon will work alongside White on Premier League matches on NBC. A right back, Dixon was an English international earning 22 caps. He started his career with Burnley in 1982, playing for Chester City, Bury and Stoke City before joining Arsenal in January, 1988. He played for Arsenal for the rest of his career, retiring in 2002. He was part of four League Championships, three FA Cup wins, a European Cup-Winners’ Cup and a league cup. Dixon, who has worked as a color commentator for BBC, will continue his work for ITV.

GRAEME LE SAUX – GAME ANALYST: Le Saux will split time in the booth with Dixon working with White on NBC Sports Network’s Premier League matches. A left back and midfielder, Le Saux played 36 times for England, including the 1998 World Cup. He started his career with Chelsea in 1987, and also played with Blackburn Rovers and Southampton before retiring in 2005. He won the FA Cup in 2000 and also won a League Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup. Le Saux has worked for BBC as an analyst on Match of the Day 2, and as a color commentator.

GARY LINEKER – SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR/ON-SITE HOST: – Lineker will serve as a special contributor for NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage. He will also host some on-site coverage throughout the season. Lineker a forward, played 80 times for England, scoring 48 times, second most all-time for the Three Lions. He won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals and added four more in 1990. Lineker started his career with Leicester City in 1978 and played there until 1985, when he moved to Everton FC. He moved abroad with FC Barcelona a year later and after success in Spain, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1989. He finished his career in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1994. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will continue to host Match of the Day, BBC’s flagship show.

REBECCA LOWE – STUDIO HOST: As previously announced, Lowe will relocate to the U.S. this summer, and will host Premier League coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Lowe joined ESPN UK in 2009 to co-host its Premier League matches as well as its FA Cup coverage, and co-anchor Between the Lines, a football debate and opinion program. Lowe co-hosted ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, in Germany, and its Euro 2012 coverage from Bristol, Conn. In May, 2012, Lowe became the first woman in UK history to host the FA Cup Final – a six-hour live broadcast from Wembley Stadium. Lowe will conclude her Premier League and FA Cup duties with ESPN UK in May.

ROBBIE EARLE – STUDIO ANALYST: Earle will work alongside Lowe and Robbie Mustoe as an analyst in NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. A midfielder, Earle played 33 times for Jamaica, scoring eight times, including Jamaica’s first ever goal in a World Cup. English-born, Earle qualified to play for Jamaica thanks to his heritage. Earle started his career with Port Vale in 1981, before moving to Wimbledon in 1991. He played 10 seasons with Wimbledon before he retired. Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN.

ROBBIE MUSTOE – STUDIO ANALYST: Mustoe will join Earle and Lowe in the Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. Mustoe, a midfielder, started his career with Oxford United in 1987. He moved to Middlesbrough in 1990 and played there for 12 seasons, before ending his career with Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday. He played in two FA Cup finals and one league cup final. Mustoe has worked with ESPN since 2008, working as color commentator on matches and as a studio analyst on ESPN Soccer Press Pass.

For more information about NBC Sports Group shows and properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios and headshots, please visit NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com (http://nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com)

Zlatan paces MLS jersey sellers, offers fresh quip on Minnesota challenge

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: He’s like a more charming, less anarchist version of Tom Hardy’s Bane.

The LA Galaxy man was revealed to again have the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer on Wednesday, days before the club begins its 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run with a match in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Snow is in the forecast, but Zlatan is not bothered by such weather.

“I’m from Sweden I was born in the snow. When it snows, I’m a viking. When it’s warm, I’m a lion. We adjust for every condition there is.”

Back to the jerseys, the MLS MVP finalists are 1-2-3 in sales. Ibrahimovic is first, followed by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The top sellers amongst Americans are Seattle’s Jordan Morris (7) and Cristian Roldan (12). Chris Wondolowski of San Jose is 13th, while other domestic names on the Top 25 include Sebastian Lletget, Brad Guzan (!?!), Dom Dwyer, Jozy Altidore, and Graham Zusi.

Midweek El Clasico possible in December following political unrest

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Political unrest in Catalonia has both La Liga and the Spanish government looking to move the first El Clasico of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are scheduled to meet at the Camp Nou on Oct. 26, but the jailing of nine Catalan separatists has caused uproar in-and-around Barca.

In fact, Barca as a club has denounced the imprisonment, so it plays more than a peripheral role in the controversy.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Players heading to and returning from international break have faced in challenges in getting to the club.

Instead, Marca says that we may see a midweek match played in Madrid on Wednesday, Dec. 18, with the reverse fixture in March moved from Madrid to Barcelona.

Dec. 18 would give both teams three matches in eight days before La Liga’s winter break. Barca would play Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, and Alaves, while Real would play Valencia and Real Betis in addition to the Clasico. Both difficult runs, but fairly even.

Reports claim Allegri linked with Manchester United, Spurs

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The international break can be a slow time for news, but what to make of multiple reports claiming that Max Allegri is in discussion with a pair of struggling traditional Premier League powers?

Tuttosport claims that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have interest in hiring the Italian manager, adding that United has had “intensified” contact with him.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Noise out of Old Trafford continues to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while there is no real buzz that Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of leaving Spurs.

The 52-year-old Allegri has won Serie A once with AC Milan and five times with Juventus, claiming a Serie C title with Sassuolo in 2007-08.

Is there anything to it? He’d be a great hire for either side. In United’s case, he’d be a marked upgrade on their current boss.

It’s hard to be humbled. Anything less could cost Berhalter his job

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Wild nights, positive or negative, deserve reflection one day later. Here’s our bid to put the USMNT’s 2-0 loss to Canada in context less than 24 hours later…

The humbling of Gregg Berhalter is one of two distinct hopes for his survival as United States men’s national team coach.

The other is an unreliable route, one filled with long-term health for his best players on some pie-in-the-sky road where he utilizes the same 12-14 players per game for the rest of his tenure.

So, yeah, the first one is pretty key.

Coaches are by nature arrogant, and Berhalter earned his confidence by nurturing a suboptimal Columbus Crew roster into an over-performing playoff mainstay despite owner and former showgirl Rachel Phelps trying to move the club to Miami (Movie reference No.1, achieved).

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

When Berhalter beat out the field of two to lay claim to the USMNT position, he won over the media with Powerpoint slides about Pep Guardiola-inspired possession, which assumed to the delight of the American fan base that the nation had the immediate tools to out-class most of CONCACAF simply by being organized. He even had people handing him cute nicknames and defending the idea of using a Bundesliga regular defensive midfielder as a right back because he was generous with his time. Who needs La Masia when you’ve got the DA?

It should be pointed out that the philosophy’s failure through nine months doesn’t entirely destroy the idea to try it, but Berhalter’s often bizarre player selection and tactical destruction at the hands of Jamaica, Mexico, and now Canada have hastened the end of his honeymoon period almost as effectively as his the federation’s refusal to interview anyone other than Berhalter and Oscar Pareja. I mean, who needs Sergino Dest’s optimism when you can keep trying to jam a Wil Trapp-sized Wil Trapp through an Andrea Pirlo-shaped hole?

So you get what we had last night, a tire fire of a match in which his midfield had no idea what to do with the ball and his forwards might as well have been on a monastic retreat. According to the broadcast, Berhalter thought a miserable first half was due to his men not moving the ball fast enough side-to-side. His answers via subs, even before they were down, were to take off Christian Pulisic and leave creative minds Sebastian Lletget and Tyler Boyd on the bench. After the game, he claimed his players weren’t working hard enough and didn’t match Canada’s desire.

Here’s the problem, though, that’s on Berhalter, too. There were myriad articles out there, including several on this site, detailing Canada’s desperation to get results in the CONCACAF Nations League in order to move into a Top Six CONCACAF spot on the FIFA Rankings and qualify for the Hex.

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

All it takes is a cursory look at the Canada roster to see that their electric attackers were their hope of winning the match, and that pressing their relatively weak group of defenders — one of whom has only been a defender for a year — was probably a great idea.

But Berhalter again stuck with his idea that the United States men’s national team program, even without several of its best players, could implement his system anywhere, against anyone.

And it failed spectacularly.

The thing is that Berhalter is actually quite a decent coach, as he proved in Columbus, but whether or not he lives to show it to this American audience in this particular job depends on his accepting the shortcomings of his depleted roster.

I want to talk to you about Aaron Long, and not because of his “Stranger Things” lifeguard haircut (TV show reference No. 1, achieved).

Aaron Long is a mauler, the sort of player who’d be beloved by many segments of the USMNT community in several generations. He gets stuck in, has a good work rate, and can factor on set pieces in the attacking third.

What he does not do very well — and I’ve covered this a lot in this space — is pass the ball and aid in possession. Since breaking into MLS in 2017, the now 27-year-old center back has completed 76, 69, and 65 percent of his passes with the New York Red Bulls.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Part of that is a function of the Red Bulls’ system; The team doesn’t really care at all about possession, passing at a terrible 68.6 percent, and not one of their players had a completion rate above 80 percent this year. By comparison, 197 players in Major League Soccer completed 80 percent or more of their passes this season (WhoScored).

This is not an argument that Long shouldn’t be in the U.S. system. While he’s had a rough couple of months in the shirt, he’s in the mix for the toughest American center backs in the game.

Might this possession-based idea look a lot better when healthy? Of course, that’s what we mentioned above. John Brooks is by far the best passing center back in the pool, and has been out of the mix for sometime due to injury. The same is true for the side’s best No. 6 in Adams.

But what the Yanks were for so long was difficult to break down, a hassle to play against. Berhalter needs that right now, and he’s got the horses to do it (Watch Jordan Morris’ legs keep moving for 90 minutes if you need proof). Success could then require admitted in front of a microphone that his team can’t hack his system right now, and that he talked down to an entire room last month when they just spit facts his way. That’s humbling, and it’s not fun. But it’s needed.

Adding to the issue is that it’s easy to see the Yanks still emerging from their group by beating Canada in Orlando next month and then walloping Cuba. But if Berhalter hasn’t been humbled and sees victories against the 53rd and 145th ranked teams in EloRatings as validation, well, I’ve got some truly valuable early 1990s baseball cards to sell you for a premium price.

Arrogance does nothing for you if it’s ill-founded. That confidence has felled countless executives, coaches, and players over the years (and yes, even average writers). Being outfoxed by Tata Martino is one thing, but having no reaction to the plan of John Herdman is another (That’s not a shot at Herdman, who had done well with the New Zealand and Canada women, but let’s be real).

We won’t learn whether Berhalter has learned from his errors via results next month, rather by what he does to try and get those results. When Martino beat him in the Gold Cup Final, the rematch two months later was far worse. He gets a second chance to match wits with Herdman next month, and it really cannot get much worse. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice (Movie reference No. 2, achieved).

Last month, I wrote that Berhalter’s duties including the following bare minimum goals.

  1. Qualify for the World Cup
  2. Reach the final of all CONCACAF competitions
  3. Look like an adequate footballing nation in other competitions
  4. Make sure he doesn’t lose any talented dual nationals (also the GM’s job)

No. 1 is still far away, but 2-4… woah. We’re one Alphonso Davies star show away from finishing 2019 without a Gold Cup and no place in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. Sergino Dest might’ve skipped town for Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands set-up either way, but being shoehorned at left back last month probably helped his decision.

Finally, a number of people on Twitter pointed out that Canada is due plenty of respect for out-dueling the USMNT on Tuesday. Absolutely! But if you think a nation with under 1 million registered soccer players should be absolutely clowning a nation with 4 million-plus, a side they hadn’t beaten let alone dominated in 34 years, then you’re not getting the point. There’s room for Canada and the U.S. to both be good, but the Yanks looked like a steaming hot mug of spoiled milk to Canada’s well-chilled bag of the fresh stuff. No good.

Your move, Gregg. Do what you did last night, and last month, and you’ll get the same results. Your only other option is Voodoo dolls of Alphonso Davies and Scott Arfield.