Arsenal face tough test vs. Liverpool, MLS playoffs will dazzle – 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 Fernando Torres’ revival, Joe Hart’s demise, the biggy between Arsenal and Liverpool, MLS playoff action on NBC and much more.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

So, let’s get to it.

Rumors suggest Joe Hart will finally be dropped after yet another calamitous mistake in a big game for Man City. Did Tim Howard give you an insight to what is going wrong? Should Manuel Pellegrini cast Hart aside?

Well, I mean, being alongside Tim for the Chelsea Man City game was a terrific experience. He brought all of his experience and knowledge about goalkeeping to the fore. He told us, he said on air that he had a chat with Hart after the game at the Etihad a few weeks previous when Man City had won 3-1 And he said, words to the fact of, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘keep your chin up, put an arm round him and said, ‘you’re a very good goalkeeper, keep it going.’

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Arlo believes Hat’s mistakes have been too much of late but expects him to bounce back.

Hart’s response was, ‘don’t worry, I’ll be fine I love the pressure,’ which suggests that he is a tough character mentally. But as we saw at the end of the game, it was another aberration on his part. I thought Tim, who was you know, in a slightly awkward position there, because he’s a current player, commenting on a current player, they do talk about the goalkeepers union and those guys sticking together. But he was working for NBC on the day, and it was his job I suppose was to break down exactly what happened. And what he said was, and I thought this was very skillfully done by Tim. In regards to Joe Hart, ‘You’ve got to let the defender, defend in that situation.’ Which I thought was very telling. Obviously for Nastasic, with the crowd, it was just bedlam at Stamford Bridge. He’s got his eye on the ball, he doesn’t know that Hart is tearing out of the goal. And there’s no need for him to be that far out, Nastasic seemed to have the situation under control.

Am I surprised that he’s been relieved out his duties? Perhaps not for the time being. Although this may create a few headaches for Roy Hodgson in the buildup to the World Cup finals for England as well.

Fernando Torres has got everyone believing he has returned to his best form, can he spearhead Chelsea to success? Or is he a different player now to what he was at Liverpool? Big test at Newcastle for the Blues. 

I think he is a different player, and I’ve been monitoring him closely and talking to people about him all season and I mentioned on a Podcast a few weeks ago that I felt, even in a small cameo appearance against Fulham a few weeks ago. He almost scored a header from the corner, and he created havoc for the last twenty minutes or so when he came on. He has a renewed figure, renewed enthusiasm. He seems to be in a great frame of mind. If he still has that situation hanging over him that he’s only scored one goal in the Premier League in 2013. We saw against Schalke that he’s back and he’s sharp.

source: AP
Chelsea have got their $75million man back.

What was very telling against Man City was that he missed a very very good chance in the first half. And he could have gone either way and Tim Howard asked, ‘Fernando Torres, is he going to go into a shell, or is he going to stick his chest out and try and make amends.’ And he did, he set up the Schurrle equalizer, curled an audacious attempt off the cross bar and then he kept going and chasing and harrying Nastasic until that mistake at the end. He was absolutely brilliant and if he continues likes this then Chelsea have got themselves the $75 million man they bought.

Arsenal vs. Liverpool is the big game this Saturday, live on NBC at 1:30pm ET, is this a huge indicator as to which one of these teams has the better chance of challenging for the title?

It is an indicator. But there are so many indicators throughout the season, because there are so many teams that appear to be in the mix at this early stage. Arsenal have had a fantastic start to the season but they’ve been blessed with a less than arduous opening fixture list. Let’s be honest. Although, they’ve gotten the job done. As we’ve seen, the ‘smaller teams’ are capable of producing surprise results.

Against Dortmund they came up a little bit short, against quality opposition. Against Crystal Palace, I thought they labored somewhat to a 2-0 victory and I thought Arsenal were a little bit off the pace and then they get beaten at home by Chelsea in the League Cup. This is a big game for Arsenal to really prove their start to the season was no fluke and they’re not about to recede back into the pack. Now for Liverpool, if they get Coutinho back on the field, along with Suarez, and Sturridge and the players that are in form. They are a genuine force, whether they’ve got the depth to be able to sustain it, we’ll wait and see. Right now, that’s an absolutely fascinating match. We say each week, that has the potential of being the match of the season so far.

Cardiff vs. Swansea on Sunday marks the first-time these two Welsh clubs have met in the Premier League… what can fans expect when they tune into this one?

A contrast, I think. Cardiff will pull their sleeves up, and they’ll get stuck in. Swansea are now an established Premier League team with an identifiable culture. They like to pass the ball. They play some lovely stuff and there not afraid of getting stuck in around the field as well. They’re going to have to be, because they can’t shirk anything against Cardiff at the weekend. It’s going to be a brilliant atmosphere, it’s going to be a ferocious game played at a terrific pace. Swansea have to live physically with Cardiff, because man for man they could play Cardiff off the park. But this idea that the heart and toughness that Cardiff are going to bring to the game could be a great leveller. I’m going to be fascinated to see how it shakes out, my head would say draw but let’s see if one of the two sides can nick it. I’d say Swansea based on their quality, may just edge it.

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Cardiff’s passion could see them overcome Swansea.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to this weekend?

I think the Arsenal vs. Liverpool game will be fantastic. I will be watching that from a hotel room in Houston. We’re doing the MLS playoffs at the moment, so it’s great to get back to the States for a little spell, I will miss my Premier League at the weekend but we are doing Houston vs. New York Red Bulls live on NBC on Sunday at 3:30pm ET, that’s going to be fascinating after New York won the shield and Houston are always so good in the playoffs. It’s a delight to be back, I really enjoy MLS and I always have done. I’m excited be at the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders game on Thursday, it will be the defining game in that series between the two great rivals in the Pacific Northwest. That’s going to be fantastic.

UEFA wants to “wage war on racists”

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UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has reacted strongly to the racist abuse of England’s players in Bulgaria on Monday.

[ MORE: England’s players react ]

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds at Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

A section of home supporters were seen leaving their seats just before half time, covering their faces with hoods and some had shirts which said “UEFA No Respect” written on them.

UEFA will investigate the incidents in Sofia after England made a formal complaint, and this comes after section of the stadium in Sofia was shut on Monday due to the racist abuse of players from both Kosovo and the Czech Republic during previous EURO 2020 qualifiers.

Ceferin called on governments and other organizations to work with them to “wage war” on racists as incidents continue to crop up across Europe.

“There were times, not long ago, when the football family thought that the scourge of racism was a distant memory. The last couple of years have taught us that such thinking was, at best, complacent. The rise of nationalism across the continent has fuelled some unacceptable behaviour and some have taken it upon themselves to think that a football crowd is the right place to give voice to their appalling views.

“As a governing body, I know we are not going to win any popularity contests. But some of the views expressed about UEFA’s approach to fighting racism have been a long way off the mark. UEFA, in close cooperation with the FARE network (Football Against Racism Europe), instituted the three-stage protocol for identifying and tackling racist behaviour during games.

“UEFA’s sanctions are among the toughest in sport for clubs and associations whose supporters are racist at our matches. The minimum sanction is a partial closure of the stadium – a move which costs the hosts at least hundreds of thousands in lost revenue and attaches a stigma to their supporters.

“UEFA is the only football body to ban a player for ten matches for racist behaviour – the most severe punishment level in the game. Believe me, UEFA is committed to doing everything it can to eliminate this disease from football. We cannot afford to be content with this; we must always strive to strengthen our resolve.

“More broadly, the football family – everyone from administrators to players, coaches and fans – needs to work with governments and NGOs to wage war on the racists and to marginalise their abhorrent views to the fringes of society. Football associations themselves cannot solve this problem. Governments too need to do more in this area. Only by working together in the name of decency and honour will we make progress.”

Turkish players defy UEFA with another military salute

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PARIS (AP) Turkish players defied UEFA with another military salute in Turkey’s 1-1 draw with France in their European Championship qualifier on Monday.

UEFA was already looking into Turkish players’ salutes from during and after Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania. The European soccer federation prohibits political statements in stadiums.

But Turkish players lined up again to show a military salute after Kaan Ayhan’s late equalizer in Paris. Captain Burak Yilmaz was joined by goalkeeper Mert Gunok and several other outfield players in giving the salute toward the crowd – in apparent support of the Turkish forces involved in the country’s invasion of Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria.

Defender Merih Demiral urged Ayhan to salute, too, leading to what looked like a heated discussion between the two, but the goal-scorer desisted and made his way back to the pitch.

Ayhan and Turkey striker Kenan Karaman both play for German side Fortuna Dusseldorf, which had issued a statement after Friday’s game to distance itself from “politically motivated acts.”

“Both players stand for values that the club lives by,” Dusseldorf sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bulgarian prime minister intervenes, Bulgaria FA chief resigns

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Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov asked for the president of their football association, Borislav Mihaylov, to resign following the racist abuse of England’s players in Sofia’s Vasil Levski stadium on Monday.

And on Tuesday Mihaylov stepped down and handed in his resignation.

During the EURO 2020 qualifier monkey chants were heard from sections of the home crowds, while Nazi salutes were also made and the officials stopped the game twice in the first half and then followed step one of UEFA’s anti-racism protocol as a message was broadcast over the speakers that the game was in danger of being abandoned.

The Bulgarian sport minister, Krasen Kralev, released a statement on the incident and said that Mihaylov, who had previously complained to UEFA about Gareth Southgate‘s concerns over potential racist abuse in Bulgaria, should resign.

“The prime minister called me urgently a short time ago,”  said. “You know that the government has done a lot for the development of Bulgarian football in the last four years. But after the recent events, having in mind the whole state of football and last night’s incidents, the prime minister has ordered me from today to suspend any relations with the BFU, including financial ones, until the resignation of Borislav Mihaylov.”

UEFA is opening a full investigation into the disgusting scenes inside the stadium, as England’s players and staff have been applauded for the way they handled themselves in their 6-0 win.

Southgate, Tyrone Mings and other England players have reacted to the abuse and say they have made a statement on and off the pitch for UEFA having to use their anti-racism protocol.

“We know it’s an unacceptable situation, and I think we’ve managed to make two statements. By winning the game, but also we’re raised the awareness of everybody to the situation,” Southgate said. “The game was stopped twice, I know for some people that won’t be enough, but we as a group were on board with that process.”

On This Day: Bornstein becomes national hero – in Honduras

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You know what today is? It’s Jonathan Bornstein day in Honduras.

Ten years ago today at RFK Stadium in our nations capital, a young, hot-shot kid with plenty of hair named Michael Bradley and Bornstein helped the U.S. Men’s National Team come back to draw Costa Rica, 2-2, in World Cup qualifying. In fact, it’s eerie watching Bornstein’s celebration, running to the corner flag and diving headfirst as he’s mobbed moments after by his teammates. It’s a bit similar to what Lanson Donovan did about nine months later.

[READ: USMNT looks to build in match v. Canada]

To add some context, it was the final day of qualifications matches in the Hex. Three days earlier, the U.S. had already secured a place in the World Cup with a wild 3-2 win at Honduras, meaning Los Catrachos needed to win over El Salvador on the final night and hope that the U.S. would keep Costa Rica from winning in the final match.

Who else, but Carlos Pavon gave Honduras a 1-0 win over El Salvador that night. Then, it was Bornsteins goal later that night that put Los Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982, and left Costa Rica to battle for the shared spot between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

In honor of the big day, hundreds of Honduras fans had been mentioning Bornstein on social media, and the veteran defender – currently of the Chicago Fire – retweeted quite a few of the thankful messages to him. Below, here’s video of the call from Honduras TV, as well as from Ian Darke and the ESPN crew.

Unfortunately for Bornstein, this may be the highlight of his national team career. He did make the 2010 World Cup squad and started twice, including the matches against Algeria and Ghana, but he never truly took the next step in his career to become a star left back.

After a calamitous performance against Mexico in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, which also Bob Bradley his USMNT job, Bornstein was dropped and hasn’t been seen from again on the national team stage.

However, even though he’s only a club player these days, he’ll never have to buy a drink in Honduras, that’s for sure.