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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying has not been a cakewalk for the USMNT

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The United States men’s national team is not going to lose on Friday, but at some point in World Cup qualifying this post will bear revisiting. Remember this: the U.S. almost always gives its supporters a scare of some size during CONCACAF play.

[ MORE: How will the USMNT line-up in Friday’s World Cup qualifying opener? ]

Given the Yanks’ religious World Cup qualification record since its 40-year absence ended in 1990, it’s easy to look past the hiccups of the path. From bogus officiating to poorly-lit pitches and a variety of other obstacles, there will be struggles. It’s almost guaranteed.

For example…

2014 — The Yanks looked bad after three matches of the third round, having drawn at Guatemala and lost at Jamaica. And really, the boys didn’t find their stride until after the third round despite winning Group A.  The U.S. won on the final day to pass Guatemala. Woof. They then lost the first match of the Hex, at Honduras, but would only lose once more en route to winning the group by four points.

2010 — The third round was basically a breeze, relatively speaking, but the Hex found the wind blowing in the face of the USMNT. After a 2W-1D start to the fourth round, the U.S. lost at Costa Rica and Mexico in two of the next three to tempt finishing outside the Top Three at 3W-1D-2L. But the wake-up call still came late in games, as the Yanks came back against El Salvador, Honduras, and the ultimate comeback. After Bryan Ruiz gave Costa Rica a 2-0 lead at half in the Hex finale at RFK, Michael Bradley and Jonathan Bornstein struck twice to save the day and the group (Side note: it was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had as a fan at a sporting event). Costa Rica finished fourth, and lost to Uruguay in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff. Slim margins.

2006 — The only team not to lose in the third round’s Group A, the Yanks went 6-1 to start the Hex. Their only loss was at Azteca. This was an easier year for qualifying, and an awful World Cup for the USMNT.

2002 — Oddly enough, the States’ incredible World Cup finish included two CONCACAF rounds of barely making it through. The third round saw the States bottom after two match days of Group 3, but the U.S. rebounded to go 3W-1D in the final four and win the group. The Hex started really well. Four wins and a draw through five matches, but a 1-0 loss at Azteca was followed by a rare loss on home soil (3-2 to Honduras). Then Costa Rica made it three losses on the bounce, and life was dicey for the U.S. Fortunately, its final two matches were against the bottom two sides. The U.S. finished third.

1998 — The semifinals were easy enough, and the Hex started well; A scoreless draw in Jamaica was followed by a 3-0 beating of Canada. But the U.S. lost to Costa Rica before drawing another pair to sink down the table a bit. They didn’t lose the rest of the way in finishing a point shy of Mexico for the table lead.

1994 — Instant qualification as hosts.

1990 — After splitting with Costa Rica, the Yanks wouldn’t lose again. It wasn’t without drama, as the U.S. entered the final match a point behind Trinidad & Tobago, its opponents at Port of Spain. As you might know, Paul Caligiuri did the trick. It was a really nice goal to boot. How’s that for glossing over history?

Nigel Pearson appointed new Watford manager

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Nigel Pearson has been appointed new manager of Watford and been handed a very straightforward — but tall — task for the remainder of the season: avoid relegation from the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Pearson takes over from Quique Sanchez Flores — who only took over from Javi Gracia in September — who left his post at Vicarage Road with the Hornets sitting 20th out of 20 teams in the PL table, already seven points adrift from safety. Pearson’s contract runs through the end of the season.

The 56-year-old Pearson, who last managed in the PL with Leicester City in 2015, was most recently in charge of Belgian side OH Leuven before he was fired in February.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Pearson won’t take charge of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Interim manager Hayden Mullins will see out the week’s preparations and manage the team before handing the reins to Pearson on Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 16 is here in the Premier League as things are heating up very nicely ahead of the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Tottenham 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 1-1 Southampton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 Man United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Brighton 2-1 Wolves – (Sunday 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Norwich 2-0 Sheffield United – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 16 of the Premier League season is here, as the busy festive season has well and truly arrived.

Get in there.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Everton v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Man City v. Man United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Newcastle United v. Southampton  – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Wolves – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Norwich City v. Sheffield United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: West Ham v. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]

The 2 Robbies podcast: Analyzing chaos at Everton, Arsenal

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In the latest The 2 Robbies podcast, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss Everton’s decision to sack Marco Silva after their 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby (0:50), Arsenal’s shocking defeat at home to Brighton (14:00) and Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford thanks to a brace from Marcus Rashford (22:25).

Plus, thoughts on Gabriel Jesus‘ long-term role at Manchester City (29:00), Jamie Vardy and Leicester City can’t stop winning (35:10), back to winning ways for Chelsea (39:00) and the Underappreciated Performances of the week (43:40).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]