Satisfying Premier League day for state-side fans

Liverpool's Jose Enrique, right, fights for the ball against Stoke's Geoff Cameron during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Aug. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

With much pomp and circumstance across the NBC family of networks, the English Premier League debuted Saturday morning.

For soccer fans in America, it was a glorious day as NBC kicked off its comprehensive coverage of the league, complete with three games broadcast live and four more streamed online. No longer will those who follow a mid-to-low-table team be forced to scour the web for obscure, nefarious streaming websites.

As a bevy of commentators extolled the league as the most dramatic in the world, the opening games actually lived up to the hype, starting with Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Stoke.

American Geoff Cameron started at right back for Stoke and was at times his side's best threat going forward. Though his defending left something to be desired, he did well enough to at least slow the crafty Coutinho, who even shifted to the left wing to prevent Cameron's forays forward.

Another American starred in the upset of the day that followed on NBCSN. Aston Villa stunned Arsenal 3-1 as U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan held the Gunners at bay with a few massive saves.

At the same time, American Jozy Altidore began his second stint in the Premier League by starting for Sunderland against Fulham. Altidore had little impact in the first half but slowly grew into the game, supplying a few of Sunderland's best chances in a tense, 1-0 loss.

The day capped off with Manchester United picking up where it left off last season. The Red Devils made a habit of playing poorly (or at least appearing to play poorly) and still winning. On Saturday, United had less possession and fewer shots than Swansea City, yet still won comfortably, 4-1.

In the end, unless you're an Arsenal supporter, it was a satisfying day for state-side soccer fans, who have more access to the Premier League than those in England. NBC's production was top-notch and one has to wonder why ESPN and Fox were never able to put forth such coverage.

With a few more thrillers on Sunday and Monday, the most dramatic league in the world is off and running in style on NBCSN. To top it all off, ESPN and Fox Sports 1 now have competing daily soccer shows for those needing a football fix.

 

SOCCER SNIPPETS

RETURN OF THE DEUCE: Nacogdoches native Clint Dempsey returned to Texas on Saturday when the new Seattle Sounders superstar started against the Houston Dynamo, a 3-1 win for the men in orange.

It was Dempsey's first club match in Texas since the 2006 MLS Cup final in Frisco, when his New England Revolution were beaten on PKs by the Dynamo.

Back then Dempsey wasn't near the internationally known commodity he is now, prior to his December 2006 move to Fulham and last year's switch to Tottenham.

Dempsey will be back in Frisco on Oct. 19 against FC Dallas.

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GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY: The use of the newly implemented "goal decision system" made its debut in the Premier League this weekend. For those unfamiliar, it's basically like tennis' version of replay, only the game doesn't stop. If the ball crosses the goal line, a message is sent to the referee's wristwatch; if it doesn't cross, no message is sent and the players play on.

This was used a couple times in the first weekend, most notably when Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic had a header saved fractions before the ball went all the way across the entire line.

I like this use of technology, especially when it doesn't unnecessarily slow the game down. Hopefully it catches on across the globe.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: The final qualifying round for the UEFA Champions League group stage begins Tuesday and Wednesday, highlighted by PSV Eindhoven vs. AC Milan on Tuesdayand Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce on Wednesday. Both of those matches will be on the new Fox Sports 1.

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