Frankie Hejduk

Career rebirth specialist Frankie Hejduk retires

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Few players enjoy more career rebirths than Frankie Hejduk, who retired officially today from the game he played professionally for 16 years. Along the way the laid-back, longtime U.S. international played in two World Cups and missed one more, in 2006, due to injury.

Career rebirth No. 1: Some time in the late 1990s, he got serious about soccer, converting himself from California surfer dude getting it done on high VO2 max and athletic ability to a guy more dedicated to his craft. Without the metamorphosis, Hejduk may have been on a fast track to the ordinary.

Career rebirth No. 2: He fell out of favor at Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen and transferred to St. Gallen in Switzerland in 2002 – a move that signaled things definitely going in the wrong direction. So Hejduk booked it back to MLS, signing with Columbus in March of 2003. It spurred something more out of the tireless defender, who had an All-Star campaign and eventually spent eight seasons in Ohio.

Career rebirth No. 3: Injuries kept Hejduk out of the 2006 World Cup and limited his time for the Crew. He was 32 by summer of 2006 and could have begun downshifting. Instead, he got healthy and contributed mightily as Columbus built a strong side around Guillermo Barros Schelotto and claimed the 2008 MLS Cup.

Career rebirth No. 4: He was 34 when he directed a header into goal in that MLS championship victory under Sigi Schmid. Now would be the time to begin downshifting, right? Well, here’s what the U.S. Soccer site says about the big role Hejduk played in 2008 and 2009. As he help shore up a weak spot in the national team pool at fullback:

2009: Marked his 14th year with the U.S. Men’s National Team by making four appearances, all starts, and grabbing one goal and one assist … Lent his veteran wherewithal to three final round World Cup qualifiers in 2009, including the 2-0 win against Mexico on Feb. 11, the 2-2 draw with El Salvador on March 28, and the 3-0 demolition of Trinidad & Tobago on April 1 … Scored the equalizing goal in the 2-2 draw with El Salvador, his seventh career goal and second in World Cup qualifying … Also added an assist in the same game, setting up Jozy Altidore …

You could even say he had a fifth rebirth in 2011. Released from Columbus, Hejduk ended up providing veteran cover for the Galaxy. He played in just six matches but was there in the end when Los Angeles claimed its 2011 championship.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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