Wayne Rooney, Al Pacino and the World Cup

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It’s not often that you hear English soccer coaches advising their players to draw their inspiration from American film stars. But Roy Hodgson knows he needs to get through to Wayne Rooney in any way possible. Since bursting on to the scene in Euro 2004, at just 18, Rooney has struggled to make much of an impression in international tournaments.

So, too, have England. They made it to the quarter-finals of both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, but then failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and had a disappointing campaign in South Africa in 2010, when they went out in the first knockout round. And England being England, they were knocked out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals in the most English of ways, losing to Italy on penalties.

But Rooney was suspended for the start of that last major tournament. On his return, he scored the only goal, giving his team the 1-0 win over Ukraine. He was also one of only two English players to score their penalties against Gigi Buffon.

Yet at times Rooney has shown himself a tad undisciplined. He got himself suspended for the first two Euro group stage matches after he kicked out at Miodrag Džudović in England’s draw with Montenegro. He was sent off for a stomp on Ricardo Carvalho in 2006, with England going on to lose to Portugal on penalties. So is giving him advice connecting him to Michael Corleone of the Godfather movies really the best idea?

Hodgson went for it, anyway. Talking about Rooney’s need to rise to the occasion in Brazil, the England coach said:

I’m sure it must be the same for Hollywood film stars,” he added. “I’m sure you make your first film and nobody knows much about you and you get some good reviews. But one day you’re going to be Al Pacino, you’re going to be Jack Nicholson. And, suddenly, you’ve got to make a f—— good film.

Not sure if Pacino is quite the right analogy, however. It only took Al a couple of years after making his first film for Francis Ford Coppala to take notice and cast him in The Godfather. He then collected Oscar nominations, along with stellar reviews. Whereas Rooney’s been subject to much criticism after his initial foray onto the world stage, when he scored four goals at Euro 2004.

But Pacino did hit a bit of a rough patch in the early 1980s, taking on some controversial roles. Then came Scarface, just over ten years after The Godfather. The movie was huge at the box office, met with critical acclaim and even earned Pacino a Golden Globe.

So perhaps what Hodgson is saying to Rooney is: it’s time to make your Scarface, son.

Although, one presumes, without the mountain of cocaine and the assault rifle.

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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