Tony Gustavsson, former head coach candidate, joins Jill Ellis’s U.S. Women’s National Team staff

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In a move that had been quietly rumored since Jill Ellis’s appointment, Tyresö FF head coach Tony Gustavsson — a candidate for the permanent head coaching position vacated by Tom Sermanni’s firing — will join the U.S. Women’s National Team staff, resuming the full-time assistant’s position he held under Pia Sundhage. Scheduled to join the team for June’s friendlies against France, the 40-year-old Gustavsson becomes the latest part of the U.S.’s attempt to turn back the clock, with the former Hammarby IF men’s head coach having sat on Sundhage’s bench during the States’ 2012 gold medal run.

Gustavsson is coming off a two-year stretch as head coach of Tyresö, where he won the Damallsvenskan title before taking his team to last Thursday’s UEFA Champions League final. Despite that success, which saw the Swedish club come within one goal of eventually champions Wolfsburg, Gustavsson’s departure is part of an expected exodus from the financially-embattled club.

“Tony will be an excellent addition to our coaching staff,” Jill Ellis said, in an announcement distributed by U.S. Soccer. “We have worked together before and I am delighted to have him come on board as we move toward Women’s World Cup qualifying.”

Gustavsson was a prime candidate to for the job Ellis now holds, though as an assistant coach, he will be able to contribute without the overarching commitment that comes with the head coach’s role.

“I’m really looking forward to being back with the U.S. team again,” Gustavsson said, via U.S. Soccer. “I have great respect for these players, their work ethic and their desire to keep progressing as individuals and as a team. I’m excited to contribute to that process through any role Jill asks of me.”

Expect that role to be a big one. Gustavsson’s strengths on the training field and in preparing for opponents are well-respected, as are his accomplishments with Tyresö. Working under a boss that is short on senior-level coaching experience, Gustavsson is likely to play a key role, particularly since his knowledge of nations like Sweden, Germany and other European threats likely exceeds any other candidate.

Before Ellis’s hiring, team captain Christie Rampone said she wanted both Ellis and Gustavsson. What the captain wants, the captain gets. Given his history with the team and recent accomplishment, Gustavsson could become a head coach-like figure on the team, with Ellis playing more of a final say, manager’s part.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

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The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.