PST USMNT Man of the Match: Landon Donovan

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After 45 minutes, Michael Bradley looked set for man of the match. His 11th minute goal was not only the difference in the match (at halftime), it was one of the better strikes in recent men’s national team history. Add in his contributions on Landon Donovan’s opener (jumping into the play after Jose Torres and Terrance Boyd created an early turnover) and his efforts pressing through the midfield, and Saturday’s friendly against Scotland was shaping up as a statement match for Bradley. That statement: Bradley could play an even bigger part in the Klinsmann era than he did under his father.

But come full time, another statement had drowned out Michael’s, a statement we should have known was coming. After a week of pondering whether his time in the spotlight was waning, Landon Donovan rushed back center stage in a big way. With three goals and an assist, Donovan posted the third national team hat trick of his career.

His first goal may have been his toughest. At least, it required the most tenacity. On a ball in from the left, Donovan (back to goal) played a nice touch into the space right of goal, turning toward the sideline with his defender on his back. His right-footed blast from 12 yards out was blocked after Allen McGregor came aggressively off his line, but when the rebound offered Donovan a second chance, the national team’s all-time leading scorer proved unforgiving. Roofing his shot just inside the right post, Donovan put the U.S. up 1-0 in the third minute.

Two near identical second half finishes pushed Donovan’s career USMNT goal total to 49. In the 59th minute, Jermaine Jones got behind Soctland’s left back, cut a ball back toward the middle of the box for Donovan, whose right-footer found the side netting inside the far post. Five minutes later, it was more of the same, with Donovan first-timing a ball from Bradley to just inside the far post, an unstoppable finish.

And five minutes later (69′), Donovan was in on another goal, with Jones heading a cross from Donovan home for the U.S’s final goal.

Three goals and an assist should be enough to quell all speculation about Donovan’s future in Jurgen Klinsmann’s set up. While nobody saw Donovan fading from the scene any time soon, questions were being asked. Where does Landon fit, given his lack of time with the national team under Klinsmann? What does the emergence of Clint Dempsey mean for Donovan’s place in the pecking order?

Donovan’s performance undermined the idea of pecking orders. As did Michael Bradley’s and Jose Torres’s. Pecking orders are for teams that can’t accomodate more than one star. As the U.S. showed on Saturday, there’s room for more than one player to dominate. Against Scotland, Donovan just happened to be the most dominant.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE