Did the bad pitch matter? We at least have to consider it

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Brian Sciaretta, who ardent U.S. Men’s National Team fans will know from his work at Yanks Abroad, showed the world a glimpse of the field in St. John’s, and it’s not pretty:

source:

Charles what now?

That looks horrible. Per Sciaretta’s tweet, that’s from midfield at Vivian Richards Stadium.

Before we go denigrating the U.S. too much, he suggests, take a look at that pitch. Perhaps the U.S. should be thankful for what they got.

It does, however, beg a question: How did the teams combine for three goals in that slop? The answer to that is less important than the fact they did score three goals. While it’s true the teams could have had an easier time of it on a nice day (perhaps leading to more goals), scoring was not an issue on Friday night. The States scored as many goals in 90 minutes as they did in 180 versus Jamaica.

Go beyond the goals, consider the chances, and you see a similar story. This was a pretty typical U.S. performance, even in the adverse conditions. Eddie Johnson had three good chances. Michael Bradley hit a post. Herculez Gomez had two opportunities to worry Antigua and Barbuda only to see his touch fail him. Depending on how you want to count them, that’s four-to-six chances. It’s not as if the United States had been generating many more on good tracks.

The conditions of St. John’s cricket ground were part of Friday’s story, but they can’t be an excuse. Both teams had to play in them, and both teams proved capable of overcoming them. It was unclear the field gave either side an advantage, let alone dictated the result. Ultimately, the U.S. looked no different in a swamp than on dry land: Controlling, but struggling to convert possession into chances.

Bottom line: U.S. Soccer is a program that should be expected to overcome certain obstacles. Weather against a team that didn’t make last cycle’s third round might be the last of them.

Besides, it’s not like many people were taking up the Antiguan cause when they were subjected to a downpour in Tampa.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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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