Red Bulls sign Brazilian dead ball specialist Juninho

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There is no question whether Juninho can still strike a free kick. The guy is such a swell dead ball striker he could probably bullseye the crossbar 9 times out of 10 from every bit of 30 yards. Heck, he can probably still do that when he’s 50.

The questions about New York singing a 37-year-old midfielder are more about the moments when Juninho is not striking free kicks.

Juninho, 37, who last appeared at the highest level for Brazil at the 2006 World Cup, is the newest member of the Red Bulls makeover. If you’re counting, this is fourth new potential starters for Red Bull Arena – and the January international transfer window has yet to swing open.

On the one hand, there is no mention of “Designated Player” in the Red Bulls official release. So the non-DP price was presumably right. (And there was no transfer fee; Juninho had signed only a six-month extension at Vasco da Gama last summer, which means he should have been out of contract.)

Even into his late 30s, he was effective this fall at Vasco in Brazil. So the thought of a skillful midfielder playing behind Thierry Henry, with the bustling Dax McCarty nearby to do the running and some of the linking, has some merit. Skillful fellow, feeding the ball to another skillful fellow? Yes, more of this, please.

But there is always that pesky “other hand.”

It is fair to wonder if this is where the new Red Bull regime’s lack of MLS experience might bite them?

Remember, they are bringing in Juninho at the very same age that David Beckham, another free kick specialist, has chosen to walk away from MLS (although not, perhaps, from professional soccer).

Even more to the point, the age conundrum sometimes needs recalibration when discussing MLS. Not always … but sometimes.

Because one thing that always catches non-MLS types unawares is the high wear-and-tear factor of travel over such a large country. That, plus the debilitating heat and burden of soccer-combat in a highly physical league, can sometimes leave technical types ill equipped to deal with it all.

We’ll see.

Either way, the guy can hit free kicks. As several wisenheimers have pointed out, Roy Miller, former free kick master around Red Bull Arena, should be very worried today.

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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