Pretty soon we’ll be all done-and-dusted with this preseason business, with attempting to cull knowledge from matches of lesser meaning, always a tricky exercise.
But, it is what it is for now.
So watch the Chicago Fire-Vancouver Whitecaps highlights, and then meet be below for some thoughts. (Oh, and pay special attention to the sweet pass from Jalil Anibaba, Chicago’s right back, at the 1:04 mark of the video.)
The highlights are from Chicago’s 1-1 draw with Vancouver in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Chicago won the preseason tournament based on most points.
- Anibaba has all kinds of competition for that right back spot, including Logan Pause’s move out of midfield and highly experienced trialist Pascal Chimbonda. Meaningful moments like that one could go a long way. He started 32 games last year, but Fire coach Frank Klopas clearly wants a little more from that right back spot.
- On the other hand … at the end of that pass, striker Sherjill MacDonald fails to convert on a wonderful scoring chance. Chicago’s midfield is improved and the back line looks strong. Plus, there’s Chris Rolfe (pictured above right) and everything he brings to the attack (and the counter attack, at which Rolfe is especially proficient.) But if MacDonald cannot improve on his average finishing, Chicago will struggle to score in sufficient quantities. Four goals in 14 games last year was OK … but surely the Fire is looking for better than “OK” from its Dutch forward.
- Klopas liked a lot that he saw in preseason contests, but says his team’s defensive mentality still needs work. (About the 1:35 mark of the linked video clip.) As he says, it’s mostly about “want-to,” about the desire to get into the right spots as soon as the ball is lost. True that.
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.
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 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.
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
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE