DENVER – The cold and the nasty may be on the way, but the weather was absolutely brilliant for the United States’ final practice this afternoon, held at the University of Denver near downtown.
With just a little luck maybe the really bad stuff headed this way will hold off until later in the night. Maybe.
Other news and notes ahead of tomorrow’s pressure-packed contest at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.
- The contest is sold out; has been for weeks.
- During an afternoon news conference, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said he had no problem with Brian Straus’ provocative article from the Sporting News. “Obviously I prefer that if you have a problem with me, come to me and talk to me about it. The so-called ‘anonymous quotes’ where we don’t know who said it; is it a player? Is it an agent? Is it a fan or whoever? But it doesn’t distract us from what we’re here for or. Our focus is strictly Costa Rica.”
- Klinsmann also responded to recent statements from former U.S. coach Bruce Arena about the use of so-called passport players. Mostly, the LA Galaxy manager was referring to Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Terrence Boyd and others in the pool who were born overseas but dual citizenship holders due to their parents.
- Klinsmann: “I believe Americans are Americans no matter if they grow up in Japan, South Africa or Buenos Aires. Our job is identify the best talents with American passports and see if they are good enough to come into that elite group. By finding those answers, the only way to do that is actually inviting them in and see how they do in our environment and give them their opportunity.”
- By all accounts, DaMarcus Beasley (pictured) is fitting right into the group despite his length absence. Presumably, he’ll get on the field at some point tomorrow, and it will be a significant appearance. Beasley would join an elite fraternity of players who have worn the U.S. shirt in at least one match for 13 consecutive years. The others are Frankie Hejduk (14 years), Marcelo Balboa, Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones, Kasey Keller, Claudio Reyna and Earnie Stewart.
- This would also be Beasley’s 98th cap.
- What Beasley said about the pressure attached to this one: “We’ve always come through when there’s pressure on. It’s always been that way when I’ve been there, it won’t be any differ come tomorrow. We embrace the pressure. We know we are at home, we know we need three points. It’s a very important match, even though it’s very early in the tournament. Everyone knows that. In qualifying you need to win your home matches, for sure. Tomorrow will be no different.”
- Mucho game notes are here from U.S. Soccer.
Watch ProSoccerTalk tomorrow; we’ll have lots of pre-game coverage, and then ample match coverage as well.
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