Kyle Martino says U.S. national team problem is more Martin Vasquez, less Jurgen Klinsmann

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Kyle Martino may really onto something with his take on what’s happening inside the U.S. national team, with the fissures that have developed and that became so very public last week.

NBC’s lead soccer analyst wonders if the problems with communication and lurching progress on the new regime’s tactical initiatives are more about Klinsmann’s staff, less about the coach himself?

Specifically, Martino believes assistant coach Martin Vasquez (pictured), a longtime Klinsmann confidante, is “in over his head.”

Martino spent several days around the team’s practices in January as Klinsmann and his staff ran a month-long camp. Martino said he saw some of the same things once stated publicly by standout German national teamer Philipp Lahm, whose 2011 autobiography included some critical passages on Klinsmann.

Martino believes some of the U.S. player complaints laid out in Brian Straus’ powerful story last week ring true – but not for the reasons some people might think.

What’s going on is this: Jurgen Klinsmann is a good coach. He’s the type of coach that is a motivator. He’s an icon. He’s a legend. He can get guys that want to jump over mountains. He’s not a tactical guy. Which is why he was successful with Jogi Loew during that 2006 run in the World Cup, because he had that tactical guy with as his No. 2.

Martin Vazquez is in over his head. He is not the No. 2 that can deliver the philosophy and the message of Jurgen Klinsmann. I saw it with my own eyes in the training sessions.

They are trying something huge, and enormous overhaul of the U.S. National Team, I don’t think the message is getting there. Martin Vasquez and Jurgen Kinsmann failed at Bayern Munich to do it. Martin Vasquez failed on his own as a head coach [at Chivas USA] to do it and I worry with the U.S. national team that it’s going to be a problem going forward.

What we are seeing, perhaps, is exactly how this stuff works its way into the daylight. Straus’ article, anonymously sourced, was the critical icebreaker on a conversation that needed to happen. The next story or stories (the ones reported by quality journalists and respected media figures like Martino) will move the story along.

Here’s the video clip as Martino talked with NBC’s Russ Thaler at halftime of Saturday’s D.C. United-Columbus Crew contest; the match was on NBC Sports Network.

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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