Toronto FC, D.C. United produce some nice goals (video)

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When it comes to Major League Soccer’s 31st round, almost every match stood to have something to say about the coming playoffs – either in positioning or in perhaps telling us who would or wouldn’t grab one of these coveted, tightly contested berths.

One match, that is, except the real stinker of the bunch, Toronto FC against D.C. United, two teams with a combined record today (hold your nose, please, and ask any small children to leave the room, because they don’t need to see this) of 8-36-17.

Worse still, United wasn’t even coming into this one with plans to use its top men. (“Top men” being a relative term, of course; United is steaming toward some of those historic lows to which we have referenced previously.)

It was the right call for Ben Olsen, whose team travels to Utah for the mid-week U.S. Open Cup final against Real Salt Lake. If the Black and Red are to salvage anything from this season of epic woe, they’ll do so at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, inside Rio Tinto Stadium. Resting the starters makes perfect sense.

So Olsen rolled out the reserves for Saturday’s contest at BMO Field, where Toronto FC, troubled in their own ways in 2013, still had plenty of horsepower to run away with a 4-1 result. Bill Hamid, James Riley, Dejan Jakovic, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon, Luis Silva, Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius were among the regulars rested by the visitors.

The match was hardly worth watching – and fans once again voiced their displeasure with the bumbling Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment ownership group by staying the heck away, even on a brilliant afternoon in Ontario.

BUT … there were some dandy goals, at least. And there was some small, early measure of validation for TFC and that controversial trade that brought forward Bright Dike to BMO. More is needed, but this is a start, at least, as Dike had the game-winner and a strong all-around match.

The 35th-minute twisting effort from TFC’s Darel Russell is especially worth watching.

Highlights from Saturday at BMO Field:

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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

Adam Davy/PA via AP
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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

Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images
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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