Happy Birthday! Red-hot Aron Johannsson bags two more goals in AZ draw

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Well, well.  We say hello once again to our USMNT friend who is quickly becoming a fan favorite, and he hasn’t even played an important minute for the national team yet.

Young Aron Johannsson is continuing to force Jurgen Klinsmann’s hand as he bags more goals still for his club team.

The 23-year-old, who has taken Jozy Altidore’s place at the front of AZ Alkmaar’s strike force, picked up another two goals today – one on a penalty – as they drew with Feyenoord 2-2, on his birthday, no less.

His first goal, the one from open play, only saw one touch from Johannsson, but his ability to provide a target in the box and finish expertly proved the difference.

A fantastic long ball from behind the mid-line and on the left flank found Johan Berg Gudmundsson on the right side of the box, and he slammed on the brakes and cut back for Johannsson in the box for the Alabama product to skillfully and strongly thread between a defender and the keeper at a tough angle.


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The birthday boy later gave AZ the lead again on a penalty in the 57th minute.

And guess what? Those were his only two shots on goal. 100% efficiency. He now has nine goals in 13 league matches, and has AZ in second place in the Dutch Eredivisie.

It’s a nice bit of redemption for him as well, admitting that he deserved to come off at halftime in Europa League play Thursday against Shakhter Karagandy.  “I didn’t play well then” said Johannsson.  “I’m glad to be able to prove my value to the team today.”

With the USMNT squad for friendlies against Scotland and Austria to be announced tomorrow, and a number of MLS players reportedly out of the running, there remains a large chance we will see Johannsson back in the team soon.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

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He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

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The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.