Jurgen Klinsmann opts for Euro-heavy squad for friendlies with Scotland, Austria

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Fans of the U.S. national team have been anxiously waiting for this news to drop over the weekend, and USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has sprung a few surprises in his 23-man squad.

For the upcoming friendlies with Scotland and Austria next week Klinsmann has left out the likes of Brad Guzan, Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo and most notably Landon Donovan but U.S. soccer say all four players are unavailable due to injury.

Some of the other notable omissions are Sporting KC’s duo of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi who are involved in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference final, while similarly Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando are also allowed to stay with their club sides as they prepare for massive second legs of their playoff series’ after the international break.

(WATCH AUSTRIA vs. USA, NOVEMBER 19 LIVE ON NBC SPORTS)

Once again there’s a good mixture of U.S. and European based players with seven of the 23 players hailing from MLS, two from Liga MX and the rest from around Europe. Having 14 players involved who play their soccer in Europe make sense and hands Klinsmann the perfect opportunity to work with this squad, without the constraints of overseas travel which usually stand in the way.

Klinsmann has included red-hot AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson once again, as the Icelandic-American looks to further reinforce his claim to make the World Cup squad. Their is also a call for Gold Cup stars Chris Wondolowski and Brek Shea, as these games will likely have a massive bearing on if they make the final cut to Brazil.

Interesting times ahead, as the U.S. begin their European tour on Friday November 15 at Hampden Park, before jetting to Vienna to play Austria on November 19. You can watch the Austria game live on NBC.

U.S. national team squad for friendlies with Scotland, Austria

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid.

Defenders: Brad Evans, Erich Lichaj, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Michael Orozco

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson, Brek Shea, Sacha Kljestan,

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Aron Johannsson, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski

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