Clint Dempsey needs to be on next plane back to Seattle

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Another match has come and gone at Fulham, another one with big Premier League implications … and yet another one with no sight of Clint Dempsey.

Yet again, the struggling U.S. international did not make the 18-man game-day roster for, this time for a new manager as debuting boss Felix Magath. That’s three in a row with Dempsey nowhere to be seen.

Magath is well within his right to do what he thinks best for Fulham; the Cottagers, a small-budget club that has worked virtual miracles by remaining in the land’s highest division year after year lately, has big work ahead to remain so once again. There is no room for error – nor for worrying about any one player’s personal plight.

But here’s the deal as it relates to Dempsey:

We discovered recently that his loan agreement between Fulham, MLS and the Seattle Sounders allows the U.S. attacker to remain in London through the first day of March; Fulham hosts Chelsea in a West London derby a week from today, so he would presumably be available.

It’s a huge match for the clubs who share the fashionable, tony West London neighborhood; their grounds are separated by about a 20-minute walk – and a nice 20-minute walk, at that.

But never mind that; Dempsey should be on the next plane out of Heathrow.

It’s no longer time to worry about whether this loan has “worked” or “hasn’t worked” or whatever for Dempsey. Far more important, and the bottom line here: He’s a peripheral figure at very best around Craven Cottage and, at this point, Dempsey will be no key figure in whether Fulham survives to relegation beast.

It’s time for him to fulfil his much larger club obligation the one to Seattle.

He’s still the league’s second-highest paid player, and easily the top dog, wage-wise, around Century Link Field. That should count for a lot in the calculus here.

(MORE: Fulham draws at West Brom in Felix Magath managerial debut)

Calling it a day around Craven Cottage and getting back here isn’t just about the practical element that is all too clear: he’d be doing pretty much the same thing in London or in the States, training rather than playing (which is why Dempsey went abroad for the two-month spell, for the chance to play in high-level matches).

It’s also about reminding his Sounders teammates that Seattle – and a big year around the ground, especially for embattled manager Sigi Schmid – is his top priority in terms of club pursuits.

Let’s not forget, Dempsey will miss a bunch of time in May and June, at least six weeks, while on World Cup duty.

It’s too bad this loan spell didn’t work out as everyone would have liked … it’s time to tie this one off and get back into the team that is paying him so handsomely to be a main-man mainstay.

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

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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