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USMNT’s John Brooks secures record move to Wolfsburg

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U.S. Men’s National Team centerback John Brooks has a new club, and he’s reportedly broken an American record in the process.

Wolfsburg announced Wednesday that it had signed Brooks on a five-year contract from Hertha Berlin, with Brooks moving for a reported $22.46 million according to German publication Kicker. If the report is true, it would be a new American transfer record, breaking Jozy Altidore‘s €10 million fee that Sunderland paid for him from AZ Alkmaar.

[ MORE: Bundesliga News and Scores ]

“The decision to leave my home-town wasn’t an easy one, but having spoken with Olaf Rebbe and Andries Jonker, I really wanted the move to Wolfsburg, because they both quickly convinced me of their plans with VfL,” Brooks said in a statement. “I want to play my part in helping VfL to repeat the success they have enjoyed in recent years.”

The 24-year-old defender had been with Hertha Berlin since 2007, and went on to make 119 league appearances for the Blue-Whites. Since making his debut for the USMNT in 2013, Brooks has made 30 appearances and scored three goals, including the famous game-winning goal against Ghana in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

“We are delighted about the signing of John Anthony Brooks. In securing his services, we have strengthened our defense with a highly talented and ambitious individual. At just 24, he also brings a great deal of experience,” Wolfsburg’s sporting director Rebbe said.

On its face the move seems strange, aside from the likely pay raise that Brooks is getting. Wolfsburg needed to beat out Eintracht Braunschweig to avoid relegation following a disastrous season in which it gave up 52 goals, scored only 34 in 34 games and recorded just 37 points. Meanwhile, Hertha qualified for the UEFA Europa League, finishing in sixth place in the Bundesliga with 48 points.

But it was a down year for some of Germany’s recent traditional powers, including Schalke (10th place), Bayer Leverkusen (12th place) and Werder Bremen (eighth place).

Wolfsburg was UEFA Champions League quarterfinalists in 2015 and 2016 and won the German Cup in 2016, but struggled mightily this past season despite a reported $89 million spent on signings. Unloading some of the disappointing players and bringing in some new goal scorers will be high on the team’s short list after securing Brooks.

Brooks was called in to USMNT manager Bruce Arena’s World Cup qualifying training camp last Sunday. The U.S. faces Venezuela in a friendly match on Saturday before taking on Trinidad and Tobago in Commerce City, Colo. on June 8 and then traveling to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico to face El Tri on June 11.

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

“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