Getty Images

Jozy Altidore’s presence missed in USMNT draw with Venezuela

Leave a comment

International friendlies are all about learning. With just days to go before the United States faces another crucial pair of World Cup qualifiers, Bruce Arena experimented a bunch against Venezuela with the idea that he can learn plenty about his current squad.

The 1-1 draw featured heavy United States possession, but nary a true look on goal. As Arena put it, “the final product wasn’t very good.”

The main reason for this? The absence of Jozy Altidore.

[ MORE: 3 more things we learned from the 1-1 draw with Venezuela ]

Altidore, the 3rd-leading scorer in USMNT history, was absent from the squad at Rio Tinto Stadium after missing the early portion of camp due to his brother’s wedding. Therefore, Arena left him out, instead pairing Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood up front in one of those aforementioned experiments. While both Dempsey and Wood are quality players and both showed flashes of usefulness throughout the game, they are also far too similar in style to form an effective partnership at this stage. Both are speedy strikers who make runs through the defense, but neither has the true strength to allow others to get into space.

Clint Dempsey and the USMNT attack struggled mightily in the final third against Venezuela (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images).

Jozy’s hold-up play was the biggest missing piece for the United States against Venezuela, and while he has taken plenty of heat during his time with the international squad (sometimes deserved, sometimes not), Altidore is a critical piece of this USMNT squad, never more evident than just outside Salt Lake City last night.

If the United States is to take a positive points haul against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, they will need Altidore at his best up front, not only scoring goals but also to help turn possession into danger up front, something the US was unable to do against Venezuela. Altidore is often judged by his ability to score goals for the US, but that is not nearly his only contribution to the squad.

Introducing Jozy Altidore back into the starting lineup most likely would see Bobby Wood the odd man out in a fully healthy squad, which is an unfortunate loss, but he and Dempsey simply do not provide enough variance up front. Wood will get plenty of chances in the future with Dempsey’s time eventually up, and he offers a speedy, dangerous option off the bench for the final 20 minutes of an even game.

The bottom line is that, despite his sometimes divisive stance with USMNT fans, the United States needs Jozy Altidore. That was blatantly obvious through 90 minutes in Sandy, Utah.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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