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USMNT-Trinidad and Tobago: Don’t screw it up

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Win Thursday and finish this international break in at least the inter-confederation playoff spot.

That’s what’s at stake for the United States men’s national team heading into Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado.

Sure, the Yanks could go down to Azteca and win against a Mexico team as difficult to figure out as them, but Thursday’s three points should be a sure-fire and wonderful thing.

[ MORE: How will Arena line ’em up? ]

That’s not to say Bruce Arena’s men are going to get the job done. They are, Christian Pulisic’s growth and Geoff Cameron‘s health aside, the exact same flawed bunch that saw Jurgen Klinsmann fired after underperforming late last year.

This is a group that only drew Venezuela 1-1 on Saturday night in Utah, allowing a goal off another set piece to a team that entered the match on a 2W-2D-6L kick.

But it’s also a group playing a Trinidad and Tobago team that just doesn’t win here in meaningful games. Say what you will about MLS standouts Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Molino, but they are just that and facing a strong enough U.S. side in the high altitude of Commerce City. The Soca Warriors lost their last away WCQ 3-1 to Honduras, the same Honduras side that fell 6-0 to the U.S. last international break.

This should absolutely, positively, be a comfortable win. Frankly, it’s the sort of match-up that makes Jozy Altidore one of the scariest men in CONCACAF, whether paired with Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, or a tiny toy dog. Altidore scored twice when the Yanks waxed T&T in September, and has five in five career appearances against the Soca Warriors.

So, yeah, like the headline says: Don’t screw this up, fellas. Don’t overlook T&T but also be sure to enter the match with the swagger of a heavy favorite. The bettors say the Yanks are more of a lock (1:9) to beat T&T then Mexico is to beat visiting Honduras and Costa Rica is to handle Panama.

Simply put, if Arena spent the last few days firming up his defending on corner kicks, and if Geoff Cameron’s center back mate doesn’t turn into a turnstile, the Yanks win this easy and we turn our attention to Mexico.

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