The Soccer Report

Agüero, Messi and Ronaldo among weekend scorers; Atlanta's Almiron sold for MLS-record $26 million

Sergio Aguero scored his 10th Premier League hat-trick for Manchester City against Arsenal. Credit: Puma.

There's plenty to digest from the past week in soccer, from the craziness of Thursday's deadline day to the title-implicating results of the weekend. Here is a breakdown of all the action:

English Premier League

There were two rounds of Premier League action this week and both provided some drama in the title race. On Tuesday, Newcastle United looked to have dashed Manchester City's title hopes after the defending champions were upset 2-1 at St. James' Park. That left Liverpool with a chace to extend their lead by as much as seven points with a win over Leicester City on Wednesday, which ended in a 1-1 draw. City would regain their form on Sunday with a 3-1 home win over Arsenal - a result made more important by Liverpool's 1-1 away draw at West Ham on Monday. Now, a title race that could've been all but decided is back to a three point difference, with Spurs quietly two points behind City in third. With 13 dates left to play, the title race is nowhere near over.

Of course, Thursday's transfer deadline day left much to be talked about in the Premier League... for some. Tottenham, for starters, did not make a signing in back-to-back January transfer windows. London rivals Chelsea did as the Blues acquired striker Gonzalo Higuain from Milan. The Argentine, who reunites with his former Napoli manager, scored twice in Saturday's 5-0 win over Huddersfield. Newcastle were among the teams that made a splash by signing Atlanta United's Miguel Almiron for a club record £20 million ($26 million) on a five-year deal.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (62), 2. Manchester City (59), 3. Tottenham (57), 4. Chelsea (50), 5. Manchester United (48), 6. Arsenal (47)

Scoring leader: 16 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Highlights FC Barcelona vs Valencia CF (2-2) www.youtube.com

Leo Messi comes up big for FC Barcelona once more, with two goals this week in what could've been a disaster loss to a formidable Valencia who took a 0-2 lead at the Camp Nou. What makes it a sweeter victory is the loss of second place Atletico Madrid, 0-1 at Real Betis, to extend Barcelona's stranglehold on the title. Real Madrid won 3-0 against Alaves and will bank on Barcelona dropping more points to remain hopeful about a last gasp title run.

Off the field, Cirque du Soleil announced a show modeled after the Argentine sensation titled, "Messi10." The show will debut with showings to the public later this year in Barcelona before going international in 2020.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (50), 2. Atlético Madrid (44), 3. Real Madrid (42), 4. Sevilla (36), 5. Getafe (32), 6. Real Betis (32)

Scoring leader: 21 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Leaders Borussia Dortmund continue with breathing room despite dropping points in a 1-1 draw at Frankfurt. Bayern Munich, who was on a charge up the table, lost 3-1 at Bayer Leverkusen to drop down to 3rd in the standings.

Top six: 1. Dortmund (49), 2. Monchengladbach (42), 3. Bayern Munich (42), 4. RB Leipzig (37), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (32), 6. Wolfburg (31)

Scoring leader: 14 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 9 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund / Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Juventus 3-3 Parma | Gervinho Snatches Late Draw After Ronaldo Double | Serie A youtu.be

It was a bit of a down week for Juventus after the Italian giants were eliminated from the Coppa Italia in a 3-0 quarterfinal loss at Atalanta. The slump carried over to their league form as the defending champions dropped points against Parma thanks to a goal given up in stoppage team. Cristiano Ronaldo did score twice and retook the leadership in the scoring table.

Top six: 1. Juventus (60), 2. Napoli (51), 3. Inter Milan (40), 4. Milan (36), 5. Atalanta (35), 6. Roma (35)

Scoring leader: 17 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Assists leader: 8 - Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (56), 2. Lille (46), 3. Lyon (43), 4. Saint-Étienne (37), 5. Montpellier (36), 6. Strasbourg (35)

Scoring leader: 18 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 8 - Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Memphis Depay (Lyon) / Nicolas Pepe (Lille)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (55), 2. Ajax (50), 3. Feyenoord (39)

Scoring leader: 18 - Luuk de Jong (PSV)

Assists leader: 10 - Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord) / Steven Bergwijn (PSV)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (54), 2. Club Brugge (45), 3. Antwerp (45)

Scoring leader: 17 - Mbwana Samatta (Genk)

Assists leader: 12 - Hans Vanaken (Brugge)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (50), 2. Benfica (47), 3. Braga (46)

Scoring leader: 13 - Dyego Sousa (Braga)

Assists leader: 9 - Pizzi (Benfica)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (54), 2. Rangers (48), 3. Aberdeen (46)

Scoring leader: 13 - Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)

Assists leader: 8 - James Tavernier (Rangers)

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Major League Soccer

MLS took a major stride in it's attempt to grow into a "selling league" with the record sale of Atlanta United's Miguel Almiron to the Premier League's Newcastle United for a reported $26 million transfer fee. That wasn't the only bit of craziness as D.C. United's own #10 Luciano Acosta was reportedly on his way to PSG, and even flew to Paris to complete the transfer, before the deal fell apart after the clubs could not agree on a price.

On the field, less than a month remains for the start of the 2019 season as teams begin to take part in friendlies. The Dynamo returns to competitive action in about two weeks for their part in the Concacaf Champions League before kicking off the season on March 2nd against Real Salt Lake. In the meanwhile, the club is in Tucson,Arizona for preseason friendlies against MLS competition (times and dates in the schedule below).

Liga MX

Tijuana vs. Toluca | 2019 Liga MX Highlights www.youtube.com

Top eight: 1. Monterrey (11), 2. Necaxa (10), 3. Tigres UANL (10), 4. Atlas (10), 5. Chivas Guadalajara (10), 6. Club America (9), 7. Club Leon (8), 8. Lobos BUAP (7)

Scoring leader: 4 - Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey) / Leonardo Ramos (Lobos BUAP)

Assists leader: 4 - Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey)

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (42), 2. Defensa y Justicia (39), 3. Boca Juniors (31), 4. Atletico Tucuman (31)

Scoring leader: 14 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 5 - Luis Miguel Rodriguez (Atletico Tucuman)

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U.S. Men's National Team

MNT vs. Costa Rica: Highlights - Feb. 2, 2019 www.youtube.com

The U.S. Men's National Team notched their second win under new coach Gregg Berhalter with a 2-0 result over Costa Rica. The result should be taken with a grain of salt given it wasn't either team's best squad due to this match not being played on a FIFA international date, meaning European-based players would not be released. The USMNT's next friendlies should provide a better litmus test when they face off on March 21st against Ecuador and March 26th against Chile, the latter taking place in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Feb. 5

11:30 a.m. - [German Cup] Heidenheim vs. Bayer Leverkusen (ESPN3)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen (ESPN3)

Wednesday, Feb. 6

11:30 a.m. - [German Cup] RB Leipzig vs. Wolfsburg (ESPN3)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Hertha Berlin vs. Bayern Munich (ESPN3)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Schalke 04 vs. Dusseldorf (ESPN3)

2:00 p.m. - [Copa Del Rey] FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid (beIN SPORTS)

7:00 p.m. - [MLS Preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United (HoustonDynamo.com)

Thursday, Feb. 7

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Lazio vs. Empoli (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Betis vs. Valencia (beIN Sports)

Friday, Feb. 8

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Mainz vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS2)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Chievo vs. Roma (ESPN+)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Veracruz vs. Tigres UANL (Univision Deportes)

Saturday, Feb. 9

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Fulham vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Frankfurt (FOX Deportes)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. Hoffenheim (FS2/Univision Deportes)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Bournemouth (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield vs. Arsenal (CNBC)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Burnley (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04 (FS2)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Parma vs. Inter Milan (ESPN+)

7:00 p.m. - [MLS Preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders FC (HoustonDynamo.com)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club America vs. Club Leon (Univision)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Necaxa vs. Chivas Guadalajara (Univision)

Sunday, Feb. 10

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Sassuolo vs. Juventus (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes)

12:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Toluca vs. Cruz Azul (Univision)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] AC Milan vs. Cagliari (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona (beIN Sports)

Monday, Feb. 11

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Newcastle United (NBC Sports)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo broke a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium. The win is the first at home since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls and the first victory in league play since July 20 at Toronto. The result also marked the first win under Interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud.

Here are five observations from the September 11 result on "First Responders Night."

1) A win long worth the wait

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy but it was a much needed result to break free from a bad spell. More so than ending a seven -match winless streak, it was about the team turning around a stretch that saw them winless in 17 out of their last 20 dating back to May. Yes, the Dynamo began the season undefeated in 7 of their first 8 matches - the best start in franchise history. Cool. Anybody who was being honest in their analysis knew the team benefited from a home-heavy schedule to start the season and that the most challenging part was on its way.

Before the start of Wednesday's match, the club had a record of 2-12-1 (W-L-D) since returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup break. It was a similar summer dismantling to what happened in 2018, except that had makeup applied to it in the form of a U.S. Open Cup title.

After the team's shortcomings failed to be addressed, the team began to head towards its fifth playoff absence in six seasons. What the future holds is still to be seen but at least, for one night, Dynamo supporters were rewarded with the sweet taste of victory.

2) Making the switch to a two-forward formation

The 4-2-3-1 formation that featured two wingers and a lone forward had run it's course. It stopped working for the Dynamo a few games back. Truthfully, it was always a formation meant to favor the two speedy wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The results were always going to be less favorable once players without the characteristics of Elis and Quioto, i.e. Memo Rodriguez, Tommy McNamara, etc., began to be inserted.

For whatever reasons, Davy Arnaud continued some of the habits of previous manager Wilmer Cabrera. That included playing in the 4-2-3-1. Arnaud had switched to a 4-4-2 during his debut as the interim, where the team came back from 0-2 down to a dramatic 2-2 home draw. He opted not to repeat the two-forward lineup in the two matches after.

Whether being forced by circumstances (the potential sale of Mauro Manotas and the international FIFA break may have played a part), Arnaud finally went to a lineup that placed his two best attackers on the field: Mauro Manotas and Christian Ramirez.

The resulting win may be a coincidence of that change but the Dynamo looked their best under Arnaud's tenure as head coach.

3) Alejandro Fuenmayor features in first MLS match since June

The 23-year-old defender was one of the better additions to the team during the 2017/18 offseason. The Venezuelan even started in 21 of 22 matches, the sixth most starts on the team. This season, he fell out of favor with former manager Wilmer Cabrera and thrown into the doghouse.

Fuenmayor had featured in 429 minutes and five MLS matches prior to the encounter with Minnesota. It was as if he was played out of necessity for lack of other options. In the Leagues Cup match in late July against Liga MX side Club America and on Wednesday night, Fuenmayor showed why he is one of the better players on the roster.

What happened in the past is done. What happens going forward is in the club's control and, given the proof over the last two seasons, Alejandro Fuenmayor has to be part of the team's plan for the future and the present.

4) Joe Willis matches career-high for wins in a season

Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been one of the more solid performers this season despite the blunders everyone remembers from his performances at Cincinnati and at Philadelphia. He's been a workhorse for the Dynamo. With the win against Minnesota, he matched a career-high nine wins in a singular season and could reach double digits before the year is over.

5) Arnaud turns the corner

Time will tell if Davy Arnaud's interim tag will be removed. As of now, he's the leading candidate for the permanent head coaching job. The biggest benefit that was always going to come from him was the union of the locker room. Now with his first win in hand, Arnaud has five matches to prove why he deserves the gig.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

A game-winning goal and an assist for Manotas makes him the Man of the Match. In every period of turmoil throughout his time in Houston, Manotas has been one of the few voices that gives it to you straight and doesn't spit cliches. That's the same personality he goes on the field with and that's why he's one of the league's better goalscorers.

Next match:

Saturday, September 14 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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