THE SOCCER REPORT

Back-to-back Clásicos, MLS opening weekend highlight upcoming schedule

The Houston Dynamo are back at BBVA Compass Stadium with two matches this week.

Different story lines and renewed rivalries await as another busy week of soccer begins with a midweek dose of Premier League beginning on Tuesday. Real Madrid will host FC Barcelona twice this week in two different competitions, capturing the eyes of millions in one of the world's most heated sports rivalries. Finally, MLS is back with it's 24th season kicking off on Saturday.

UEFA Champions League

The first leg matches of the Round of 16 are in the books with plenty to play for when the second leg matches begin next week. In these latter matches, Atletico Madrid grabbed the biggest headlines for their 2-0 home win over Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus.

Round of 16 - first leg results:

  • Roma 2-1 Porto
  • Manchester United 0-2 PSG
  • Tottenham 3-0 Dortmund
  • Ajax 1-2 Real Madrid
  • Lyon 0-0 FC Barcelona
  • Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich
  • Atletico Madrid 2-0 Juventus
  • Schalke 04 2-3 Manchester City

UEFA Europa League

Round of 32 - second leg results:

  • Sevilla 2-0 Lazio (3-0 agg.)
  • Red Bull Salzburg 4-0 Club Brugge (5-2 agg.)
  • Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 Shakhtar Donetsk (6-3 agg.)
  • Villareal 1-1 Sporting CP (2-1 agg.)
  • Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 Plzen (4-2 agg.)
  • Zenit 3-1 Fenerbace (3-2 agg.)
  • Valencia 1-0 Celtic (3-0 agg.)
  • Napoli 2-0 Zurich (5-1 agg.)
  • Arsenal 3-0 BATE (3-1 agg.)
  • Genk 1-4 Slavia Praha (1-4 agg.)
  • Inter Milan 4-0 Rapid Vienna (5-0 agg.)
  • Leverkusen 1-1 Krasnodar (1-1 agg., Krasnodar wins on away goals)
  • Benfica 0-0 Galatasaray (2-1 agg.)
  • Real Betis 1-3 Rennes (4-6 agg.)
  • Chelsea 3-0 Malmo (5-1 agg.)
  • Dynamo Kiev 1-0 Olympiacos (3-2 agg.)

English Premier League

Manchester United and Liverpool played to a nil-nil draw at Old Trafford but the biggest headlines this weekend came from two sides not in league action. Manchester City and Chelsea played the final of the English Football League Cup, known also as the Carabao Cup, in a 0-0 draw that had to be decided in penalties. Drama ensued in extra time as Chelsea goalkeepeer Kepa Arrizabalaga grabbed all the headlines by refusing to sub out prior to penalty kicks. City won 4-3 on penalties.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (66), 2. Manchester City (65), 3. Tottenham (60), 4. Arsenal (53), 5. Manchester United (52), 6. Chelsea (50)

Scoring leader: 17 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Highlights Sevilla FC vs FC Barcelona (2-4) www.youtube.com

Lionel Messi continues to have a spectacular season, this week putting up a hat-trick against formidable foes Sevilla. Messi leads the league in goals and assists while Barcelona sit comfortably at the top of the standings.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (57), 2. Atlético Madrid (50), 3. Real Madrid (48), 4. Getafe (39), 5. Sevilla (37), 6. Alaves (37)

Scoring leader: 25 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 11 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Dortmund (54), 2. Bayern Munich (51), 3. Monchengladbach (43), 4. RB Leipzig (42), 5. Wolfsburg (38), 6. Eintracht Frankfurt (37)
Scoring leader: 15 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt

Assists leader: 10 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund) / Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (69), 2. Napoli (56), 3. Inter Milan (47), 4. Milan (45), 5. Roma (44), 6. Lazio (38)

Scoring leader: 19 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Assists leader: 8 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) / Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (68), 2. Lille (51), 3. Lyon (46), 4. Saint-Étienne (43), 5. Marseille (41), 6. Stade Reims (41)

Scoring leader: 22 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 8 - Nicolas Pepe (Lille) / Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Kenny Lala (Strasbourg)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (58), 2. Ajax (56), 3. Feyenoord (43)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (58), 2. Club Brugge (50), 3. Standard Liège (46)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (57), 2. Benfica (56), 3. Braga (49)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (63), 2. Rangers (55), 3. Aberdeen (50)

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Concacaf Champions League

#SCCL 2019 Weekly Recap www.youtube.com

The Houston Dynamo got their season to a successful start with a 1-0 away victory against Guatemalan side CD Guastatoya. For a few takeaways from that match, click here.

Round of 16 - first leg results:
  • Deportivo Saprissa 1-0 Tigres UANL
  • Independiente (Panama) 4-0 Toronto FC
  • Guastatoya 0-1 Houston Dynamo
  • Atletico Pantoja 0-2 New York Red Bulls
  • Talleres Cordoba 2-2 Palestino
  • Marathon 2-6 Santos Laguna
  • Alianza 0-0 Monterrey
  • Sporting KC 3-0 Toluca FC
  • Herediano 3-1 Atlanta United

Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer's 24th season kicks off Saturday with a total of 24 teams now that FC Cincinatti joins the league. The league will also feature a new playoff format where the top seven teams in each conference advance to the playoffs.

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Tigres UANL (19), 2. Monterrey (18), 3. Leon (17), 4. Santos Laguaa (14), 5. Chivas Guadalajara (14), 6. Pachuca (14), 7. Club Tijuana (13), 8. Club America (12)

Scoring leader: 7 - Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey) / Angel Mena (Leon) / Brian Fernandez (Necaxa)

Assists leader: 6 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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Copa Libertadores

Third round - first leg results:

  • Melgar 2-0 Caracas FC
  • Talleres Cordoba 2-2 Palestino
  • Defensor Sporting 0-2 Atletico Mineiro
  • Libertad 1-0 Atletico Nacional

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (48), 2. Defensa y Justicia (45), 3. Boca Juniors (38), 4. Atletico Tucuman (36)

Scoring leader: 16 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 7 - Walter Montillo (Tigre)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Feb. 26

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

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Houston Dynamo vs. CD Guastatoya (YahooSports.com)

Wednesday, Feb. 27

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

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

Thursday, Feb. 28

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

Friday, Mar. 1

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund (FS2)

Saturday, Mar. 2

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Nuremberg vs. RB Leipzig (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Frankfurt vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Southhampton (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

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

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

5:00 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake (KUBE57)

Sunday, Mar. 3

6:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Watford vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Fulham vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

10:15 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

Houston Dynamo Senior Vice President/General Manager Matt Jordan addressed questions from fans during the first hour of Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis on Tuesday night. Among the topics of conversation were potential player signings, concerns with player development and club operations.

The following are excerpts from the Q&A with callers to the program:

Potential Transfers

On why the Dynamo has not gone after a big name player that can fill BBVA Stadium

We're very open and we have had discussion with "big name players" ... For us, it's about getting the right players and I truly believe, through my experiences, you also have stars that grow within the league. We've seen that with our team with Alberth Elis, with Mauro Manotas - from my time in Montreal, we saw that with Ignacio Piatti. These weren't "big name stars" but they became "big name stars" so we look at all of it. We look at making our own stars, we look at some players that have been on the biggest stages and maybe a bit older but, for us, it's analyzing what's the right fit.

On the suggestion of a player like Mexico National Team Captain Andres Guardado

A lot of fans will say, "bring a big name, a Messi or Ronaldo" and that's not always realistic in the world of soccer but those are the types of profiles we do continue to look at along with making our own stars as well, which I think we've done a good job of with the two players I mentioned, who are stars in the city of Houston now.

On the reports of Cruz Azul's interest in Dynamo forward Mauro Manotas

We're getting interest in a lot of our young talented players. The two players that everyone talks about is Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis, there's also a handful of other players that we get inquiries of from abroad. A lot of the teams in the Mexican league follow our teams very closely and Cruz Azul did express interest in Mauro... [a potential transfer] has to make sense for the player, it has to make sense for the club

Player Development

On the investment in the Houston Dynamo Academy

With the support of our ownership group, over the last 18 months, have made significant investments in the academy. We hired a new academy director in Paul Holocher, we brought on what I believe are some of the brightest young coaches in the Unites States. We've really worked very hard to strengthen our partnerships and our strategic alliances here within the city of Houston, which I believe has really been a downfall of ours in the past.

On the possibility of having a locally-based USL team

We have. One thing I can tell you, we have our USL players, our academy players, our U23 players in and out with the first team all the time. With the Open Cup, we brought up several of our USL players. You'll see a couple of our USL players come up for our League's Cup game as well... of course, it's more ideal to have it next to our first team field but we're very proud of the partnership in the [Rio Grande] Valley.

Club Policies

On the Dynamo's scouting system for recruiting players for the first team...

We do have a scout in Europe that's paid by us, we have a scout in South America that's paid by us and I also have a full-time scout and analyst, here, that is in Houston working with us in our recruitment department.

What we do is we go through the annual scouting calendar, we prioritize what events we need to hit. Generally speaking, I only travel when we get to the point - myself or [Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera] or both of us together, a lot of time we'll travel together in the offseason. We only really travel when we get to [final stages of a transfer].

We use our regional contacts...What I really focus on is having one key contact in each country and, a lot of times, we go after the player, it's not that the player is presented to us by the agent. [Recent signing Jose Bizama] is a prime example, we went after Bizama and we approached the club through our process. Now, there's times where a player is presented to us as well, but more often then not we utilize those regional contacts in each country. There's a lot of times, with many of our players, we've identified them or we've gone after them when they're, maybe, not for sale and that's when the grinding starts to take place for the negotiation.

On the club hosting a town hall meeting with supporters

In this moment, I can't speak for ownership but I have no problem being in any setting and fielding questions about the team for the fans.

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The entire conversation is available on the July 16, 2019 episode of the podcast, which can be heard on iTunes, Google Podcasts and www.podcastarena.com/soccermatters/

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