The Soccer Report

Barcelona clinch 26th La Liga title; Liverpool's van Dijk named PFA Players' PoY

Barcelona have their sights on reclaiming the Champions League trophy after watching rivals Real Madrid lift it the past three years. Credit: Nike, Inc.

FC Barcelona joined Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus as the latest side to clinch their domestic league. Unlike the other two, Barça now focus their energy on getting past Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. Liverpool, Barcelona's opponent, will have the opposite challenge of putting aside their current fight for the Premier League to try and advance to the UCL final for the second straight year. Ajax and Tottenham will duel in the other semifinal series.

UEFA Champions League

Four sides remain in what is probably the best soccer tournament (after the World Cup, of course) with Barcelona considered the favorite to win it all. The battle between Barça and Liverpool matches up the world's best attacker in Leo Messi against the best defender going today in Virgil van Dijk. The other series is a battle of Cinderella teams between Tottenham and Ajax.

UEFA Europa League

Thursday will have similar drama as not only will the four teams left want to lift the cup at the end of the season but they all have a stake in wanting to secure the Champions League spot that comes with it. All four teams still have a chance to accomplish that through their league standings but, with the Premier League standings as tight as it is, the Europa League serves as an important insurance policy.

English Premier League

The saga continues between Liverpool and Manchester City as goal line technology played a part to add to the drama of the title race. No side is letting up, making this a photo finish to the end. In the awards category, Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk was awarded with this season's PFA Player of the Year Award and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling won the PFA's Young Player of the Year Award.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (92), 2. Liverpool (91), 3. Tottenham (70), 4. Chelsea (68), 5. Arsenal (66), 6. Manchester United (65)

Scoring leader: 21 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 13 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) / Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. (C) - FC Barcelona (83), 2. Atlético Madrid (74), 3. Real Madrid (65), 4. Getafe (55), 5. Sevilla (55), 6. Valencia (52)

Scoring leader: 34 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) / Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (71), 2. Dortmund (69), 3. RB Leipzig (64), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (54), 5. Monchengladbach (51), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (51)

Scoring leader: 21 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 14 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. (C) - Juventus (88), 2. Napoli (70), 3. Inter Milan (62), 4. Atalanta (59), 5. Roma (58), 6. Torino (56)

Scoring leader: 23 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. (C) - PSG (84), 2. Lille (68), 3. Lyon (62), 4. Saint-Étienne (59), 5. Marseille (54), 6. Montpellier (51)

Scoring leader: 30 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 12 - Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (80), 2. PSV Eindhoven (80), 3. Feyenoord (62)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (47), 2. Club Brugge (41), 3. Antwerp (38), 4. Standard Liege (33), 5. Anderlecht (27), 6. Gent (26)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (78), 2. Porto (76), 3. Sporting CP (70)

Scottish Premier League

Championship: 1. Celtic (81), 2. Rangers (72), 3. Aberdeen(61)

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Concacaf Champions League

Monterrey is a bit of a quiet place these days as neither side of fans wants to jinx their team in the regional final to determine the champion of Concacaf. Monterrey took a 1-0 win away at Tigres and will look to finish the job at home on Wednesday. Tigres fans, however, remain hopeful that their side can be crowned champions on their rivals' home turf just as they did in Liga MX a few seasons ago.

Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (17), 2. Montreal (17), 3. Philadelphia (14), 4. Toronto (13), 5. Columbus (13), 6. Orlando (12), 7. NYCFC (12)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (23), 2. LA Galaxy (22), 3. Seattle (18), 4. FC Dallas (17), 5. Houston (16), 6. Minnesota (14), 7. Real Salt Lake (10)

Scoring leader: 11 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 6 - Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers) / Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)

Liga MX

One matchday remains in Mexico to decide the eight teams that will advance to this season's playoffs. Tijuana is currently in the final spot and they host 9th place Puebla where the winner will advance.

Top eight: 1. Leon (38), 2. Tigres UANL (34), 3. Monterrey (30), 4. Cruz Azul (29), 5. Pachuca (28), 6. Necaxa (26), 7. Club America (26), 8. Tijuana (25)

Scoring leader: 14 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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National Women's Soccer League

Standings: 1. North Carolina Courage (7), 2. Utah Royals (6), 3. Chicago Red Stars (5), 4. Portland Thorns (5), 5. Houston Dash (4), 6. Washington Spirit (3), 7. Seattle Reign (2), 8. Sky Blue FC (1), 9. Orlando Pride (1)

Scoring leader: 4 - Crystal Dunn (North Carolina)

Assists leader: 2 - Lynn Williams (North Carolina) / Meghan Klingenberg (Portland)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 30

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. Ajax (TNT, Univision, Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, May. 1

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Liverpool (TNT, Univision, Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Monterrey vs. Tigres UANL (YahooSports.com, Univision Deportes)

Thursday, May. 2

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. Valencia (B/R Live, UniMas)

2:00p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Frankfurt vs. Chelsea (B/R Live, Univision Deportes)

Friday, May. 3

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

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

Saturday, May. 4

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

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Hannover (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff vs. Crystal Palace (NBC)

1:00 p.m. - [MLS] NY Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Newcastle vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas (Twitter, Univision)

Sunday, May. 5

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

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

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (FS2)

5:00 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride (YahooSports.com)

8:00 p.m. - [MLS] Sporting KC vs. Atlanta United (FS1)

Monday, May. 2

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Leicester City (NBCSports)

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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