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

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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