THE SOCCER REPORT

Champions League returns with PSG, Spurs and Real Madrid wins

Adidas unveiled the match ball for the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final. Courtesy: adidas

The theme of this week's actions was international competition with the return of the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League and the third round of the Copa Libertadores of South America. Concacaf teams are about to join in on the action with the start of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, in which the Houston Dynamo will play in Guatemala City on Tuesday night.

UEFA Champions League

Roma and Tottenham were the winning home sides this week while Real Madrid and PSG picked up important away wins against Ajax and Manchester United respectfully. This week, Lyon vs. Barcelona, Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich, Atletico vs. Juventus and Schalke 04 vs. Manchester City will round out the rest of the round of 16 first leg matches.
Round of 16 - first leg results:
  • Roma 2-1 Porto
  • Manchester United 0-2 PSG
  • Tottenham 3-0 Dortmund
  • Ajax 1-2 Real Madrid

UEFA Europa League

Round of 32 - first leg results:

  • Fenerbace 1-0 Zenit St. Petersburg
  • Olympiacos 2-2 Dynamo Kyiv
  • Lazio 0-1 Sevilla
  • Rapid Vienna 0-1 Inter Milan
  • Slava Praha 0-0 Genk
  • Galatasaray 1-2 Benfica
  • Rennes 3-3 Real Betis
  • BATE 1-0 Arsenal
  • FC Krasnodar 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
  • Plzen 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb
  • Brugge 2-1 Red Bull Salzburg
  • Celtic 0-2 Valencia
  • Malmo 1-2 Chelsea
  • FC Zurich 1-3 Napoli
  • Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Sporting CP 0-1 Villareal
  • Ajax 1-2 Real Madrid

English Premier League

Action in England's top division was stalled this weekend as the FA Cup took center stage. The quarter-final matches are paired as follows: Millwall vs. Brighton, Swansea City vs. Manchester City, Watford vs. Crystal Palace and Wolves vs. Manchester United. The Prem resumes Friday with a London match-up as West Ham hosts Fulham.
Top six: 1. Manchester City (65), 2. Liverpool (65), 3. Tottenham (60), 4. Manchester United (51), 5. Arsenal (50), 6. Chelsea (50)

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

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

In Spain's top-flight, FC Barcelona continues to make room between themselves and the field in the title race. Leo Messi and co. collected three points while Real Madrid slipped 2-1 to Girona, allowing Atletico Madrid to jump back up to second with a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. The rest of the top six remained the same.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (54), 2. Atlético Madrid (47), 3. Real Madrid (45), 4. Sevilla (37), 5. Getafe (36), 6. Alaves (36)

Scoring leader: 22 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund rebounded from a midweek loss in the Champions League with a draw at Nurnberg, keeping the separation with rivals Bayern Munich to three points. The Black and Yellow lost American Christian Pulisic to injury in the UCL match against Spurs and could be in doubt for a few more games.
Top six: 1. Dortmund (51), 2. Bayern Munich (48), 3. Monchengladbach (43), 4. RB Leipzig (41), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (36), 6. Wolfsburg (35)

Scoring leader: 14 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 10 - Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Juventus 3-0 Frosinone | Ronaldo and Dybala Help Juventus Beat Frosinone | Serie A www.youtube.com

Cristiano Ronaldo can't stop scoring, adding one more to his season tally in Juve's 3-0 win over Frosinone. Milan picked up a 3-1 win over Atalanta to solidify their place in the top four. Inter Milan and Roma also picked up three points this week.

Top six: 1. Juventus (66), 2. Napoli (53), 3. Inter Milan (46), 4. Milan (42), 5. Roma (41), 6. Atalanta (38)

Scoring leader: 19 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

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

French Ligue 1

Marseille made the biggest jump in the standings this week by swapping places with Montpellier and cracking the top four. As for the champs, PSG continues to roll behind the league's top scorer in Mbappé.

Top six: 1. PSG (62), 2. Lille (50), 3. Lyon (46), 4. Marseille (40), 5. Saint-Étienne (40), 6. Montpellier (38)

Scoring leader: 19 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

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

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (57), 2. Ajax (53), 3. Feyenoord (42)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (57), 2. Club Brugge (49), 3. Standard Liège (46)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (54), 2. Benfica (53), 3. Braga (49)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (60), 2. Rangers (52), 3. Aberdeen (47)

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Concacaf Champions League

The 2019 edition of the Concacaf Champions League begins Tuesday night with the 1st leg matches of the quarterfinal stage. Costa Rica's Saprissa and Mexico's Tigres UANL will kick this year's edition simultaneously with Panama's Independiente hosting Toronto FC. The Houston Dynamo will face off in Guatemala against Guastatoya in the 9 p.m. match. Matches will be broadcast in English on Yahoo! Sports.


Major League Soccer

While five MLS teams take part in the Champions League, the rest continue their preparations ahead of the league's opening weekend in two weeks. FC Cincinatti will be the new expansion team that joins the league in 2019.

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Monterrey (17), 2. Tigres UANL (16), 3. Leon (14), 4. Chivas Guadalajara (14), 5. Necaxa (11), 6. Santos (11), 7. Pachuca (11), 8. Club Tijuana (10)

Scoring leader: 7 - Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)

Assists leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Cruz Azul)

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Copa Libertadores

Third round - first leg matchups:

  • Melgar vs. Caracas FC
  • Talleres Cordoba vs. Palestino
  • Defensor Sporting vs. Atletico Mineiro
  • Libertad vs. Atletico Nacional

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (45), 2. Defensa y Justicia (45), 3. Boca Juniors (35), 4. Atletico Tucuman (32)

Scoring leader: 15 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 7 - Walter Montillo (Tigre)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Feb. 19

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich (TNT/Galavision)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Lyon vs. Barcelona (Unimas/Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] CD Guastatoya vs. Houston Dynamo (Yahoo! Sports/Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, Feb. 20

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus (TNT/UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Schalke 04 vs. Man City (B/R Live/Galavision)

Thursday, Feb. 21

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. BATE (B/R Live/Galavision)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Valencia vs. Celtic (B/R Live/Univision Deportes)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Villarreal vs. Sporting CP (B/R Live/UniMas)

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

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Inter Milan vs. Rapid Vienna (B/R Live/Galavision)

Friday, Feb. 22

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. VfB Stuttgart (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Fulham (NBC Sports)

Saturday, Feb. 23

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Hertha BSC Berlin (FS2)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Mönchengladbach vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Univision Deportes)

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

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Sevilla vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

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

Sunday, Feb. 24

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

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

10:30 a.m. - [Carabao Cup FInal] Chelsea vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

11:00 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. Real Madrid (beIN 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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