THE SOCCER REPORT

De Gea posts 11 saves in Manchester United win; Dynamo mulling offer for Alberth Elis

Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea came up big in the 1-0 win over Tottenham. (Credit: adidas)

European leagues are past the halfway of their seasons, meaning the stakes are just getting higher. Liverpool, Barcelona and Dortmund all have good leads but not good enough while PSG and Juventus look to cruise in their domestic leagues.

In Houston, the stakes are also being raised as the city looks to secure host city stature for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The Houston Sports Authority appointed John Arnold as chairman of the bid committee last Friday, which you can read about here.

For everything else, here is the latest in the soccer world:

English Premier League

Every goal from Premier League Matchweek 22 | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

Liverpool may be sitting at the top of the table with a four-point lead but they know taking the foot off the pedal now would spell trouble. The leaders kept marching forward with a 1-0 win over Brighton thanks to a 50th minute penalty by their goalscorer, Mohamed Salah. Second place Manchester City took care of their own business with a 3-0 win over Wolves to keep pace while Chelsea put away Newcastle with a 2-1 victory to keep the gap between the top four. Arsenal were not so lucky, losing 1-0 against London rivals West Ham United. Everton, Watford, Burnley and Southampton also picked up three points this weekend.

The match circled on everybody's calendar, however, was the heavyweight bout between third place Tottenham and sixth place Manchester United. Heavyweight may be a term people may have been reserved about before the match due to United's fall from grace in recent title races but caretaker Ole Gunnar Solskjær has everyone believing after leading the Reds to five consecutive wins, across all competitons, since the firing of former manager Jose Mourinho. The former United goalscorer has reinvigorated the current squad but many wondered how much of their run has been due to the quality of their opponents. Well, there's nothing to scoff about a 1-0 win over a top four club like Tottenham. Thanks to a standout 11 saves from David De Gea and a 44th minute goal by Marcus Rashford, United are believing again and now stand only six points out of a Champions League spot.

The elation by Houston Manchester United supporters was no different as the beer flowed and the chants were well heard in EaDo.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (57), 2. Manchester City (53), 3. Tottenham (48), 4. Chelsea (47), 5. Arsenal (41), 6. Manchester United (41)

Scoring leader: 14 - Harry Kane (Tottenham) / Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Earlier this season, it seemed that others were primed to knock down the champion Barcelona or at least the hope was alive and well. That hope has since disseminated as one of the best in the world, and considered by some the best ever, took care of that. Lionel Messi stands alone at the top of both the individual standings in scoring and assists and reached another record by becoming the first player to score 400 goals in one of the major European leagues. Despite the two major Madrid clubs picking up wins this weekend, it looks very much like it will be Barcelona's year in La Liga.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (43), 2. Atlético Madrid (38), 3. Sevilla (33), 4. Real Madrid (33), 5. Alavés (32), 6. Getafe (28)

Scoring leader: 17 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)


German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Dortmund (42), 2. Bayern Munich (36), 3. Monchengladbach (33), 4. RB Leipzig (31), 5. Wolfsburg (28), 6. Eintracht Frankfurt (27)

Scoring leader: 12 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt) / Paco Alcacer (Dortmund)

Assists leader: 8 - Sébastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (53), 2. Napoli (44), 3. Inter Milan (39), 4. Lazio (32), 5. Milan (31), 6. Roma (30)

Scoring leader: 14 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

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

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (50), 2. Lille (37), 3. Lyon (33), 4. Saint-Étienne (33), 5. Montpellier (31), 6. Strasbourg (29)
Scoring leader: 14 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 7 - Memphis Depay (Lyon) / Nicolas Pépé (Lille)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (48), 2. Ajax (46), 3. Feyenoord (36)

Scoring leader: 14 - Luuk de Jong (PSV)

Assists leader: 8 - Arbër Zeneli (Heerenveen) / Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (48), 2. Club Brugge (41), 3. Antwerp (38)

Scoring leader: 15 - Mbwana Samatta (Genk)

Assists leader:12 - Hans Vanaken (Brugge)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (43), 2. Benfica (38), 3. Braga (37)

Scoring leader: 12 - Dyego Sousa (Braga)

Assists leader: 7 - Pizzi (Benfica)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (42), 2. Rangers (42), 3. Kilmarnock (41)

Scoring leader: 12 - Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)

Assists leader: 8 - James Tavernier (Rangers)

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Major League Soccer

The MLS college draft, known as the SuperDraft, took place last week with some clubs placing more priority on the event than others. Clubs are making their final preparations as most would have started their preseason training by this time next week. The Houston Dynamo, along with their five counterparts who will take place in the Concacaf Champions League, begin their preseason training this week.

The news around the Dynamo, however, has most loudly been about the potential departure of one of their most important players in 22-year-old forward Alberth Elis. The Honduran has been linked with a reported $6 million offer to Turkish club Fenerbahçe but the Dynamo don't seem willing to part with one of their young attackers - at least not for that price. The interest seems real, however, and this situation may drag out until the end of the European transfer window later this month. The Turkish club is currently second to last in the league standings and is looking to affordable options to offset their debt situation. Fenerbace do have a Houston tie as Chairman Ali Koç is a Rice University alumnus.

Elis arrived from vacation on Sunday afternoon and has reported with the team for preseason. In an interview I did with the player, he stated he is waiting for the club to make a decision on his future and is ready for whatever that decision may be.

Alberth Elis back in Houston for preseason with the Dynamo www.youtube.com


Liga MX

Monterrey vs. Club Leon | 2018-19 Liga MX Highlights www.youtube.com

Week two in the Clausura 2019 season took place over the weekend in Mexico, with some of the usual suspects immediately surging to the top. Historical club Chivas of Guadalajara, who have seen a downturn during recent seasons are off with two straight wins but time will tell how this season ends. As a famous Mexican song goes, "it's not about arriving first but knowing how to arrive."

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

Scoring leader: 3 - Enrique Triverio (Toluca)

Assists leader: 3 - Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, Jan. 16

11:30 a.m. - [Italian Supercoppa] Juventus vs. Milan (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

2:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Leganes vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

Thursday, Jan. 17

12:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Sociedad vs. Real Betis (beIN Sports)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Barcelona vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

Friday, Jan. 18

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [Scottish Cup] Cowdenbeath vs. Rangers (ESPN+)

Saturday, Jan. 19

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Torino (ESPNews)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Monchengladbach (FS1)

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

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Man United vs. Brighton (CNBC)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Chelsea (NBC)

Sunday, Jan. 20

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield vs. Manchester City (CNBC)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Fulham vs. Tottenham (NBC)

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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