THE SOCCER REPORT

Dynamo trio score in international competition; Maradona returns to coaching

Credit: Houston Dynamo

The September FIFA break brought a pause to league matches all around the world for international competitions and friendlies. Here are the top stories from the week, followed by a schedule of some of the more compelling upcoming matches.

Dynamo fall in the standings in bye week, three players score in international play

Houston Dynamo fell to 11th (out of 12) in the Western Conference despite not playing this weekend thanks to the Colorado Rapids win over Seattle Sounders. The Dynamo have two matches this week and, depending on results, could still fall to last place in the Western Conference.

Not everything was bad news for the Dynamo as five of their players featured for their national teams during the international break.

Defender Aljaz "Kiki" Struna scored for Slovenia in a 2-0 win against Poland last Friday. Struna started in the 3-2 win over Israel on Monday but was subbed off in the second half due to injury. Slovenia is currently second in their group and is well positioned to qualify for next summer's EURO 2020.

Darwin Ceren scored off a penalty in El Salvador's 3-0 win over Saint Lucia in Concacaf Nations League. He also featured in the 0-1 loss at the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.

Alberth Elis and Maynor Figueroa saw action in Honduras' 2-1 home win in a friendly against Jose Bizama's Chile. Elis scored the tying goal for Honduras while Bizama, a summer signing for the Dynamo, came off the bench in the 75th minute.

The Dynamo are back home on Wednesday against Minnesota Untied (7:30 p.m. CT, KUBE 57)

Houston Dash lose 0-3 at Chicago Red Stars, virtually ending playoff hopes

The Houston Dash fell to 7th place (out of 9 teams) in the National Women's Soccer League standings with a road loss against likely playoff-bound Chicago Red Stars. The loss puts Houston nine points behind fourth place Utah, who the Dash will host on Friday night.

U.S. Men's National Team lose to Mexico, draw with Uruguay

A rematch of this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup final, just over a month after that encounter, ended in a 0-3 loss for the United States in front of a pro-Mexico crowd at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey last Friday.

The USMNT recovered from that heavily scrutinized match with a 1-1 draw against an alternate Uruguay squad at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a four-goal performance in Euro 2020 qualifiers

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to wreck it at the international stage at the age of 34, getting a "poker" against Lithuania in EURO 2020 qualifiers. His four-goal performance extends his mark of international goals to 93 with Portugal.

Diego Maradona is presented as head coach of Argentina Superliga club Gimnasia

There's one word that can never be used when Diego Maradona is in the news - boring. The legendary FIFA World Cup winner, regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game, has returned to his native land as the Manager of Argentina top division team Gimnasia La Plata.

Maradona was unveiled over the weekend at the club's 33,500-seat stadium to a capacity crowd of supporters and worldwide media.

Gimnasia's first match with Maradona at the helm comes Sunday 9:00 a.m. CT in league action against defending champions Racing Club.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, September 11

7:30 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United (KUBE 57)

Friday, September 13

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Dusseldorf vs. Wolfsburg (FS2, FOX Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Mallorca vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)

6:30 p.m. - [Liga MX] Puebla vs. Atletico San Luis (TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

7:30 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. Utah Royals

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Tijuana vs. Tigres (FOX Deportes)

Saturday, September 14

6:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

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

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Fiorentina vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS1, FOX Deportes)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Cologne vs Borussia Monchengladbach (FS2, TUDN)

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

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Leganes vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports en Español)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Norwich vs. Manchester City (NBC)

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports en Español)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich (FS2, UniMas)

1:30 p.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Valencia (beIN Sports)

9:00 p.m. - [MLS] Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE 57)

Sunday, September 15

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

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

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] Portland Timbers vs. D.C. United (ESPN)

9:00 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Sporting KC (FS1)

Monday, September 16

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Aston Villa vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

Courtesy of Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo fell back to second-to-last place in the Western Conference after a 2-1 loss against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night at BC Place. Mauro Manotas struck for the second consecutive match but it would not be enough as fellow Colombian Fredy Montero notched a 90th minute winner for the Caps.

Here are five observations from the match:

1) A winnable game

Despite Whitecaps FC coming into this match two weeks removed from their last MLS match, the Dynamo were looking at a possibility of picking up their first three points ever in Vancouver. The Canadians simply haven't looked great and that's a big reason why they are still the last place team in the West.

Houston had plenty of opportunities early on with Tommy McNamara missing a golden chance in just the fourth minute of play. The team ended up out-shooting the Whitecaps 18-6 throughout the entire match but they lacked the quality to punish in the final third.

For a team that has been poor on the road (Dynamo have a combined 5 away wins since 2017), this was a great opportunity to pick up a road win.

2) Hard done by a handball

The definition of a handball changed in an update to the Laws of the Game earlier this year. As a result, referees have interpreted the rule to the letter of the law because the evaluation of a "deliberate" handball has been removed.

In this case, the referee awards the penalty even after going to the video review booth. The Dynamo were on the other side of a VAR decision on Wednesday when a Minnesota goal was annulled after video review.

Ultimately, the Dynamo could've avoided the entire controversy by putting their chances away and putting this match out of reach.

3) Manotas scores again

There's not much more that can be said about Dynamo leading scorer Mauro Manotas. Once again, he was well positioned to jump on an opportunistic chance to score. The improvement to his game can only come as he evolves into a scorer that can create his own chances more consistently. Other than that, he's been one of the Dynamo's top players for the past few years.

4) Late goal defeat

Fredy Montero, one of the better scorers in the history of the league, was on a goal drought since June. He ended that drought with a 90th minute winner, taking advantage of a Jose Bizama who put out his worst performance in a Dynamo jersey.

Late goal defeats are probably up there with anything else you'd describe Dynamo play in this decade. Add another to the list.

5) Arnaud's progression continues to be slow

It was always going to be a though ask for Davy Arnaud to provide a complete 180-degree change and make a charge for the playoffs. In his five games in charge, Arnaud has reinvigorated the locker room with a bit of confidence. He has also taken more of a safety net approach and not rushing to make drastic changes in his lineups and during matches.

Dynamo player of the game: Maynor Figueroa

Figueroa's strike from created the clearest opportunity for the Dynamo. It is that type of initiative that get teams back into this type of match. The Honduran national team captain has injected an impact of leadership and is fearless when he is on the field. Signed in the offseason for an annual salary of $70,250.00, Figueroa has been every bit worth every penny and, undeniably, a steal.

Next match:

Saturday, September 21 vs. Orlando City SC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57)

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