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)

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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