THE SOCCER REPORT

Juventus, PSG clinch league titles; MLS announces expansion to 30 teams

Minnesota United FC, who debuted their new stadium earlier this month, were one of the latest MLS expansion teams. (Credit: Minnesota United)

Every week brings us closer to the climax of leagues around the world as we also make our way to a summer full of interesting international story lines. Scroll down to catch up on the week in soccer with a watch list of important matches awaiting you at the end.

Top stories:

  • Liverpool/Egypt forward Mohamed Salah and Orlando Pride/USA forward Alex Morgan named to TIME's 100 Most Influential list
  • UEFA Champions League semifinals: Spurs vs. Ajax; Liverpool vs. Barcelona
  • UEFA Europa League semifinals: Arsenal vs. Valencia; Chelsea vs. Frankfurt
  • Concacaf Champions League finals begins Tuesday
  • Copa Libertadores group stage resumes on Tuesday
  • MLS announces expansion to 30 teams; Academies seek solidarity payments

UEFA Champions League

Juventus, Manchester City, Manchester United and Porto were the latest casualties after failing to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Cristiano Ronaldo's Juve were taken down at home by young Ajax while both Manchester clubs failed to get past Barcelona and Tottenham. Liverpool, who carried a 2-0 first leg win ended up demolishing Porto in Portugal 4-1 for a 6-1 aggregate score. The closest encounter was between Manchester City and Tottenham, a back and forth affair that was decided by video replay in stoppage time.


UEFA Europa League

The race also continues in Europe's secondary competition to crown a champions, and award with it the coveted Champions League spot for next season. With Arsenal and Chelsea not assured a top four spot in the Premier League, this trophy could serve as insurance.


English Premier League

The race for the title continues between Liverpool and Manchester City while the last two spots for the Champions League are being disputed by four teams.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (88), 2. Manchester City (86), 3. Tottenham (67), 4. Chelsea (67), 5. Arsenal (66), 6. Manchester United (64)

Scoring leader: 19 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Assists leader: 13 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (77), 2. Atlético Madrid (68), 3. Real Madrid (64), 4. Getafe (54), 5. Valencia (52), 6. Sevilla (52)

Scoring leader: 33 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (70), 2. Dortmund (69), 3. RB Leipzig (61), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (53), 5. Monchengladbach (51), 6. Hoffenheim (50)

Scoring leader: 21 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 13 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

After weeks of prolonging the inevitable, Juventus clinched their 8th straight Italian league title and 37th over all with 2-1 home win over Fiorentina. In the process, Cristiano Ronaldo became achieved a feat made by no other player in becoming the first to win the league in England, Spain and Italy.


Top six: 1. (C) - Juventus (87), 2. Napoli (67), 3. Inter Milan (61), 4. Milan (56), 5. Atalanta (56), 6. Roma (55)

Scoring leader: 22 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

PSG finally crowned themselves champions of this season after being denied for three weeks straight. Mbappe delivered a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Monaco as Neymar made his first appearance in return from injury. It is PSG's 8th Ligue 1 title and 6th out of the last seven seasons.

Top six: 1. (C) - PSG (84), 2. Lille (65), 3. Lyon (59), 4. Saint-Étienne (56), 5. Marseille (54), 6. Montpellier (51)

Scoring leader: 30 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 12 - Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (77), 2. PSV Eindhoven (77), 3. Feyenoord (59)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (44), 2. Club Brugge (38), 3. Antwerp (35), 4. Standard Liege (33), 5. Anderlecht (27), 6. Gent (26)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (75), 2. Porto (75), 3. Sporting CP (67)

Scottish Premier League

Championship: 1. Celtic (78), 2. Rangers (69), 3. Aberdeen(58)

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Concacaf Champions League

The champion of the region awaits to be crowned in a battle of crosstown rivals, and the region's two most expensive teams when Tigres UANL and Monterrey will face off in a home-and-home series over the next two weeks.

Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (14), 2. Toronto (13), 3. Philadelphia (13), 4. Columbus (13), 5. Orlando (11), 6. Montreal (11), 7. Chicago (9)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (22), 2. LA Galaxy (18), 3. Seattle (16), 4. FC Dallas (16), 5. Houston (13), 6. Minnesota (10), 7. Real Salt Lake (10)

Scoring leader: 10 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 5 - Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto) / Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC) / Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Leon (38), 2. Tigres UANL (33), 3. Monterrey (29), 4. Cruz Azul (26), 5. Necaxa (25), 6. Pachuca (25), 7. Club America (23), 8. Puebla (23)

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 (4), 2. Portland Thorns (4), 3. Houston Dash (4), 4. Utah Royals (3), 5. Washington Spirit (3), 6. Chicago Red Stars (2), 7. Seattle Reign (2), 8. Orlando Pride (1), 9. Sky Blue FC (0)

Scoring leader: 3 - Crystal Dunn (North Carolina) / Christine Sinclair (Portland)

Assists leader: 2 - Meghan Klingenberg (Portland)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 23

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [Eredivisie] Ajax vs. Vitesse (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Hamburg vs. RB Leipzig (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes)

2:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Alaves vs. Barcelona (beIN Sports)

5:15 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Libertad vs. Gremio (beIN Sports)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Tigres UANL vs. Monterrey (YahooSports.com, Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, Apr. 24

12:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Werder Bremen vs. Bayern Munich (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [Coppa Italia] Milan vs. Lazio (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

5:15 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Palestino vs. River Plate (beIN Sports)

Thursday, Apr. 25

1:45 p.m. - [Coppa Italia] Atalanta vs. Fiorentina (ESPN+)

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

Friday, Apr. 26

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (FS2)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Huddersfield (NBC Sports)

Saturday, Apr. 27

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Schalke 04 (FS2, UniMas)

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

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Southampton vs. Bournemouth (CNBC)

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

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Newcastle (NBC)

11:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] VfB Stuttgart vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Barcelona vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Twitter, Univision)

7:30 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC (KUBE57)

Sunday, Apr. 28

6:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Leicester vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

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

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - [Budesliga] Nurnberg vs. Bayern Munich (FS2, FOX Deportes)

12:30 p.m. - [MLS] Minnesota United FC vs. D.C. United (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] Seattle Sounders FC vs. LAFC (ESPN)

5:00 p.m. - [NWSL] Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage (YahooSports.com)

Monday, Apr. 29

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Betis vs. Espanyol (beIN Sports)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo broke a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium. The win is the first at home since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls and the first victory in league play since July 20 at Toronto. The result also marked the first win under Interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud.

Here are five observations from the September 11 result on "First Responders Night."

1) A win long worth the wait

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy but it was a much needed result to break free from a bad spell. More so than ending a seven -match winless streak, it was about the team turning around a stretch that saw them winless in 17 out of their last 20 dating back to May. Yes, the Dynamo began the season undefeated in 7 of their first 8 matches - the best start in franchise history. Cool. Anybody who was being honest in their analysis knew the team benefited from a home-heavy schedule to start the season and that the most challenging part was on its way.

Before the start of Wednesday's match, the club had a record of 2-12-1 (W-L-D) since returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup break. It was a similar summer dismantling to what happened in 2018, except that had makeup applied to it in the form of a U.S. Open Cup title.

After the team's shortcomings failed to be addressed, the team began to head towards its fifth playoff absence in six seasons. What the future holds is still to be seen but at least, for one night, Dynamo supporters were rewarded with the sweet taste of victory.

2) Making the switch to a two-forward formation

The 4-2-3-1 formation that featured two wingers and a lone forward had run it's course. It stopped working for the Dynamo a few games back. Truthfully, it was always a formation meant to favor the two speedy wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The results were always going to be less favorable once players without the characteristics of Elis and Quioto, i.e. Memo Rodriguez, Tommy McNamara, etc., began to be inserted.

For whatever reasons, Davy Arnaud continued some of the habits of previous manager Wilmer Cabrera. That included playing in the 4-2-3-1. Arnaud had switched to a 4-4-2 during his debut as the interim, where the team came back from 0-2 down to a dramatic 2-2 home draw. He opted not to repeat the two-forward lineup in the two matches after.

Whether being forced by circumstances (the potential sale of Mauro Manotas and the international FIFA break may have played a part), Arnaud finally went to a lineup that placed his two best attackers on the field: Mauro Manotas and Christian Ramirez.

The resulting win may be a coincidence of that change but the Dynamo looked their best under Arnaud's tenure as head coach.

3) Alejandro Fuenmayor features in first MLS match since June

The 23-year-old defender was one of the better additions to the team during the 2017/18 offseason. The Venezuelan even started in 21 of 22 matches, the sixth most starts on the team. This season, he fell out of favor with former manager Wilmer Cabrera and thrown into the doghouse.

Fuenmayor had featured in 429 minutes and five MLS matches prior to the encounter with Minnesota. It was as if he was played out of necessity for lack of other options. In the Leagues Cup match in late July against Liga MX side Club America and on Wednesday night, Fuenmayor showed why he is one of the better players on the roster.

What happened in the past is done. What happens going forward is in the club's control and, given the proof over the last two seasons, Alejandro Fuenmayor has to be part of the team's plan for the future and the present.

4) Joe Willis matches career-high for wins in a season

Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been one of the more solid performers this season despite the blunders everyone remembers from his performances at Cincinnati and at Philadelphia. He's been a workhorse for the Dynamo. With the win against Minnesota, he matched a career-high nine wins in a singular season and could reach double digits before the year is over.

5) Arnaud turns the corner

Time will tell if Davy Arnaud's interim tag will be removed. As of now, he's the leading candidate for the permanent head coaching job. The biggest benefit that was always going to come from him was the union of the locker room. Now with his first win in hand, Arnaud has five matches to prove why he deserves the gig.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

A game-winning goal and an assist for Manotas makes him the Man of the Match. In every period of turmoil throughout his time in Houston, Manotas has been one of the few voices that gives it to you straight and doesn't spit cliches. That's the same personality he goes on the field with and that's why he's one of the league's better goalscorers.

Next match:

Saturday, September 14 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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