THE SOCCER REPORT

Messi’s Argentina legacy on the line versus Brazil; USA face England in Women's World Cup semis

Credit: Adidas

There may be no bigger rivalry in international soccer than that of Brazil and Argentina. Now put a spot in the South American championship final on the line and one of the all-time greats as the villain of the story. That's exactly what will go down on Tuesday when Copa America hosts Brazil host Lionel Messi's Argentina. Messi is known for his decorated club career with FC Barcelona but is highly scrutinized, especially by his own people, for his lack of silverware with his home country.

The Copa America final will be one of three international finals to take place on Sunday, by the way, with the champion of the FIFA Women's World Cup and the Concacaf Gold Cup (Men's championship for North America, Central America and the Caribbean) taking place on the same day.

For all the details, here is the latest in the soccer world:

FIFA Women's World Cup

International women's soccer is down to the last four teams of the competition, including the defending champion United States. Team USA takes on England, with Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly on the roster, on Tuesday in the first semifinal. The champion will be decided Sunday against the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden.

Gold Cup

Tournament favorites Mexico survived Costa Rica in the quarterfinals after a dramatic 5-4 win on penalties in front of a sellout crowd of 70,788 on Saturday at NRG Stadium. They face Haiti on Tuesday night after the Caribbean team came back to defeat Canada, 3-2, in the first game of Saturday night's doubleheader.

Defending champions Team USA had their close call against Curacao but got to the semis with a 1-0 win. They will meet Jamaica in Wednesday's semifinal in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Copa America

The South America men's championship is also down to the last four. Hosts Brazil faces off against arch-rival Argentina and defending champion Chile meets 2018 FIFA World Cup sweetheart Peru.

Africa Cup of Nations

Africa is also hosting their continental championship in international soccer this summer. The group stage final matchday will be on Tuesday and the knockout stage begins on Friday. Hosts Egypt will be a good bet the rest of the way after going a perfect 3-0-0 in their group matches.

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Major League Soccer

The Houston Dynamo dropped to seventh place in the West after losing three straight road games in the span of a week [4-0 at Portland Timbers, 2-0 at San Jose Earthquakes and 2-1 at New England Revolution]. The Dynamo return home to BBVA Stadium, where they are unbeaten in MLS matches with a 6-0-3 record, to host the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.

East top seven: 1. Philadelphia (32), 2. D.C. United (31), 3. Montreal (30), 4. Atlanta (29), 5. NY Red Bulls (27), 6. NYCFC (26), 7. Toronto (23)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (37), 2. LA Galaxy (31), 3. Seattle (29), 4. Dallas (26), 5. San Jose (25), 6. Minnesota (24), 7. Houston (24)

Scoring leader: 16 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 11 - Maxi Moralez (NYCFC)

National Women's Soccer League

Houston Dash forward Kealia Ohai reached 100 NWSL matches in a 2-1 home loss to the Portland Thorns at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. The Dash travel to North Carolina this week to take on defending champions NC Courage on Friday night.

Standings: 1. Portland Thorns (19), 2. Washington Spirit (18), 3. Reign FC (17), 4. Utah Royals (17), 5. North Carolina Courage (16), 6. Chicago Red Stars (14), 7. Houston Dash (13), 8. Orlando Pride (5), 9. Sky Blue FC (2)

Scoring leader: 9 - Sam Kerr (Chicago)

Assists leader: 4 - Yuki Nagasato (Chicago)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, July 2

2:00 p.m. - [FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal] USA vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa America semifinal] Brazil vs. Argentina (ESPN+, Telemundo)

9:30 p.m. - [Gold Cup semifinal] Mexico vs. Haiti (FS1, Univision)

Wednesday, July 3

2:00 p.m. - [FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal] Netherlands vs. Sweden (FS1, Telemundo)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa America semifinal] Chile vs. Peru (ESPN+, Telemundo)

8:30 p.m. - [Gold Cup semifinal] USA vs. Jamaica (FS1, Univision)

Thursday, July 4

9:30 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC (ESPN+)

Saturday, July 6

10 a.m. - FIFA Women's World Cup 3rd Place (FOX, Telemundo)

2 p.m. - Copa America 3rd Place (ESPN+, Telemundo)

Sunday, July 7

10 a.m. - FIFA Women's World Cup Final (FOX, Telemundo)

3 p.m. - Copa America Final (ESPN+, Telemundo)

8 p.m. - Gold Cup Final (FS1, Univision)

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Accountability seems to be lacking. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Did you catch exiled Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, starting his "Redemption Tour 2020," doing his best imitation of Sgt. Schultz from the classic sitcom Hogan's Heroes?

"I see nothing. I hear nothing."

Luhnow sat for 37 minutes (the extended director's cut on click2houston.com) with Channel 2 sports reporter Vanessa Richardson and insisted that he played no part in the Astros 2017-18 illegal sign-stealing operation, and didn't deserve to be suspended for one year by baseball, and ultimately fired by Astros owner Jim Crane.

"I didn't know."

"I wasn't aware."

"I wasn't involved."

"Had I known about it, I would have stopped it."

"I was punished for something I didn't do."

Remember, Luhnow wasn't just the Astros general manager, he also held the title of President of Baseball Operations, responsible for every action that took place at Minute Maid Park, on the field, in the dugout, clubhouse, bullpen and boardroom.

Everybody else seemed to know, including field manager A.J. Hinch, who admitted that he knew the Astros were cheating, tried to stop it, but couldn't.

That's some leadership that Astros had in 2017-18. A manager who couldn't get his players to stop cheating, and a general manager who claims he didn't know. The inmates truly were running the asylum.

If Luhnow is telling the truth, that makes him one monkey who saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil.

On one hand, Luhnow takes credit for building a supremely gifted Astros team that has made four consecutive American League Championship Series, won two American League pennants, and captured Houston's first World Series title in 2017.

One commercial break later, he's swearing that he didn't have a clue that his team was committing baseball's crime of the century – which ultimately cost the Astros their manager, general manager, a $5 million fine, and four draft picks.

Which is it, was Luhnow a detached genius, incredibly naïve or unfortunate scapegoat?

Luhnow claimed that an honest investigation by MLB would have determined that he was merely an innocent bystander to the scandal. He told baseball commissioner Rob Manfred that he was willing to take a lie detector test to prove it, but Manfred declined his offer.

OK, Manfred said a lie detector test wasn't necessary. Why didn't Luhnow do it anyway? It might have helped mitigate some of his sentence.

Put it this way, I work at Gow Media World Headquarters in Houston. If the boss brought me into his office and said he was firing me because I was stealing equipment, or missing deadlines or harassing other employees … and I was innocent, I holler to the high heavens that I was fired unjustly. I'd hire Jim Adler, the Tough Texas Lawyer, to sue everybody who ever touched a baseball for wrongful termination, defamation of character and a hundred other things. I wouldn't take a called third strike and wait 10 months to speak up.

Right now, Luhnow's once-brilliant reputation is sullied. He's on the outside of baseball looking in. Luhnow's protestation of innocence reminds me of Jose Canseco's book, Juiced, in 2005, where the slugger claimed that steroid use was rampant in the big leagues. And he named names.

Accused players bleated that they were innocent, that Canseco was a bad apple who made up stories to cover his own use of banned drugs.

Here's when I knew that Canseco, while a rat, was right – when the accused steroid users screamed bloody murder, but didn't sue Canseco. If somebody accused you of a crime that you didn't commit, a crime that cost you your job and legacy, a crime that might keep you out of the Hall of Fame of your profession, would you stay silent for almost a year and take the punishment lying down?

We may never know if Luhnow knew or didn't know that his Astros were cheating. It's possible that he's telling the truth now. His teary-eyed interview was convincing in parts. But accepting punishment for something you didn't do, and not fighting back – it's not a good look.

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