THE SOCCER REPORT

MLS Cup playoffs begin Wednesday; tragedy strikes Leicester City

Wayne Rooney's D.C. United are one of the hottest teams entering the MLS Cup Playoffs. MLS/D.C. United

Cristiano Ronaldo is on the hottest start of any Juventus player in recent years while Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick for FC Barcelona in El Clasico. The playoff picture is set in MLS and the Copa Libertadores finalists will be decided this week. Here is the week in soccer:

English Premier League

The top six remain the same in the Premier League as Manchester City and Liverpool continue in the pole position for the title. City and Tottenham faced off in a fight of top five teams where a Riyad Mahrez goal was the difference. The 1-0 spectacle was marred by the football lines at Wembley that were left from Sunday’s NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Arsenal, unbeaten in their last 12, saw their 11-match winning streak snapped by 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace. Liverpool won 4-1 vs. Cardiff City, Chelsea won 4-0 at Burnley and Bournemouth took a 3-0 win at Fulham to round out action for the top six. Manchester United, down in 8th place, added three points for themselves with a 2-1 win over Everton.

On Saturday, Leicester City drew 1-1 with West Ham United at the King Power Stadium. Unfortunately, the headlines came from the tragic death of five from a helicopter crash outside the stadium following the match. Among the casualties was Leicester City Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who purchased the team for a reported reported £39 million ($50 million) in 2010 and helped the club win it’s first Premier League title with their 2015-16 cinderella season.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (26), 2. Liverpool (26), 3. Chelsea (24), 4. Arsenal (22), 5. Tottenham (21), 6. Bournemouth (20)

Scoring leader: 7 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC) / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Assists leader: 5 - Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City FC) / Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

Spain’s La Liga

All eyes in Spain - and around the world - this weekend were on the 238th edition of El Clasico. FC Barcelona held on to the top of the table with a 5-1 home win over rivals Real Madrid. Uruguay’s Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick to carry Barcelona in the absence of Lionel Messi. Real Madrid, now winless in their last five league encounters, drop to ninth and will go with a new manager the rest of the way as Julen Lopetegui was relieved of that position on Monday.

Alaves, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid all picked up three points to keep pace with the defending champions at the top of the standings. Espanyol, in second last week, drop to fifth after a 1-1 draw at fellow top-six side Valladolid.

Top six: 1. Barcelona (21), 2. Alaves (20), 3. Sevilla (19), 4. Atletico Madrid (19), 5. Espanyol (18), 6. Valladolid (16)

Scoring leader: 8 - Cristhian Stuani (Girona) / Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)

Assists leader: 5 - Jony Rodriguez (Alaves) / Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Dortmund entered the weekend with a six-match winning streak across all competitions, including a 4-0 win vs. Spain’s Atletico Madrid in the Champions League midweek. On Saturday, they were shown the breaks with a 2-2 draw against top-six side Hertha Berlin. In fact, Dortmund were just minutes away from taking the full three points before giving up a goal off a penalty in stoppage time. That score could prove to be a costly mistake as defending champion FC Bayern Munich have climbed the standings and are now only two points removed from first place. It was just a few weeks ago that Bayern were down in sixth place but their latest win, 2-1 at Mainz, has calmed the waters in Bavaria and put rivals Dortmund on notice.

Top six: 1. Dortmund (21), 2. Bayern Munich (19), 3. Monchengladbach (17), 4. Werder Bremen (17), 5. RB Leipzig (16), 6. Hertha Berlin (16)

Scoring leader: 7 - Paco Alcacer (Dortmund) / Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 6 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund)
 

Italian Serie A

Cristiano Ronaldo scored two to save Juventus from an upset at 18th place Empoli. The champions were down a goal before CR7 converted a penalty in the 54th and secured the winner in the 70th minute. Meanwhile, in a battle of top five teams, Mauro Icardi had two of his own in a 3-0 Inter Milan win at Lazio. Napoli were held to a 1-1 draw vs. Roma and A.C. Milan jumps into the top five with a 3-2 win at Sampdoria.

Top six: 1. Juventus (28), 2. Inter Milan (22), 3. Napoli (22), 4. Lazio (18), 5. Milan (15), 6. Fiorentina (15)

Scoring leader: 9 - Krzysztof Piątek (Genoa)

Assists leader: 7 - Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

PSG remain perfect in league play as they collected their 11th win of the season with a 2-0 result at Marseille. The league’s top scorer Kylian Mbappé started off the bench after arriving late to the pre-match team meeting. The French phenom nonetheless went on to score the winning goal in the 65th minute. The loss drops Marseille down to fifth in the standings, allowing Lyon to move up to fourth place with their 2-1 win at Angers.

Top six: 1. PSG (33), 2. Lille (25), 3. Montpellier (22), 4. Lyon (20), 5. Marseille (19), 6. St-Etienne (17)

Scoring leader: 10 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 6 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

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Major League Soccer

The final day of the regular season left plenty of talking points in MLS. Atlanta United failed to secure the top spot overall and was denied the opportunity to best Toronto FC’s 2017 record of most points in a single season by Toronto themselves in a 4-1 loss in Canada. That record of 69 points was broken, however, by the New York Red Bulls who picked up their third Supporters’ Shield title - securing homefield throughout the playoffs. New York City FC and Philadelphia faced off in a playoff preview as Philly’s 3-1 loss drops them to sixth, a result that will see them return to Yankee Stadium instead of opening at home for the first round of the postseason. As a result, D.C. United moves to fourth and secured a home playoff match to culminate the club’s revival with the arrival of Wayne Rooney. Columbus’ 3-2 win over Minnesota secured them the last playoff spot in the East.

The top of the table in the West was another story to follow as four teams were in play for the top two spots - and the bye to the next round that comes with it. Sporting Kansas City secured first in the West with a home win against LAFC, who themselves where playing for the same spot. FC Dallas was unable to move up back in the top two after a 2-1 upset at Colorado. By virtue of these results, Seattle became the biggest benefactor and jumped up to second with a home win over San Jose.

The biggest upset came with the Houston Dynamo’s 3-2 comeback win at LA Galaxy. LA were up 2-0 at halftime but were beaten in the second half with a double by the Dynamo’s Mauro Manotas. LA misses the postseason for the second consecutive season, the postseason misses out on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and an LA Derby in the first round and Real Salt Lake - who were out of action on “Decision Day” - take the last playoff spot in the West.

Final standings

East - 1. NY Red Bulls (71), 2. Atlanta United (69), 3. NYCFC (56), 4. D.C. United (51), 5. Columbus (51), 6. Philadelphia (50).

West - 1. Sporting KC (62), 2. Seattle (59), 3. LAFC (57), 4. FC Dallas (57), 5. Portland (54), 6. Real Salt Lake (49).

Scoring champion: 31 - Josef Martinez (Atlanta United)

Assists champion: 18 - Borek Dockal (Philadelphia Union)

Playoff Matchups

Knockout Round

(E3) New York City vs. (E6) Philadelphia Union

(E4) D.C. United vs. (E5) Columbus Crew

(W3) LAFC vs. (W6) Real Salt Lake

(W4) FC Dallas vs. (W5) Portland Timbers

Conference Semifinals 

(E1) New York Red Bulls vs. D.C., Columbus or Philadelphia

(E2) Atlanta United vs. NYCFC, D.C. or Columbus

(W1) Sporting KC vs. Dallas, Portland or RSL

(W2) Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC, Dallas or Portland

Liga MX

There was quite a bit of shuffling in the top eight in Mexico with less than a handful of matches before the playoffs begin. Club America and Cruz Azul faced off in a test of top three teams where the scoreless result benefited the former to stay at the top of the table. Santos Laguna’s 1-0 win over Monterrey helped them climb to second while Monterrey fell to six. Morelia’s 2-1 win at Guadalajara helped the “Monarchs” jump into the playoff picture to seventh place. Hanging around the playoff bubble are Pachuca, Queretaro and Puebla.

Top eight: 1. Club America (28), 2. Santos Laguna (28), 3. Cruz Azul (27), 4. Pumas UNAM (26), 5. Toluca (25), 6. Monterrey (23), 7. Morelia (22), 8. Tigres UANL (20)
 

Scoring leader(s): 11 - Julio Furch (Santos Laguna)

Assists leader: 7 - Dorlan Pabon (Monterrey)

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UEFA Champions League

Borussia Dortmund, FC Barcelona, Porto and Juventus were the teams that took a stranglehold at the top of their groups and put themselves just a few steps away from advancing to the knockout stage. Dortmund demolished “defensive” Atletico with a 4-0 win while Barcelona won 2-0 over a tough Inter Milan side. Tottenham were held to a 2-2 draw at PSV as neither could take advantage of Inter’s defeat. In Group C, Liverpool went to the top with a 4-0 win and a 2-2 draw between PSG and Napoli. Ajax is giving Bayern a run for their money in Group E as both picked up three points this week. Manchester City and Real Madrid went top of their groups with wins while Juventus defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in the marquee match of the week.

Group A: Dortmund (9), Atletico Madrid (6), Monaco (1), Club Brugge (1)

Group B: Barcelona (9), Inter Milan (6), Tottenham (1), PSV (1)

Group C: Liverpool (6), Napoli (5), PSG (4), Red Star Belgrade (1)

Group D: Porto (7), Schalke 04 (5), Galatasaray (4), Lokomotiv Moscow (0)

Group E: Ajax (7), Bayern Munich (7), Benfica (3), AEK Athens (0)

Group F: Manchester City (6), Lyon (5), Hoffenheim (2), Shakhtar Donetsk (2)

Group G: Real Madrid (6), Roma (6), CSKA Moscow (4), Plzeň (1)

Group H: Juventus (9), Manchester United (4), Valencia (2), Young Boys (1)

UEFA Europa League

Not much surprise in Europa League as clubs like Arsenal, Sevilla and Chelsea continue to lead their groups with little trouble. Real Betis, leaders in Group F, are the biggest revelation with a 2-1 win at A.C. Milan. Rangers are faring well also, sharing the top of the group with Spain’s Villareal.

Group A: FC Zurich (9), Bayer Leverkusen (6), Ludogorets (1), AEK Larnaca (1)

Group B: Red Bull Salzburg (9), RB Leipzig (6), Celtic (3), Rosenborg (0)

Group C: Zenit (7), Slavia Praha (6), Copenhagen (4), Bordeaux (0)

Group D: Dinamo Zagreb (9), Fenerbahce (4), Spartak Trnava (3), Anderlecht (1)

Group E: Arsenal (9), Sporting CP (6), Vorskla (3), Qarabag FK (0)

Group F: Real Betis (7), A.C. Milan (6), Olympiacos (4), Dudelange (0)

Group G: Rangers (5), Villarreal (5), Rapid Wien (3), Spartak Moscow (2)

Group H: Eintracht Frankfurt (9), Lazio (6), Marseille (1), Apollon Limassol (1)

Group I: Genk (6), Malmo (4), Sarpsborg (4), Besiktas (3)

Group J: Sevilla (6), FC Krasnodar (6), Standard Liege (6), Akhisar (0)

Group K: Astana (5), Dynamo Kiev (5), Rennes (3), Jablonec (2)

Group L: Chelsea (9), PAOK (3), Videoton (3), BATE (3)

Copa Libertadores

The semifinals in South America’s premier club championship is pitting two of the best from Argentina against two top Brazilian clubs. The dream match between hated Argentine rivals in the final may be put on hold. River Plate lost their home leg 1-0 against Gremio and will be without their Manager Marcelo Gallardo on the sideline for the return leg in Brazil due to suspension. Boca Juniors, 2-0 winners in their home leg against Palmeiras, will have the same problem as Manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto has also been served a suspension by the South American governing body, CONMEBOL. The second legs take place Tuesday and Wednesday to decide the finalists.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, Oct. 31

12:30 p.m. - [German Cup] Dortmund vs. Union Berlin (ESPN Deportes)

2:30 p.m. - [Serie A] A.C. Milan vs. Genoa (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Arsenal vs. Blackpool (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Chelsea vs. Derby County (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] West Ham vs. Tottenham (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Monchengladbach vs. Leverkusen (ESPN3)

6 p.m. - [MLS Playoffs] New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union (FS1)

7:45 p.m. -  [Copa Libertadores] Palmeiras vs. Boca Juniors (FOX Soccer Match Pass/Fanatiz)

8:30 p.m. - [MLS Playoffs] FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers (UniMás)

Thursday, Nov. 1

2:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Manchester City vs. Fulham (ESPN+)

7 p.m. - [MLS Playoffs] D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew SC (FS1)

9:30 p.m. - [MLS Playoffs] LAFC vs. Real Salt Lake (ESPN2)

Friday, Nov. 2

8 p.m. - [Liga MX] Morelia vs. Tigres (Univision Deportes)

10 p.m. - [Liga MX] Puebla vs. Chivas (Univision Deportes)

10 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monterrey vs. Veracruz (FOX Deportes)

Saturday, Nov. 3

9 a.m. - [La Liga] Leganes vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

9:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Freiburg (FS2/Univision Deportes)

10 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

10:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Valladolid (beIN Sports)

12:30 p.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Liverpool (NBC)

12:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hertha Berlin vs. RB Leipzig (FS2/Univision Deportes)

2:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Juventus vs. Cagliari (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Wolverhampton vs. Tottenham (CNBC)

2:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Rayo Vallecano vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

8 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club America vs. Toluca (Univision)

10 p.m. - [Liga MX] Lobos BUAP vs. Tijuana (Univision)

Sunday, Nov. 4 

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

9 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Mainz vs. Werder Bremen (FS2/FOX Deportes)

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. Sevilla (beIN Sports)

TBA - [MLS Playoffs] Check MLSsoccer.com for listings

Monday, Nov. 5

2 p.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield vs. Fulham (NBC Sports)

 

Photo courtesy of Nike, Inc.

English Premier League

Every goal from Matchday 23 in the Premier League | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

The race for the top four spots continues to intensify in the Premier League with Manchester United running hot with six straight wins. Their latest win over Brighton now puts the Red Devils three points out of a Champions League spot, thanks to Arsenal's 2-0 win over London rivals Chelsea. At the top of the table, Liverpool continue to march on despite complicating themselves a bit in an eventual 4-3 win over Crystal Palace. Manchester City also picked up three points with the hope of catching up if Liverpool were to slip up.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (60), 2. Manchester City (56), 3. Tottenham (51), 4. Chelsea (47), 5. Arsenal (44), 6. Manchester United (44)

Scoring leader: 16 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (46), 2. Atlético Madrid (41), 3. Real Madrid (36), 4. Sevilla (33), 5. Alavés (32), 6. Getafe (31)

Scoring leader: 18 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

The Bundesliga is back on after the end of the winter break. The top two dogs in the title fight- Dortmund and Bayern Munich - each picked up three points. The storyline here will be to see if Dortmund will be able to break Bayern's quest for a seventh consecutive league title. Dortmund's 1-0 win over Leipzig featured a unique matchup for American fans as U.S. men's national team players Christian Pulisic and Leipzig's Tyler Adams were on opposite ends of the sideline. Adams, who recently transferred to RB Leipzig from sister club New York Red Bulls, is still waiting to make his Bundesliga debut.

Top six: 1. Dortmund (45), 2. Bayern Munich (39), 3. Monchengladbach (36), 4. RB Leipzig (31), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (30), 6. Wolfsburg (28)

Scoring leader: 13 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 8 - Sébastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Italian Serie A

Juventus and A.C. Milan faced off midweek in the SuperCoppa Italiana final that was contested on foreign soil in Saudi Arabia. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the lone goal to pick up his first piece of silverware with his new club.
Top six: 1. Juventus (56), 2. Napoli (47), 3. Inter Milan (40), 4. Milan (34), 5. Roma (33), 6. Lazio (32)

Scoring leader: 14 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) / Duván Zapata (Atalanta) / Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

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

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (53), 2. Lille (40), 3. Lyon (37), 4. Saint-Étienne (36), 5. Strasbourg (32, 6. Montpellier (31)

Scoring leader: 17 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 7 - Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Kenny Lala (Strasbourg) / Memphis Depay (Lyon) / Nicolas Pépé (Lille)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (49), 2. Ajax (47), 3. Feyenoord (36)

Scoring leader: 15 - Luuk de Jong (PSV)

Assists leader: 9 - Arbër Zeneli (Heerenveen)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (51), 2. Club Brugge (41), 3. Antwerp (41)

Scoring leader: 16 - Mbwana Samatta (Genk)

Assists leader: 12 - Hans Vanaken (Brugge)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (46), 2. Benfica (41), 3. Braga (40)

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

Chris Duvall says winning mentality set on day one www.youtube.com

Preseason is officially underway for all 24 teams in Major League Soccer, including the hometown Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo will host an open practice at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday. The transfer saga surrounding star Alberth Elis appears to be over as reports from Honduras state that the player has agreed to forego his transfer demand, at least until the summer transfer window.

Up the road in Austin, Major League Soccer announced Austin FC as the newest club to join the league. The team will begin play in the 2021 season. Soccer Matters host Glenn Davis spoke exclusively with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and FOX Sports Analyst Alexi Lalas on what the addition of Austin means for the league and soccer in Texas.

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Chivas Guadalajara (9), 2. Monterrey (7), 3. Toluca FC (6), 4. Lobos BUAP (6), 5. Club America (6), 6. Necaxa (6), 7. Tigres UANL (4), 8. Atlas (4)

Scoring leader: 4 - Leonardo Ramos (Lobos BUAP)

Assists leader: 3 - Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Jan. 22

1:30 p.m. - [Women's International Friendly] Spain vs. USA (ESPN2/Univision Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [Portuguese League Cup] Benfica vs. Porto (fuboTV)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa Del Rey] Getafe vs. Valencia (beIN SPORTS)

Wednesday, Jan. 23

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Burton Albion vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [Scottish Premiership] Kilmarnock vs. Rangers (B/R Live)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa Del Rey] Sevilla vs. FC Barcelona (beIN SPORTS)

7:00 p.m. - [Argentine Superliga] River Plate vs. Union Santa Fe (Fanatiz)

Thursday, Jan. 24

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

1:45 p.m. - [English League Cup] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (ESPN+)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Madrid vs. Girona (beIN Sports)

Friday, Jan. 25

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hertha Berlin vs. Schalke (FS2/Univision Deportes)

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

1:55 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Arsenal v Manchester United (ESPN+)

Saturday, Jan. 26

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover (FS1/Univision Deportes)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Monchengladbach vs. Augsburg (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [English FA Cup] Manchester City v Burnley (ESPN+)

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

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Frankfurt (FS2)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] A.C. Milan vs. Napoli (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Athletic Bilbao vs. Real Betis (beIN Sports)

Sunday, Jan. 27

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Girona vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [English FA Cup] Crystal Palace v Tottenham (ESPN+)

11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Torino vs. Inter Milan (ESPN+)

12:00 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Chelsea v Sheffield Wednesday (ESPN+)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Lazio vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

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

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