THE SOCCER REPORT

Soccer Recap: Monterrey back at the top of Liga MX mountain, Zlatan returns to Milan

Monterrey fans are celebrating the club's 5th Liga MX title, one month after seeing them play Club America in a friendly at BBVA Stadium in Houston.

As the calendar year comes to a close, European leagues have hit their midseason point while Mexican soccer crowned a new champion.

Liga MX Apertura 2019 Final

After a 2-1 Monterrey win in the first leg, a 2-1 win by Club America in the second leg sent the Liga MX final to extra time and penalties. It was in the penalty shootout that "Rayados" outlasted America, 4-2, to capture their fifth league title.

The win caps off a rollercoaster season where Monterrey fired their manager midseason, rehired former manager Antonio Mohamed (who has now won his third Liga MX title with as many teams as a Manager) and captured the final playoff spot to win the title. In the middle of their playoff run, Monterrey played Liverpool to a 2-1 defeat that could've easily gone their way in the FIFA Club World Cup.

The Clausura 2020 season kicks off on January 10.

English Premier League

The Premier League had the spotlight on them twice this week with the Boxing Day tradition gifting fans matches after Christmas. At the forefront of the PL talk was VAR (video assistant referee) decisions due to a number of goals being called back.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (55), 2. Leicester City (42), 3. Man City (41), 4. Chelsea (35), 5. Manchester Utd (31), 6. Tottenham (30)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. Aston Villa (18), 19. Watford (16), 20. Norwich City (13)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 12 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Scottish Premier League

A second-half Nikola Katić goal gave Rangers a first win at Celtic Park in 9 years, making it a two points difference in the title race.

Top three: 1. Celtic (52), 2. Rangers (50), 3. Motherwell (37)

Bottom two (relegation): 11. Hamilton (18), 12. Hearts (13)

Scoring leader: 13 - Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

Assists leader: 9 - James Forrest (Celtic)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to A.C. Milan

One of the bigger news over the Christmas break was the announcement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Serie A with A.C. Milan. The Rossoneri are currently 11th in the standings, 14 points removed from fourth place and a Champions League spot that used to be a given for the seven time European champions.

MLS offseason

David Beckham's Miami expansion club announced the signing of Uruguayan manager Diego Alonso. The 44-year-old enjoyed success in Liga MX by guiding Pachuca to the Clausura 2016 title, the 2016-17 Concacaf Champions League title and a 3rd place finish at the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup. He guided Monterrey to Concacaf Champions League crown earlier this year before being fired midway through the Apertura 2019 season.

Houston Dynamo sign two players

The Houston Dynamo are reportedly about to announce the signings of former Dynamo Academy and youth U.S. National Team midfielder Marcelo Palomino and young European goalkeeper Marko Maric.

TV listings (All Times CT):

Wednesday, January 1

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 2

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Sheffield United (NBC Sports, Universo)

Friday, January 3

12:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Valladolid vs. Leganes (beIN Sports)

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

Saturday, January 4

6:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Rochdale vs. Newcastle (ESPN+)

9:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Fulham vs. Aston Villa (ESPN+)

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Getafe vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Wolves vs. Man United (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Leicester vs. Wigan (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Manchester City vs. Port Vale (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

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

Sunday, January 5

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Middlesbrough vs. Tottenham (ESPN+)

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Crystal Palace vs. Derby (ESPN+)

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest (ESPN+)

10:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Liverpool vs. Everton (ESPN+)

12:15 p.m. - [FA Cup] Gillingham vs. West Ham (ESPN+)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Torino (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes)

Monday, January 6

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] AC Milan vs. Sampdoria (ESPN+)

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

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Napoli vs. Inter (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [FA Cup] Arsenal vs. Leeds United (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Coupe de France] Linas Montlhery vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

Credit: Houston Dynamo

"The Beautiful Game" never sleeps and that was the case to kick off the new year. The Premier League took the spotlight with New Year's Day action followed by the return of La Liga and Serie A from the holiday break.

Domestically, transfer news continue to dominate the radar in Major League Soccer and the National Women's Soccer League. The 2020 MLS SuperDraft (college draft) will take place on Thursday.

Here are the top stories of the weekend:

Houston Dynamo sign Homegrown Marcelo Palomino

Reported first by Glenn Davis, the Dynamo made the signing of Academy product Marcelo Palomino official on Monday. The midfielder joined the club's youth system as an 11-year-old in 2012 and was part of the U.S. Youth National Team pool from Under-14 to Under-19, crossing paths with current Dynamo Head Coach Tab Ramos.

The three-time Dynamo Academy Player of the Year left the club over a year ago, despite having a contract offer from the Dynamo, and went on to trials in Portugal and Germany. Most recently, he was playing in Houston with the USL2 side Albion Hurricanes FC who are coached by former MLS midfielder Josh Gardner.

Signing Palomino is a win for a club that has a reputation of not producing enough professional players in a city fervent with a soccer culture. It would appear, at least on the surface, that the hiring of Ramos was the ultimate convincing factor for the player to put pen to paper.

Liga MX GK William Yarbrough no longer a target for Dynamo

The Dynamo are no longer interested in acquiring two-time Liga MX champion and former U.S. Men's National Team goalkeeper William Yarbrough, as reported by KXLN's Lester Gretsch. After failing to agree on a transfer fee for the Mexican-born keeper, the Dynamo went on to sign the Austrian-Croatian Marko Maric. The Dynamo will reportedly sign a goalkeeper in the coming weeks, according to The Athletic.

Houston Dash trade Kealia Ohai to Chicago Red Stars for defender Katie Naughton

Kealia Ohai will depart after six seasons with the Houston Dash, reportedly requesting a trade. Ohai was the club's first ever draft pick and went on to score 28 goals in 114 appearances.

"My goal is to become the very best player I could possibly be and I feel like, in order for that to happen, I need a new environment," said Ohai via her social media accounts.

Chicago Red Stars made the NWSL Playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and finished 2019 as the runners-up. The Houston Dash have never made the playoffs in their six seasons.

Dash re-sign goalscorer, FIFA Women's World Cup participant Rachel Daly

Some good news for Dash fans is the re-signing of FIFA Women's World Cup veteran Rachel Daly. Since arriving in 2016, Daly has scored 24 goals in 80 matches. The Englishwoman represented her home country at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, where the Lionesses finished as semifinalists.

The news was announced by Head Coach James Clarkson last Thursday during a fan event hosted by Keeper Notes at Pitch 25. An official announcement from the club is imminent.

Premier League

The congested scheduling continues in the Premier League as teams opened 2020 with New Year's Day action. While the league took a break over the weekend, English clubs took were active in FA Cup action.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (58), 2. Leicester City (45), 3. Man City (44), 4. Chelsea (36), 5. Man Utd (31), 6. Tottenham (30)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. Bournemouth (20), 19. Watford (19), 20. Norwich City (14)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 12 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

La Liga

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are once again tied at the top after RCD Espanyol took a 2-2 result in the Barcelona derby.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (40), 2. Real Madrid (40), 3. Atletico Madrid (35), 4. Sevilla (35), 5. Real Sociedad (31), 6. Valencia (31)

Bottom three: 18. Mallorca (15), 19. Leganes (14), 20. Espanyol (11)

Scoring leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 7 - Luis Suarez (FC Barcelona)

Italian Serie A

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to lead defending champions Juventus to a 4-0 win against Cagliari. Inter Milan, who picked up a 3-1 win at Napoli, remain at the top of the standings due to goal difference.

Top six: 1. Inter Milan (45), 2. Juventus (45), 3. Lazio (39), 4. Roma (35), 5. Atalanta (34), 6. Cagliari (29)

Bottom three: 18. Brescia (14), 19. Genoa (14), 20. SPAL (12)

Scoring leader: 19 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

Zlatan debuts in A.C. Milan return

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was back on the pitch for the first time since his final appearance with LA Galaxy in Houston last October. The Swede came on as a substitute but could not help Milan to a win in his debut. Milan and Sampdoria played to a scoreless draw at the San Siro.

2006 FIFA World Cup Winner Daniele De Rossi retires

Roma Legend De Rossi has called time on his career after a short stint in Argentina with Boca Juniors. The Italian midfielder hangs up his boots at the age of 36 with a decorated career that includes winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

2010 FIFA World Cup Winner David Villa retires

Spanish Legend David Villa, arguably the greatest striker produced by his country, also played has called time on his career. El Guaje left in style by picking up his 15th professional trophy after winning the Emperor's Cup with Japan's Vissel Kobe. Villa won the FIFA World Cup and EURO 2008 with Spain. At the club level, he won three La Liga titles, three Copa Del Rey titles and one UEFA Champions League.

Throwback moment: Dynamo Head Coach Tab Ramos reflects on being first MLS signing

January 3rd marked 25 years since Houston Dynamo Manager Tab Ramos became the first ever signing in Major League Soccer history. Attached is a clip of his thoughts on the matter, the full interview with Glenn Davis can be seen here.

Ratings bit: Liga MX final draws top spot

TV listings (All Times CT):

For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com

Tuesday, January 7

2:00 p.m. - [English League Cup] Manchester United vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

Wednesday, January 8

1:00 p.m. - [Spanish Supercopa] Real Madrid vs. Valencia (ESPN Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [English League Cup] Leicester City vs. Aston Villa (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Coupe de la Ligue] PSG vs. St-Etienne (beINSports)

Thursday, January 9

11:00 a.m. - 2020 MLS SuperDraft (Twitter)

1:00 p.m. - [Spanish Supercopa] FC Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid (ESPN Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [Coppa Italia] Torino vs. Genoa (ESPN+)

Friday, January 10

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Rennes vs. Marseille (beIN Sports)

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

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monarcas Morelia vs. Toluca (TUDN)

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

Saturday, January 11

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Cagliari vs. AC Milan (ESPN+)

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

11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Lazio vs. Napoli (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Liverpool (NBC)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Inter Milan vs. Atalanta (ESPN+)

5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Atlas (TUDN)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Guadalajara vs. FC Juarez (TUDN)

Sunday, January 12

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

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Aston Villa vs. Man City (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Spanish Supercopa] Real Madrid vs. Valencia vs. FC Barcelona/Atletico Madrid (ESPN Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

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