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)

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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