THE SOCCER REPORT

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

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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Will robot umps improve baseball? Composite Getty Images.

Major League Baseball could test robot umpires as part of a challenge system in spring training next year, which could lead to regular-season use in 2026.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019 but is still working on the shape of the strike zone.

“I said at the owners meeting it is not likely that we would bring ABS to the big leagues without a spring training test. OK, so if it’s ’24 that leaves me ’25 as the year to do your spring training test if we can get these issues resolved, which would make ’26 a viable possibility,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. "But is that going to be the year? I’m not going to be flat-footed on that issue.

“We have made material progress. I think that the technology is good to a 100th of an inch. The technology in terms of the path of the ball is pluperfect.”

Triple-A ballparks have used ABS this year for the second straight season, but there is little desire to call the strike zone as the cube defined in the rule book and MLB has experimented with modifications during minor league testing.

The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year from 51%, and the bottom remained at 27%.

"We do have technical issues surrounding the definition of the strike zone that still need to be worked out,” Manfred said.

After splitting having the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three during the first 2 1/2 months of the Triple-A season, MLB on June 25 switched to an all-challenge system in which a human umpire makes nearly all decisions.

Each team currently has three challenges in the Pacific Coast League and two in the International League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

“The challenge system is more likely or more supported, if you will, than the straight ABS system,” players' association head Tony Clark said earlier Tuesday at a separate session with the BBWAA. "There are those that have no interest in it at all. There are those that have concerns even with the challenge system as to how the strike zone itself is going to be considered, what that looks like, how consistent it is going to be, what happens in a world where Wi-Fi goes down in the ballpark or the tech acts up on any given night.

“We’re seeing those issues, albeit in minor league ballparks," Clark added. "We do not want to end up in a world where in a major league ballpark we end up with more questions than answers as to the integrity of that night’s game or the calls associated with it.”

Playing rules changes go before an 11-member competition committee that includes four players, an umpire and six team representatives. Ahead of the 2023 season, the committee adopted a pitch clock and restrictions on defensive shifts without support from players.

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