THE SOCCER REPORT

NWSL kicks off 7th season; UCL, UEL semifinalists to be decided

Houston Dash defender Amber Brooks was honored before the season opener for becoming the 22nd player to feature in 100 league matches. (Photo credit: Jose Castellanos)

The National Women's Soccer League kicked off a historic 7th season and the European competitions got one step closer to crowning their champions in this week's soccer happenings. As always, skip down to the end of this article for a schedule of the top upcoming matches.

Top stories:

  • UEFA Champions League semifinalists to be decided Tuesday and Wednesday
  • UEFA Europa League semifinalists to be decided Thursday
  • MLS opens newest soccer-only stadium in Minnesota
  • Houston Dynamo look to remain unbeaten Friday at LA Galaxy
  • Houston Dash open season with 1-1 draw, play away on Saturday
  • Groups announced for this summer's Gold Cup and African Cup of Nations

UEFA Champions League

After this week, only four teams will remain in the hunt for the title of European Champion. Last Tuesday, Tottenham picked up a narrow 1-0 win over City in the first UCL match at the new Spurs Stadium while Liverpool handled Porto with a 2-0 win at Anfield. On Wednesday, Barcelona came away with a 1-0 win at Manchester United while Juventus drew 1-1 at Ajax.


UEFA Europa League

Arsenal, Chelsea and Valencia all picked up key wins in their search for this year's Europa League trophy and the coveted Champions League qualification that comes with it. The talk of the week, however, was about 19-year-old Portuguese forward João Félix who scored a hat-trick in Benfica's 4-2 win over Frankfurt.

Benfica 4-2 Eintracht Frankfurt: Europa League Recap with Highlights, Goals and Best Moments www.youtube.com


English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (85), 2. Manchester City (83), 3. Tottenham (67), 4. Arsenal (66), 5. Chelsea (66), 6. Manchester United (64)

Scoring leader: 19 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 12 - Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) / Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (74), 2. Atlético Madrid (65), 3. Real Madrid (61), 4. Sevilla (52), 5. Getafe (51), 6. Valencia (49)

Scoring leader: 33 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (67), 2. Dortmund (66), 3. RB Leipzig (58), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (52), 5. Monchengladbach (51), 6. Hoffenheim (47)

Scoring leader: 21 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 13 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (84), 2. Napoli (67), 3. Inter Milan (60), 4. Milan (55), 5. Roma (54), 6. Atalanta (53)

Scoring leader: 22 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

PSG's 2-2 draw against Strasbourg means the defending champions will have to wait one more match to celebrate their newest league championship.

Top six: 1. PSG (81), 2. Lille (64), 3. Lyon (56), 4. Saint-Étienne (53), 5. Marseille (51), 6. Montpellier (48)

Scoring leader: 27 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 11 - Nicolas Pepe (Lille) / Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (74), 2. PSV Eindhoven (74), 3. Feyenoord (56)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (41), 2. Club Brugge (37), 3. Antwerp (34), 4. Standard Liege (31), 5. Anderlecht (26), 6. Gent (25)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (69), 2. Porto (69), 3. Sporting CP (61)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (77), 2. Rangers (66), 3. Kilmarnock (58)

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Concacaf Champions League

Liga MX top spenders, and crosstown rivals, Tigres UANL and Monterrey will face off later this month in the final series to determine the new club champion of Concacaf.


Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (14), 2. Columbus (13), 3. Montreal (11), 4. Toronto (10), 5. Philadelphia (10), 6. Orlando (8), 7. Cincinnati (8)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (19), 2. Seattle (16), 3. LA Galaxy (15), 4. Houston (13), 5. FC Dallas (13), 6. Minnesota (10), 7. Sporting KC (9)

Scoring leader: 8 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 5 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Leon (35), 2. Tigres UANL (32), 3. Monterrey (26), 4. Necaxa (24), 5. Pachuca (24), 6. Club America (23), 7. Cruz Azul (23), 8. Tijuana(22)


Scoring leader: 12 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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National Women's Soccer League

Standings: 1. Portland Thorns (3), 2. Washington Spirit (3), 3. Chicago Red Stars (1), 4. Seattle Reign (1), 5. Houston Dash (1), 6. North Carolina Courage (1), 7. Utah Royals (0), 8. Orlando Pride (0), 9. Sky Blue FC (0)

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African Cup of Nations


Concacaf Gold Cup



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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 16

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Cardiff (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United (TNT, UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Juventus vs. Ajax (B/R Live, Galavision)

Wednesday, Apr. 17

12:00 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Nantes vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester City vs. Tottenham (TNT, UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Porto vs. Liverpool (B/R Live, Galavision)

9:00 p.m. - [MLS] Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. LAFC (ESPN+)

Thursday, Apr. 18

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Napoli vs. Arsenal (B/R Live, Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Chelsea vs. Slavia Prague (B/R Live, Galavision)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Valencia vs. Villarreal (B/R Live, UniMas)

Friday, Apr. 19

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

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Nantes vs. Lyon (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

10:00 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo (Twitter, UniMas)

Saturday, Apr. 20

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen (FS1, Univision Deportes)

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

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

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Newcastle vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. RB Leipzig 05 (FS1)

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

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] Atlanta United vs. FC Dallas (ESPN)

5:00 p.m. - [NWSL] Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash (YahooSports.com)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Pumas (Univision)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Chivas vs. Puebla (Univision)

Sunday, Apr. 21

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

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Freiburg vs. Dortmund (FS1, Univision Deportes)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] D.C. United vs. New York City FC (ESPN)

6:00 p.m. - [MLS] LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS1)

Monday, Apr. 22

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Burnley (NBC Sports)

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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