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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It's easy to blame Bill O'Brien for the Texans woes. He is a lousy GM, a below average play caller and his offense is boring, predictable and ineffective. Not once has he had a top 10 offense in the league. So he does not get a pass here.

But Deshaun Watson shouldn't, either.

Last year, Watson was in the MVP conversation entering the game in Baltimore. Four of the nine games he played before that, Watson had an ESPN Total QBR over 85, which is playing at an elite level.

Since that 41-7 debacle (where his QBR was 13.6), Watson has played 10 games. He has topped 85 just once (and barely - 85.6) in the win over the Patriots. While QBR is not the be all end all, it shows a trend. And before you blame the talent around him or the ridiculously stupid DeAndre Hopkins trade, eight of those games were with Hopkins in the lineup.

Over his last 10 games, Patrick Mahomes has done it five times (and just missed last week at 84.7). Lamar Jackson has done it six times in his last 10. Russell Wilson is six for his last 10. Dak Prescott? Three. Aaron Rodgers? Three. Ryan Tannehill? Three. Josh Allen? Two. Lamar Jackson led the league last year with an 83 for the season. Watson was sixth at 71.3. To be a top 10 quarterback, you had to average 64.1. In two games this season, Watson sits 20th, about where he was over the last six regular season games and two playoff games last year.

In essence, Deshaun Watson - who often gets compared to those players - is not on their level. Yes, O'Brien has a lot to do with it, but it's also time to start looking at Watson's performance and regression as an NFL quarterback.

In 2018, Watson had four such games. In 2017, four in six starts. And now ONE since that Baltimore game. In fact, he has topped 80 just once in that stretch, and 60 just three times.

What it tells us is Watson has been an average quarterback over his last 10 starts. The Texans invested heavily in an offensive line to protect him. They have added depth at WR but a net loss without Hopkins. Elite quarterbacks turn in performances like that roughly half the time. Getting more consistent has always been an issue for Watson. But since that Baltimore game, he has not been close. And he is being paid to be elite.

In the end, O'Brien is still the main culprit. He has hand picked all the players around Watson, he designed the offense, and he controls everything.

But it's time to quit giving Watson a pass. Right now, he is part of the problem.

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