THE SOCCER REPORT

Premier League race awaits final weekend; Liga MX playoffs set

Chelsea secured a Champions League spot for next season while debuting their new kits. Courtesy: Nike, Inc.


UEFA Champions League

FC Barcelona and Ajax took wins in the first leg semi-final matches. Barcelona goes on the road to Liverpool, who will be without Mohamed Salah, while Ajax looks to close out Tottenham at home.

Semifinals - first leg results:

  • Tottenham 0-1 Ajax
  • FC Barcelona 3-0 Liverpool

UEFA Europa League

Arsenal took a good lead at home but must now close the deal in Spain to advance to the final. With the Premier League results over the weekend, Europa League may be Arsenal's last chance to qualify for next year's Champions League. With Chelsea, assuring themselves a spot in next year's UCL, their biggest motivation to continue strong in the Europa League is the chase for silverware.

Semifinals - first leg results:

  • Arsenal 3-1 Valencia
  • Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea

English Premier League

The Premier League title will come down to the final day of the season. Manchester City is in the pole position and will be crowned champions if they win. Liverpool need a win and a City draw/loss. Chelsea clinched a top four finish and a Champions League spot while Manchester United missed out on the latter and will have to settle for Europa League next season.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (92), 2. Liverpool (91), 3. Chelsea (71), 4. Tottenham (70), 5. Arsenal (67), 6. Manchester United (66)

Scoring leader: 22 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Assists leader: 15 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. (C) - FC Barcelona (83), 2. Atlético Madrid (74), 3. Real Madrid (68), 4. Getafe (58), 5. Valencia (55), 6. Sevilla (55)

Scoring leader: 34 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 13 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona) / Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla)

German Bundesliga

Bayern Munich are within reach of the Bundesliga title, needing only a win to clinch it in the penultimate matchday.

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (74), 2. Dortmund (70), 3. RB Leipzig (65), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (54), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (54), 6. Monchengladbach (52)

Scoring leader: 22 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 14 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. (C) - Juventus (89), 2. Napoli (73), 3. Inter Milan (63), 4. Atalanta (62), 5. A.C. Milan (59), 6. Roma (59)

Scoring leader: 25 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta) / Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. (C) - PSG (85), 2. Lille (69), 3. Lyon (63), 4. Saint-Étienne (62), 5. Montpellier (55), 6. Marseille (55)

Scoring leader: 30 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 13 - Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (80), 2. PSV Eindhoven (80), 3. Feyenoord (62)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (50), 2. Club Brugge (44), 3. Antwerp (38), 4. Standard Liege (36), 5. Anderlecht (30), 6. Gent (26)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (81), 2. Porto (79), 3. Sporting CP (73)

Scottish Premier League

Championship: 1. (C) Celtic (84), 2. Rangers (75), 3. Aberdeen (61)

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Concacaf Champions League

CF Monterrey Highlights vs. Tigres 2 www.youtube.com

Monterrey finally lifted a title at their new stadium and it couldn't have come against a sweeter opponent. After winning the first leg 1-0 away, Monterrey tied 1-1 at home against city rivals Tigres to win the 2019 Concacaf Champions League.

Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. Philadelphia (20), 2. D.C. United (20), 3. Montreal (17), 4. Toronto (16), 5. NYCFC (15), 6. Columbus (13), 7. Orlando (12)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (24), 2. LA Galaxy (22), 3. Houston (19), 4. Seattle (19), 5. FC Dallas (17), 6. Minnesota (15), 7. San Jose (11)

Scoring leader: 11 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 6 - Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) / Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers) / Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Leon (38), 2. Tigres UANL (34), 3. Monterrey (30), 4. Cruz Azul (29), 5. Pachuca (28), 6. Necaxa (26), 7. Club America (26), 8. Tijuana (25)

Scoring leader: 14 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 10 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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National Women's Soccer League

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

Scoring leader: 4 - Crystal Dunn (North Carolina)

Assists leader: 2 - Lynn Williams (North Carolina) / Meghan Klingenberg (Portland) / Yuki Nagasato (Chicago)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, May 7

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

7:30 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] River Plate vs. Internacional (beIN SPORTS)

Wednesday, May 8

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

5:15 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Cruzeiro vs. Emelec (beIN SPORTS en Español)

6:00 p.m. - [MLS] Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC (ESPN+)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Pachuca vs. Tigres UANL (Univision Deportes)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Peñarol vs. Flamengo (beIN SPORTS)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Tijuana vs. Leon (Univision Deportes)

Thursday, May 9

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

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

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Necaxa vs. Monterrey (Univision Deportes)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Boca Juniors vs. Atletico PR (beIN SPORTS)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Club America vs. Cruz Azul (Univision Deportes)

Friday, May 10

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

Saturday, May 11

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich (FOX, UniMas)

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

1:00 p.m. - [MLS] FC Dallas vs. NY Red Bulls (Univision, Twitter)

2:30 p.m. - [NWSL] Utah Royals vs. Houston Dash (YahooSports.com)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Tigres vs. Pachuca (Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Leon vs. Tijuana (Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [MLS] Seattle Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE 57)

Sunday, May 12

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Wolves (NBC)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Chelsea (CNBC)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Everton (SyFy)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Burnley vs. Arsenal (MSNBC)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Cardiff City (USA)

1:30 p.m. - [MLS] Atlanta United vs. Orlando City (ESPN)

6:00 p.m. - [MLS] D.C. United vs. Sporting KC (FS1)

6:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Club America vs. Cruz Azul (Univision Deportes)

8:00 p.m. - [Liga MX Playoffs] Leon vs. Necaxa (Univision Deportes)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo broke a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium. The win is the first at home since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls and the first victory in league play since July 20 at Toronto. The result also marked the first win under Interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud.

Here are five observations from the September 11 result on "First Responders Night."

1) A win long worth the wait

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy but it was a much needed result to break free from a bad spell. More so than ending a seven -match winless streak, it was about the team turning around a stretch that saw them winless in 17 out of their last 20 dating back to May. Yes, the Dynamo began the season undefeated in 7 of their first 8 matches - the best start in franchise history. Cool. Anybody who was being honest in their analysis knew the team benefited from a home-heavy schedule to start the season and that the most challenging part was on its way.

Before the start of Wednesday's match, the club had a record of 2-12-1 (W-L-D) since returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup break. It was a similar summer dismantling to what happened in 2018, except that had makeup applied to it in the form of a U.S. Open Cup title.

After the team's shortcomings failed to be addressed, the team began to head towards its fifth playoff absence in six seasons. What the future holds is still to be seen but at least, for one night, Dynamo supporters were rewarded with the sweet taste of victory.

2) Making the switch to a two-forward formation

The 4-2-3-1 formation that featured two wingers and a lone forward had run it's course. It stopped working for the Dynamo a few games back. Truthfully, it was always a formation meant to favor the two speedy wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The results were always going to be less favorable once players without the characteristics of Elis and Quioto, i.e. Memo Rodriguez, Tommy McNamara, etc., began to be inserted.

For whatever reasons, Davy Arnaud continued some of the habits of previous manager Wilmer Cabrera. That included playing in the 4-2-3-1. Arnaud had switched to a 4-4-2 during his debut as the interim, where the team came back from 0-2 down to a dramatic 2-2 home draw. He opted not to repeat the two-forward lineup in the two matches after.

Whether being forced by circumstances (the potential sale of Mauro Manotas and the international FIFA break may have played a part), Arnaud finally went to a lineup that placed his two best attackers on the field: Mauro Manotas and Christian Ramirez.

The resulting win may be a coincidence of that change but the Dynamo looked their best under Arnaud's tenure as head coach.

3) Alejandro Fuenmayor features in first MLS match since June

The 23-year-old defender was one of the better additions to the team during the 2017/18 offseason. The Venezuelan even started in 21 of 22 matches, the sixth most starts on the team. This season, he fell out of favor with former manager Wilmer Cabrera and thrown into the doghouse.

Fuenmayor had featured in 429 minutes and five MLS matches prior to the encounter with Minnesota. It was as if he was played out of necessity for lack of other options. In the Leagues Cup match in late July against Liga MX side Club America and on Wednesday night, Fuenmayor showed why he is one of the better players on the roster.

What happened in the past is done. What happens going forward is in the club's control and, given the proof over the last two seasons, Alejandro Fuenmayor has to be part of the team's plan for the future and the present.

4) Joe Willis matches career-high for wins in a season

Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been one of the more solid performers this season despite the blunders everyone remembers from his performances at Cincinnati and at Philadelphia. He's been a workhorse for the Dynamo. With the win against Minnesota, he matched a career-high nine wins in a singular season and could reach double digits before the year is over.

5) Arnaud turns the corner

Time will tell if Davy Arnaud's interim tag will be removed. As of now, he's the leading candidate for the permanent head coaching job. The biggest benefit that was always going to come from him was the union of the locker room. Now with his first win in hand, Arnaud has five matches to prove why he deserves the gig.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

A game-winning goal and an assist for Manotas makes him the Man of the Match. In every period of turmoil throughout his time in Houston, Manotas has been one of the few voices that gives it to you straight and doesn't spit cliches. That's the same personality he goes on the field with and that's why he's one of the league's better goalscorers.

Next match:

Saturday, September 14 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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