THE SOCCER REPORT

River-Boca on tap, Houston Dynamo playoff hopes end

River Plate product Tomas Martinez has been a staple of Dynamo lineups in 2019. Credit: Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo are officially eliminated from playoff contention, sentencing their absence from the MLS Cup Playoffs in five of the past six seasons. The Dash are off this week but will be heading down to Monterrey, Mexico for a friendly with Liga MX side Tigres on Saturday night.

On the global scale, one of the most heated rivalries in the sport takes place on Tuesday night as Argentina's River Plate and Boca Juniors face off in the Copa Libertadores semifinals. The matchup is a rematch of the Libertadores finals from last year, a series that had to be finished in Spain because it was not deemed safe to conclude in Argentina.

Here is a review of the past week in soccer:

Major League Soccer

Last Wednesday, LAFC demolished the Houston Dynamo by a scoreline of 3-1 to clinch the best record in MLS and home field throughout the playoffs. The Supporters Shield is the two-year club's first major trophy. Four other Western Conference teams clinched a playoff spot, leaving only two to be decided for the final day of the regular season.

In the East, NYCFC clinched the top spot and a bye in the first round. New England defeated NYCFC on Sunday to secure the final playoff spot in the conference.

Every match will be played simultaneously on Sunday in MLS' "Decision Day." Aside from the final two playoff berths, seeding in the playoffs is also to be decided. Spots 2-4 in each conference host in the first round.

With two goals this week, Carlos Vela tied the single-season scoring record (31) set by Atlata's Josef Martinez in 2018. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not far behind in the Golden Boot race with 29 as the Galaxy come to Houston on Sunday.

East top seven: 1. y - NYCFC (61), 2. x - Atlanta (55), 3. x - Philadelphia (55), 4. x - D.C. United (49), 5. x - NY Red Bulls (48), 6. x - Toronto (47), 7. x - New England (45)

West top seven (and playoff hopefuls): 1. s - LAFC (69), 2. x - Minnesota (53), 3. x - Seattle (53), 4. x - LA Galaxy (51), 5. x - Real Salt Lake (50), 6. Portland (46), 7. Dallas (45), 8. San Jose (44), 9. Colorado (42)

Scoring leader: 31 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 20 - Maxi Morales (NYCFC)

National Women's Soccer League

The four teams in the NWSL playoffs have been decided with only the semifinal matchups to be decided as the league enters it's final two weeks. The Houston Dash will miss out on the postseason once more, a feat never accomplished in club history.

Standings: 1. s - North Carolina Courage (46), 2. x - Chicago Red Stars (44), 3. x - Portland Thorns (39), 4. x - Reign FC (37), 5. Utah Royals (31), 6. Washington Spirit (30), 7. Houston Dash (26), 8. Sky Blue FC (20), 9. Orlando Pride (15)

Scoring leader: 18 - Sam Kerr (Chicago)

Assists leader: 8 - Yuki Nagasato (Chicago)

English Premier League

Matchday 7 Results

  • Sheffield Utd 0-1 Liverpool
  • Crystal Palace 2-0 Norwich City
  • Aston Villa 2-2 Burnley
  • Bournemouth 2-2 West Ham
  • Wolves 2-0 Watford
  • Tottenham 2-1 Southampton
  • Chelsea 1-0 Brighton
  • Everton 1-3 Manchester City
  • Leicester City 5-0 Newcastle
  • Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal

Top six: Liverpool (21), Man City (16), Leicester City (14), Arsenal (12), West Ham (12), Tottenham (11)

Scoring leader: 8 - Sergio Aguero (Man City)

Assists leader: 8 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Matchday 6 Results

  • Valladolid 1-1 Granada
  • Real Betis 3-1 Levante
  • FC Barcelona 2-1 Villareal
  • RCD Mallorca 0-2 Atletico Madrid
  • Leganes 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
  • Valencia 3-3 Getafe
  • Real Madrid 2-0 Osasuna
  • Eibar 3-2 Sevilla
  • Celta Vigo 1-1 Espanyol
  • Real Sociedad 3-0 Alaves

Matchday 7 Results

  • Villareal 5-1 Real Betis
  • Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Valencia
  • Getafe 0-2 FC Barcelona
  • Granada 1-0 Leganes
  • Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid
  • Espanyol 0-2 Valladolid
  • Eibar 2-0 Celta Vigo
  • Alaves 2-0 RCD Mallorca
  • Levante 1-1 Osasuna
  • Sevilla 3-2 Real Sociedad

Top six: Real Madrid (15), Granada (14), Atletico Madrid (14), FC Barcelona (13), Real Sociedad (13), Sevilla (13)

Scoring leader: 6 - Gerard Moreno (Villareal)

Assists leader: 3 - Five players tied

German Bundesliga

Matchday 6 Results

  • Union Berlin 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
  • Hoffenheim 0-3 Monchengladbach
  • Mainz 0-1 Wolfsburg
  • Augsburg 0-3 Bayer Leverkusen
  • Paderborn 2-3 Bayern Munich
  • RB Leipzig 1-3 Schalke 04
  • Dortmund 2-2 Werder Bremen
  • Fortuna 1-2 Freiburg
  • Cologne 0-4 Hertha Berlin

Top six: Bayern Munich (14), RB Leipzig (13), Freiburg (13), Schalke 04 (13), Monchengladbach (13), Bayer Leverkusen (13)

Scoring leader: 10 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 4 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund)

Italian Serie A

Matchday 5 Results

  • Hellas Verona 0-0 Udinese
  • Brescia 1-2 Juventus
  • Roma 0-2 Atalanta
  • SPAL 1-3 Lecce
  • Napoli 0-1 Cagliari
  • Genoa 0-0 Bologna
  • Fiorentina 2-1 Sampdoria
  • Parma 1-0 Sassuolo
  • Inter Milan 1-0 Lazio
  • Torino 2-1 AC Milan

Matchday 6 Results

  • Juventus 2-0 SPAL
  • Sampdoria 1-3 Inter Milan
  • Sassuolo 1-4 Atalanta
  • Napoli 2-1 Brescia
  • Lazio 4-0 Genoa
  • Udinese 1-0 Bolognia
  • Lecce 0-1 Roma
  • Cagliari 1-1 Hellas Verona
  • AC Milan 1-3 Fiorentina
  • Parma 3-2 Torino

Top six: Inter Milan (18), Juventus (16), Atalanta (13), Napoli (12), Roma (11), Lazio (10)

Scoring leader: 5 - Four players tied

Assists leader: 4 - Three players tied

French Ligue 1

Matchday 7 Results

  • Dijon 0-0 Marseille
  • Monaco 3-1 Nice
  • Brest 2-2 Lyon
  • St-Etienne 0-1 Metz
  • Amiens 1-3 Bordeaux
  • Nantes 1-0 Rennes
  • Montpellier 1-0 Nimes
  • Toulouse 0-2 Angers
  • Lille 2-0 Strasbourg
  • PSG 0-2 Stade Reims

Matchday 8 Results

  • Lyon 0-1 Nantes
  • Bordeaux 0-1 PSG
  • Stade Reims 1-2 Dijon
  • Metz 2-2 Toulouse
  • Monaco 4-1 Brest
  • Angers 1-1 Amiens
  • Nice 1-1 Lille
  • Strasbourg 1-0 Montpellier
  • Nimes 0-1 St-Etienne
  • Marseille 1-1 Rennes

Top six: PSG (18), Angers (16), Nantes (16), Lille (14), Marseille (13), Nice (13)

Scoring leader: 6 - Three players tied

Assists leader: 4 - Islam Slimani (Monaco)

Netherlands Eredivisie

Matchday 8 - Top Results

  • Ajax 2-0 Groningen
  • Waalwijk 1-2 Vitesse
  • Zwolle 0-2 PSV
  • AZ Alkmaar 2-0 Heracles
  • Feyenoord 5-1 Twente

Top four: Ajax (20), PSV (20), AZ Alkmaar (19), Vitesse (17)

Scoring leader: 8 - Donyell Malen (PSV Eindhoven)

Assists leader: 8 - Dusan Tadic (Ajax)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Matchday 7 - Top Results

  • Benfica 1-0 Setubal
  • Famalicao 3-1 Belenenses
  • Vitoria 1-0 Pacos Ferreira
  • Rio Ave 0-1 Porto
  • Aves 0-1 Sporting CP

Top four: Famalicao(19), Benfica (18), Porto (18), Vitoria (12)

Scoring leader: 6 - Pizzi (Benfica) / Ze Luis (Porto)

Assists leader: 4 - Bruno Fernandes (Sporting)

Scottish Premiership

Matchday 7 - Top Results

  • Hibernian 1-1 Celtic
  • Rangers 5-0 Aberdeen
  • St. Johnstone 0-1 Motherwell

Top four: Celtic (19), Rangers (18), Motherwell (13), Aberdeen (11)

Scoring leader: 6 - Jermain Defoe (Rangers) / Ryan Christie (Celtic)

Assists leader: 4 - James Forrest (Celtic)

Mexican Liga MX

Matchday 11 Results

  • Queretaro 1-2 Necaxa
  • Tigres 0-1 Puebla
  • Leon 1-1 Atlas
  • Guadalajara 2-4 Pachuca
  • Santos 5-0 Veracruz
  • Juarez 1-1 Club America
  • Cruz Azul 1-1 Monterrey
  • Tijuana 3-2 Monarcas
  • Toluca 3-1 Atletico San Luis

Matchday 12 Results

  • Puebla 2-1 Leon
  • Atlas 2-0 Queretaro
  • Pachuca 2-0 Cruz Azul
  • Necaxa 0-0 Juarez
  • Monterrey 0-2 Tigres
  • Club America 4-1 Guadalajara
  • Pumas 2-0 Santos
  • Atletico San Luis 2-3 Tijuana
  • Veracruz 1-1 Toluca

Top Eight: 1. Santos Laguna (23), 2. Necaxa (21), 3. Club America (21), 4. Leon (19), 5. Pachuca (18), 6. Queretaro (18), 7. Tigres (17), 8. Pumas (17)

Scoring leader: 8 - Julio Furch (Santos)

Assists leader: 8 - Miller Bolanos (Tijuana)

Liga MX clubs Tigres UANL and Santos will face off in a club friendly in Houston during the October FIFA International window. Tickets on sale at BBVAStadium.com

Liga MX Femenil

Matchday 13 Results

  • Necaxa 0-1 Queretaro
  • Juarez 1-2 UANL
  • Atlas 2-2 Cruz Azul
  • UNAM 1-1 Monarcas
  • Veracruz 1-1 Guadalajara
  • America 2-1 Pachuca
  • Santos 0-0 Puebla
  • Atletico San Luis 1-2 Leon
  • Tijuana 2-1 Toluca

Top Eight: 1. Monterrey (30), 2. Pachuca (26), 3. Tigres (25), 4. Guadalajara (23), 5. Atlas (21), 6. America (21), 7. Tijuana (21), 8. Monarcas (18)

Scoring leader: 13 - Mónica Monsiváis (Monterrey)

Argentina Superliga

Matchday 8 Results

  • Aldosivi 1-2 Union
  • Patronato 1-1 Lanus
  • Arsenal 3-0 Estudiantes
  • Gimnasia 0-2 River Plate
  • Boca 1-1 Newells
  • Banfield 0-1 San Lorenzo
  • Huracan 0-0 Atletico Tucuman
  • Velez 0-1 Defensa y Justicia
  • Rosario Central 1-1 Racing Club
  • Independiente 3-2 Talleres Cordoba
  • Cordoba 1-0 Godoy Cruz
  • Colon 1-0 Argentinos Juniors

Top four: Boca (18), San Lorenzo (16), Talleres Cordoba (16), Arsenal Sarandi (15)

Scoring leader: 4 - Bruno Pitton (San Lorenzo) / Nicolas Dominguez (Velez)

Assists leader: 3 - Mathias Abero Villan (Patronato)

Argentina Female

The first matchday in Argentina's female football featured the first Boca vs. River matchup of the professional era.

Matchday 1 Results

  • Villa 1-5 Rosario Central
  • Gimnasia 2-0 Huracan
  • Platense 1-5 Racing Club
  • Estudiantes 3-1 Belgrano
  • SAT 1-0 El Porvenir
  • Boca Juniors 5-0 River Plate
  • Lanus 1-3 San Lorenzo
  • Urquiza 2-1 Independiente

Top four: SAT (3), Boca Juniors (3) Racing Club (3), Rosario Central (3)

TV listings (All Times CT):

Tuesday, October 1

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Real Madrid vs. Club Brugge (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [English Championship] Leeds vs. West Bromwich (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. Bayern Munich (TNT, Galavision)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Juventus vs. Bayer Leverkusen (UniMas, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Galatasaray vs. PSG (B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Atletico Madrid (B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester City vs. Dinamo Zagreb (B/R Live)

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

Wednesday, October 2

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Slavia Prague vs. Borussia Dortmund (TNT, Galavision)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Genk vs. Napoli (UniMas, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Inter Milan (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)

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

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] RB Leipzig vs. Lyon (B/R Live)

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

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Lille vs. Chelsea (B/R Live)

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

Thursday, October 3

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] AZ Alkmaar vs. Manchester United (TUDN, B/R Live)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Feyenoord vs. Porto (Galavision, B/R Live)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Wolfsburg vs. Roma (B/R Live)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Besiktas vs. Wolves (UniMas, B/R Live)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Young Boys vs. Rangers (B/R Live)

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

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Sporting CP vs. LASK (Galavision, B/R Live)

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

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Rosenborg vs. PSV Eindhoven (B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Celtic vs. Cluj (B/R Live)

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What do the numbers say about him? Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Carlos Correa endeared himself in the heart of Astros fans during his 2020 postseason run. He talked the talk off the field, and he walked the walk on the field. Correa slashed .362/.455/.766 in the postseason, hitting more home runs in 13 postseason games than he did in 58 regular season games. His performance has sparked discussions about whether or not the Astros should seek an extension with him this offseason.

Aside from the gaudy postseason numbers, he asserted himself as a team leader. The images and stories of Correa talking to Framber Valdez on the mound, telling Dusty Baker he was going to hit the walk off, and saying this is the most fun he's ever had playing baseball are fresh in everyone's minds.

However, that's just thirteen games out of a 667 game career (counting the postseason). The postseason games are the most important, and Correa seems to show up when the lights shine brightest, but the Astros have to assemble a team good enough to play under the bright lights for Correa to get that moment to shine. What do the numbers say about him?

Hard Hit % - 41.8%

Barrel % - 5.9%

K% - 21.8%

BB% - 7.3%

Chase % - 31.8%

(Numbers from 2020)

By the numbers, Correa didn't have the greatest regular season in 2020. He slashed .264/.326/.383 with a 97 wRC+, meaning he was 3% worse in run production that the average hitter. He was tied for 14th amongst qualified shortstops with Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Francisco Lindor (100 wRC+) was one spot ahead of Correa, while Orlando Arcia (96 wRC+) was one spot behind. His Hard Hit % was in the 65th percentile in MLB, and his Barrel % was in the 34th percentile.

His expected numbers suggest that the dip in performance wasn't a matter of bad luck. His .256 xBA is slightly worse than his actual batting average. His .406 xSLG is slightly better than his actual .SLG, but not by much. Correa had a wOBA of .305 and a nearly identical xwOBA of .306. Lastly, his .324 BABIP was actually a .021 point jump over last year, and it's a touch above his career mark of .316.

Correa likely struggled during the regular season because of a downturn in production to the opposite field. Correa pulled the ball 49% of the time in 2020. That was 16th amongst qualified hitters, and it's a complete outlier for him in his career. It was 14.4% higher than 2019, and it was 15.6% higher than his career average. In 2019, Correa had a 9% HR% on batted balls to the opposite field. He had an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH with an average launch angle of 27°. His batting average was .368 with a xBA of .349 to that part of the field. In 2020, Correa had a 0% HR% to the opposite field (meaning he didn't hit one). He had an average exit velocity of 86.8 MPH with an average launch angle of 30°. His batting average was .382, but his xBA was .259. Keep in mind, Correa missed most of the 2019 season with injury, so the sample sizes aren't all that different (57 AB's in 2019 versus 34 AB's in 2020).

It's a similar story for the straightaway portion of the field. In 2019, Correa had an 11% HR%, 90.4 MPH avg. exit velocity, 8° avg. launch angle, .370 BA, and .424 xBA between the gaps. In 2020, Correa had a 5% HR%, 88.5 MPH avg. exit velocity, 4° avg. launch angle, .349 BA, and .362 xBA.

That all changed in the postseason.

Here is an overlay of Correa's spray charts from postseason games in which he hit home runs. Five of his six postseason homers were to center field, and three of the five to center field were on the opposite field side of second base.

Correa also made some physical changes at the plate over the course of the season, particularly late in the season, which means that the uptick in offensive performance is related to a physical change, not just some sort of ability to turn it on in the postseason. Correa mentioned that he and Alex Cintron compared video to his rookie season to look at hand positioning, and Correa started to mimic that. Then, there's the already-famed story of Correa and Cintron running to the cages mid-game to open up his shoulders and be less closed off. All of those changes are clearly visible on video.

On the left is Correa early in the 2020 season when the Astros were in San Diego playing the Padres. In the middle is Correa's first career home run in 2015. On the right is Correa's walk-off homer against Tampa Bay. There are four clear and obvious changes. First, he's holding the bat nearly straight up, which he wasn't doing at the beginning of the season. It supports Correa's claim that he and Cintron were looking at video from 2015 and trying to mirror that swing again. Then, there's the change with Correa's shoulders. In the first photo, if it weren't so grainy, you could read "C-O-R-R-E" in Correa. Same deal with the second photo, except it's even more clear. In the third photo, you can only read "C-O" which also supports the story of that mid-game adjustment with Cintron. Third, Correa has a lot less forward body lean with his torso. Correa hasn't spoken as to why he made that change, but it is probably tied to shoulder and bat orientation and helps him feel more comfortable. Lastly, Correa opened his stance, which is almost always going to help with vision.

The changes all probably help Correa feel more free when he swings. His postseason swing was much more North-and-South than East-and-West. His hands are able to work freely underneath his shoulders, and he has to do a lot less work to clear space for his hands to work. It's encouraging that the uptick in performance is clearly tied to physical work in the cage.

Correa did bring solid defense to the table as well. He's a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award at SS along with Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers and J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners. Correa will likely win the award. However, the defensive metrics are mixed on his performance.

Errors don't count as an advanced statistic, but they still bring value to the table. There's a direct correlation between making errors and giving up free bases. Now, just because a player doesn't make many errors doesn't mean he's an elite defender, but it's hard to be an elite defender if you make lots of errors. Correa takes care of the baseball, as his one error was tied for the least amongst shortstops. Correa also performed glowingly by DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). His DRS of 8 was second amongst shortstops, second behind only Dansby Swanson. However, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) had Correa at -0.7, which is below average. His OAA (Outs Above Average) of 0 roughly agrees with his UZR rating. Essentially, the numbers say Correa makes the routine plays about as well as anybody, but he isn't particularly rangy. His arm is also impressive and brings a lot to the table. Correa isn't a bad defensive shortstop by any means, he's above average, but this is probably the only Gold Glove he'll ever be nominated for, much less win.

When Correa is healthy and on his game, he is one of the most electric players in baseball. The problem is he hasn't been healthy and on his game nearly enough in his career. Over his five full major league seasons, Correa has missed 203 out of 708 games. He's been unavailable, mostly due to injury, in 30% of games over that time. That's quite a bit. The three injuries that have caused him to miss the most time are all back and torso related. The fact that the back issues have recurred is alarming, and it's something to monitor. It is really hard to be a good baseball player with a bad back. Credit to Correa, he stayed healthy for all of 2020, but it was only a 60 game season, which means there were fewer opportunities for injury. If he has another healthy season in 2021, it'll be enough to put the injury prone label to rest, but he hasn't done it yet.

And again, there's the issue of his performance being up-and-down over the years. In 2018, Correa missed 52 games due to injury, and had a wRC+ of 100, meaning he was exactly league average. That means he's been only league average or worse in two of his six big league seasons. Correa played extremely well in 2019, racking up 3.2 WAR and 143 wRC+, but he only played 75 games.

Between COVID, injury history, and streaky performance, there's too much uncertainty to give Correa a long term deal right now. However, his peaks, leadership ability, and apparent willingness to stay in Houston certainly make him a candidate for one. 2021 will be a "prove it" year for Correa, and it will go a long way in ranking him amongst the crop of shortstops hitting the free agent market after next year. Is Correa at the top of that market with Francisco Lindor, or is he at the bottom of that market with Javy Baez?

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