THE SOCCER REPORT

Ronaldo, Messi take the spotlight before international break

FC Cincinnati defeated the Portland Timbers in front of 32,250 present for their first MLS home match. Courtesy: FC Cincinnati.

Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick performance against Atletico Madrid to help Juventus advane to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and Lionel Messi's hat-trick in league play against Real Betis where the performances that stood out this week. Leagues around the world will now take a break for the International fixtures that will feature matches like USA vs. Chile next Tuesday in Houston.

UEFA Champions League

The Round of 16 concluded in Europe with no lead safe as Atletico Madrid became another side that fell apart in the second leg, much like Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in the previous week. In the two series where everything was left to play for, it was Liverpool and FC Barcelona who prevailed at FC Bayern Munich and vs. Lyon, respectively.

Round of 16 - second leg results (updated):

  • Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (3-5 agg.)
  • Dortmund 0-1 Tottenham (0-4 agg.)
  • Porto 3-1 Roma (4-3 agg.)
  • Paris 1-3 Manchester United (3-3 agg., Man Utd advance on away goals)
  • Manchester City 7-0 Schalke 04 (10-2 agg.)
  • Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid (3-2 agg.)
  • Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool (1-3 agg.)
  • FC Barcelona 5-1 Lyon (5-1 agg.)

The quarter-final draw happened on Friday, setting up the next round of matchups with Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona leading the headlines.

UEFA Europa League

Extra time was needed as Czech side Slavia Prague outlasted a potential Sevilla comeback to win their Round of 16 series at home. Besides that upset, Arsenal found it's way back from a 1-3 deficit against French side Rennes as the rest of the "favorites" march on to the next round.

English Premier League

Every goal from Premier League Matchweek 31 | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

Liverpool are back to the top of the standings, at least momentarily, as they pick up three points against Fulham. Manchester City did not feature in league play this week, instead advancing in the FA Cup with a 3-2 quater-final win against Swansea City. Mexican National Team star Javier Hernandez also took headlines this week with a brace to help West Ham to a 4-3 win over Huddersfield.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (76), 2. Manchester City (74), 3. Tottenham (61), 4. Arsenal (60), 5. Manchester United (58), 6. Chelsea (57)

Scoring leader: 18 - Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 11 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Highlights Real Betis vs FC Barcelona (1-4) www.youtube.com

FC Barcelona continue plowing through their La Liga competition as Messi put up three in the 4-1 win at Real Betis. The Argentine superstar commanded an ovation from the home fans thanks to his must-see goal in the hat-trick performance. Second-place Atletico Madrid lost 0-2 at Athletic Bilbao while Zidane's Real Madrid picked up a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in the French Manager's comeback.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (66), 2. Atlético Madrid (56), 3. Real Madrid (54), 4. Getafe (46), 5. Alaves (44), 6. Sevilla (43)

Scoring leader: 29 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (60), 2. Dortmund (60), 3. RB Leipzig (49), 4. Monchengladbach (47), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (46), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (42)

Scoring leader: 18 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 12 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (75), 2. Napoli (60), 3. Inter Milan (53), 4. A.C. Milan (51), 5. Roma (47), 6. Lazio (45)

Scoring leader: 21- Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 9 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (77), 2. Lille (57), 3. Lyon (53), 4. Marseille (47), 5. Saint-Étienne (46), 6. Stade Reims (46)

Scoring leader: 24 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 10 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (67), 2. Ajax (62), 3. Feyenoord (47)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (63), 2. Club Brugge (56), 3. Standard Liege (53)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (63), 2. Porto (63), 3. Braga (58)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (70), 2. Rangers (60), 3. Aberdeen (52)

------

Concacaf Champions League

Only four teams remain in the Concacaf Champions League, three from Mexico and one lone USA team.

Quarterfinals - second leg results:


Major League Soccer

The story of Week 3 in MLS will be the first-ever home opener for new club FC Cincinatti, which drew a capacity crowd of 32,250 to Nippert Stadium. The home team sent fans happy with a 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers. Wayne Rooney had a hat-trick performance of his own this week to propel D.C. United to a 5-0 victory over Real Salt Lake and Alberth Elis took Team of the Week honors with Rooney after helping Houston Dynamo to a 3-2 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (7), 2. Columbus Crew (7), 3. Toronto (6), 4. Montreal (6), 5. NY Red Bulls (4), 6. Cincinatti (4), 7. NYCFC (3)

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

Liga MX

The two biggest teams in Mexico faced off twice, in cup and league play, as Club America took both victories over rivals Chivas of Guadalajara. Leon continues top of the table, separated from Tigres UANL only on goal difference.

Top eight: 1. Leon (26), 2. Tigres UANL (26), 3. Monterrey (22), 4. Club America (19), 5. Club Tijuana (19), 6. Necaxa (18), 7. Cruz Azul (18), 8. Pachuca (17)

Scoring leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Brian Fernandez (Necaxa)

Assists leader: 8 - Angel Mena (Leon)

------

Copa Libertadores

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (55), 2. Defensa y Justicia (51), 3. Boca Juniors (47), 4. River Plate (42)

Scoring leader: 17 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 9 - Walter Montillo (Tigre)

------

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, Mar. 20

2:45 p.m. - [International Friendly] Germany vs. Serbia (ESPN3, Univision Deportes)

2:45 p.m. - [International Friendly] Wales vs. Trinidad & Tobago (ESPN3)

Thursday, Mar. 21

10:00 a.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Kazakhstan vs. Scotland (ESPN3)

1:00 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Kosovo vs. Denmark (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Belgium vs. Russia (ESPN2, Univision Deportes)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Netherlands vs. Belarus (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Croatia vs. Azerbaijan (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Austria vs. Poland (ESPN3)

7:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] U.S. Men's National Team vs. Ecuador (ESPN2/UniMas)

Friday, Mar. 22

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] England vs. Czech Republic (ESPNews)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Albania vs. Turkey (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Moldova vs. France (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Portugal vs. Ukraine (UniMas, Univision Deportes)

3:30 p.m. - [International Friendly] Argentina vs. Venezuela (beIN Sports)

9:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Mexico Men's National Team vs. Chile (UniMas, Univision Deportes)

Saturday, Mar. 23

12:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Brazil vs. Panama (beIN Sports en Espanol)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Spain vs. Norway (ESPNews)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier] Italy vs. Finland (ESPN+)

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)

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome