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)

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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)

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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)

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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+)

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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