CH14 doubles Zlatan's sales

Soccer: Chicharito's MLS impact, USWNT perfect in Olympic Qualifying, Houston in talks to host Concacaf Nations League

Photo: LA Galaxy

Liverpool continue to run rampant in England, Real Madrid have taken a solid hold of the top spot in Spain and transfer talk continues in Major League Soccer with less than a month left from the beginning of the 2020 season.

Houston Dynamo announce Liga MX friendly; GK Marko Maric arrives

It looks like Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas are here to stay after another transfer window has passed and both went unsold to European suitors. The Dynamo will need every bit of firepower they can get as they kick off the season on Feb. 29 against the LA Galaxy.

Offseason signing Marko Maric has arrived to the club and is expected to be the starting goalkeeper this season. You can learn more about the Croatian international in his interview on Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis.

Houston Dash continue offseason roster turnover

The Houston Dash have traded away fan favorites Amber Brooks and Sofia Huerta, both starters in 2019, to add to the offseason turnover that saw Kealia Ohai also traded earlier this offseason. What looks like a fresh start for all involved is shaping up to be James Clarkson's most challenging season yet in only his second year in the women's game.

USWNT open 2020 with sweep in Olympic Qualifying group matches in Houston

As expected, the United States Women's National Team went three for three at BBVA Stadium to start their Olympic Qualifying campaign. They await either Canada or Mexico in the semifinals for a spot at Tokyo 2020.

Results:

  • January 28 - USA 4-0 Haiti
  • January 31 - USA 8-0 Panama
  • February 3 - USA 6-0 Costa Rica
Upcoming Matches:
  • February 7 - USA vs. Canada/Mexico [win punches ticket to Tokyo Olympics]
  • February 9 - Olympic Qualifying Tournament Final

USMNT open 2020 with 1-0 win over Costa Rica

Eighteen-year-old Ulysses Llanez scored his first international goal in the U.S. Men's 1-0 win over a "B-team" Costa Rica in a non-FIFA date friendly at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California over the weekend. It was the first friendly of the year for the USMNT who culminate their annual January Camp with a W.

Impact of Chicharito arrival, another Mexican starΒ  could be heading to MLS

The Mexican star and the national team's all-time goalscorer has been the talk of the MLS offseason with his arrival to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The former Chivas of Guadalajara, Manchester United and Real Madrid striker is slated to be the highest-paid player in league history and has already had "double" the impact on season ticket sales than when Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the Galaxy. LA open the season on the road in Houston on Feb. 29.

Hernandez might not be the last Mexican star joining the league this winter as David Beckham's Inter Miami CF is about to sign Monterrey's Rodolfo Pizarro, according to reports including The Athletic's Paul Tenorio. MLS also signed reigning Liga MX joint goalscorer Alan Pulido this offseason, joining Sporting Kansas City.

Houston to host Concacaf Nations League semis in June

The Men's national teams of USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica are heading to Houston this summer for the semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League, as first reported out of Honduras. The latest report locally (from Glenn Davis) is that the matches could be hosted in two separate venues on the same night - as opposed to the usual doubleheaders at NRG for Concacaf Gold Cup action.

The Dynamo's BBVA Stadium would host USA vs. Honduras while Mexico vs. Costa Rica would take place at the Texans' NRG Stadium. The final would be at the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Negotiations are still taking place but an official announcement could come as early as this coming week, according to reports.

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (73), 2. Man City (51), 3. Leicester City (49), 4. Chelsea (41), 5. Tottenham (37), 6. Sheffield (36)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. West Ham (24), 19. Watford (23), 20. Norwich City (18)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 15 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. Real Madrid (49), 2. FC Barcelona (46), 3. Getafe (39), 4. Sevilla (39), 5. Valencia (37), 6. Atletico Madrid (36)

Bottom three: 18. Leganes (18), 19. Celta Vigo (17), 20. Espanyol (15)

Scoring leader: 14 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 8 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (42), 2. RB Leipzig (41), 3. Dortmund (39), 4. Monchengladbach (39), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (34), 6. Schalke 04 (24)

Bottom three: 16. Werder Bremen (17), 17. Fortuna (16), 18. Paderborn (15)

Scoring leader: 22 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 12 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (54), 2. Inter Milan (51), 3. Lazio (49), 4. Atalanta (39), 5. Roma (39), 6. Cagliari (32)

Bottom three: 18. Genoa (16), 19. Brescia (15), 20. SPAL (15)

Scoring leader: 25 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (55), 2. Marseille (43), 3. Rennes (40), 4. Lille (34)

Bottom three: 18. Amiens (19), 19. Nimes (18), 20. Toulouse (13)

Scoring leader: 15 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 8 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

Liga MX

Clausura 2020

Top eight: 1. Leon (9), 2. Queretaro (9), 3. Pumas (8), 4. Juarez (7), 5. Necaxa (7), 6. Guadalajara (6), 7. Atletico San Luis (6), 8. Atlas (6)

Scoring leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 3 - Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul)

Throwback moment: First MLS Jersey Unveiling

Ahead of this week's jersey unveiling in New York City for MLS' 25th season, here's a look back at the first ever jersey announcement. Current Houston Dynamo Head Coach Tab Ramos was the model for the NY/NJ MetroStars.

TV news: FOX Sports locks down Concacaf broadcasting rights

TV listings (All Times CT):

For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com

Tuesday, February 4

11:30 a.m. - [German Cup] Frankfurt vs. RB Leipzig (ESPN3, ESPN Deportes)

1:30 p.m. - [German Cup] Werder Bremen vs. Dortmund (ESPN3)

2:00 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Nantes vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Oxford United vs. Newcastle (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Granada vs. Valencia (ESPN+)

Wednesday, February 5

11:30 a.m. - [German Cup] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Stuttgart (ESPN3)

1:45 p.m. - [German Cup] Bayern Munich vs. Hoffenheim (ESPN3)

1:45 p.m. - [English FA Cup] Tottenham vs. Southampton (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Lazio vs. Hellas Verona (ESPN+)

Thursday, February 6

12:00 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona (ESPN+)

Friday, February 7

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Frankfurt vs. Augsburg (FS2, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Bologna (ESPN+)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Puebla vs. Santos Laguna (TUDN)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Tijuana vs. Toluca (FS2)

Saturday, February 8

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Crystal Palace (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Wolfsburg vs. Dusseldorf (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. Paderborn (TUDN)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Watford (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Dortmund (FS2, UniMas, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Hellas Verona vs. Juventus (ESPN+)

5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Pachuca (UniMas, TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Tigres vs. Chivas (Univision, TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Leon vs. Monterrey (Univision, TUDN)

Sunday, February 9

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Napoli vs. Lecce (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Cologne (FS1)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

11:00 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. RB Leipzig (FS2)

12:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Pumas UNAM vs. Club Atletico de San Luis (Univision, TUDN)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Inter vs. AC Milan (ESPN+)

6:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Queretaro vs. Club America (TUDN)

8:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] FC Juarez vs. Necaxa (TUDN)

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Accountability seems to be lacking. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Did you catch exiled Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, starting his "Redemption Tour 2020," doing his best imitation of Sgt. Schultz from the classic sitcom Hogan's Heroes?

"I see nothing. I hear nothing."

Luhnow sat for 37 minutes (the extended director's cut on click2houston.com) with Channel 2 sports reporter Vanessa Richardson and insisted that he played no part in the Astros 2017-18 illegal sign-stealing operation, and didn't deserve to be suspended for one year by baseball, and ultimately fired by Astros owner Jim Crane.

"I didn't know."

"I wasn't aware."

"I wasn't involved."

"Had I known about it, I would have stopped it."

"I was punished for something I didn't do."

Remember, Luhnow wasn't just the Astros general manager, he also held the title of President of Baseball Operations, responsible for every action that took place at Minute Maid Park, on the field, in the dugout, clubhouse, bullpen and boardroom.

Everybody else seemed to know, including field manager A.J. Hinch, who admitted that he knew the Astros were cheating, tried to stop it, but couldn't.

That's some leadership that Astros had in 2017-18. A manager who couldn't get his players to stop cheating, and a general manager who claims he didn't know. The inmates truly were running the asylum.

If Luhnow is telling the truth, that makes him one monkey who saw no evil, heard no evil and spoke no evil.

On one hand, Luhnow takes credit for building a supremely gifted Astros team that has made four consecutive American League Championship Series, won two American League pennants, and captured Houston's first World Series title in 2017.

One commercial break later, he's swearing that he didn't have a clue that his team was committing baseball's crime of the century – which ultimately cost the Astros their manager, general manager, a $5 million fine, and four draft picks.

Which is it, was Luhnow a detached genius, incredibly naΓ―ve or unfortunate scapegoat?

Luhnow claimed that an honest investigation by MLB would have determined that he was merely an innocent bystander to the scandal. He told baseball commissioner Rob Manfred that he was willing to take a lie detector test to prove it, but Manfred declined his offer.

OK, Manfred said a lie detector test wasn't necessary. Why didn't Luhnow do it anyway? It might have helped mitigate some of his sentence.

Put it this way, I work at Gow Media World Headquarters in Houston. If the boss brought me into his office and said he was firing me because I was stealing equipment, or missing deadlines or harassing other employees … and I was innocent, I holler to the high heavens that I was fired unjustly. I'd hire Jim Adler, the Tough Texas Lawyer, to sue everybody who ever touched a baseball for wrongful termination, defamation of character and a hundred other things. I wouldn't take a called third strike and wait 10 months to speak up.

Right now, Luhnow's once-brilliant reputation is sullied. He's on the outside of baseball looking in. Luhnow's protestation of innocence reminds me of Jose Canseco's book, Juiced, in 2005, where the slugger claimed that steroid use was rampant in the big leagues. And he named names.

Accused players bleated that they were innocent, that Canseco was a bad apple who made up stories to cover his own use of banned drugs.

Here's when I knew that Canseco, while a rat, was right – when the accused steroid users screamed bloody murder, but didn't sue Canseco. If somebody accused you of a crime that you didn't commit, a crime that cost you your job and legacy, a crime that might keep you out of the Hall of Fame of your profession, would you stay silent for almost a year and take the punishment lying down?

We may never know if Luhnow knew or didn't know that his Astros were cheating. It's possible that he's telling the truth now. His teary-eyed interview was convincing in parts. But accepting punishment for something you didn't do, and not fighting back – it's not a good look.

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