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 star  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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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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