ON THE PITCH
Soccer Recap - Dynamo fall to Vancouver Whitecaps; Atlanta draws 72,035 to set MLS record
If you love the world’s game, there is plenty to talk about these days. Every major league in the world is in full swing, international competition is nearing its peak and motors rev up as the countdown to the 2018 FIFA World Cup continues.
Here are the top stories in soccer:
UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid is finding themselves in great form again. With the injury to Neymar, Real was too much for Paris Saint-Germain to overcome as PSG lost 2-1 at home to Los Blancos and exit the Champions League. Tottenham fans also had their hearts broken as they saw their team exit at home to a 2-1 loss of their own at the hands of another traditional power - Juventus.
In the other two matches this week, Liverpool drew nil-nil at home with Porto while Manchester City was beaten at home, 2-1 by FC Basel. These results mattered little as both had dominant victories in the first match of their series, making the second leg games a formality. Four more spots await to be filled this week as the Champions League narrows down to the elite eight.
UEFA Europa League
Round of 16 action in the Europa League kicked off with wins from Atletico Madrid (3-0 over Lokomotiv Moscow), Red Bull Salzburg (2-1 over Dortmund), Arsenal (2-0 over A.C. Milan), Lyon (1-0 at CSKA Moscow), RB Leipzig (2-1 vs. Zenit), Sporting CP (2-0 over Plzeň) and Marseille (3-1 over Bilbao). The only draw of the week came in Lazio’s 2-2 home match vs. Dynamo Kyiv.
Marcus Rashford scored two first half goals to lead Manchester United to a 2-1 win over historic rival Liverpool - the only goal against being an own goal. Juan Mata almost scored the goal of the weekend with a bicycle kick that was just wide. Newcastle picked up a 3-0 win over Southampton at St. James’ Park in a match where U.S. defender DeAndre Yedlin featured for the full match. Everton, Leicester City and Burnley also picked up three points as did a trio of London clubs in Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. On Monday, Manchester City inched closer to the title in a 2-0 win at Stoke.
Top 5: Manchester City (81), Manchester United (65), Tottenham (61), Liverpool (60), Chelsea (56)
Promoted side Girona continues to win - now up to seventh in the table - as they picked up a 2-0 win over Deportivo. Real Madrid won away at Eibar, Valencia did the same at Sevilla. Levante, Barcelona, Villareal and Betis all picked up away wins as well. Espanyol, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao were the only sides beside Girona to get home wins. Las Palmas (20), Deportivo (19) and Malaga (13) are the three sides staring at relegation.
Top 5: FC Barcelona (72), Atletico Madrid (64), Real Madrid (57), Valencia (56), Sevilla (45)
League leaders FC Bayern continue with another dominant win, this time a 6-0 victory over Hamburg. FCB’s featured a Lewandowski hat-trick and a Franck Ribery double. Meanwhile, it was not a good weekend for RB Leipzig, who continue to fall out of the top five as they tied nil-nil at Stuttgart. Dortmund picked up a 3-2 over Frankfurt win in front of their home fans as Christian Pulisic played the entire match. Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim and Augsburg also got wins.
Top 5: FC Bayern Munich (66), Schalke 04 (46), Dortmund (45), Bayer Leverkusen (44), Eintracht Frankfurt (42)
The Serie A resumed after being postponed last week due to the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori. Tributes were seen across Italy but especially in Florence where the club dedicated their 1-0 win over Benevento to their former captain. Roma, Hellas Verona, Juventus, Atalanta, Crotone, and A.C. Milan all picked up three points. Inter Milan and Napoli was among the biggest name matches of the weekend but it delivered a scoreless draw.
Top 5: Juventus (71), Napoli (70), Roma (56), Lazio (53), Inter Milan (52)
PSG returned to league dominance with a 5-nil win over Metz. Of course they lead the league by 14 points and it’s only of matter of time before they make it official. As for the rest of the Champions League spots, Monaco continues to lead in second place with a 3-1 away win. Nantes won over Troyes and is back in the top five. Seventh-place Nice picked up a 5-2 win at Guingamp ahead of next week’s encounter with PSG. Alassane Pléa stood out in that match, scoring four goals for Nice.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (77), Monaco (63), Marseille (59), Lyon (54), Nantes (43)
CONCACAF Champions League
There are three MLS vs. Liga MX series in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and all of them provided great drama. New York Red Bulls went into Tijuana and won 2-0 over Xolos - the largest margin of victory by a U.S. team on Mexican soil - to set themselves up well for the return leg at home. Toronto FC defeated Tigres 2-1 in Canada in match between the two current champions of MLS and Liga MX, respectively. Seattle Sounders FC defeated Guadalajara 1-0 at CenturyLink Field. Club America comfortably won 4-0 over Panama’s Tauro.
The second legs take place Tuesday and Wednesday. Away goals are the primary tiebreaker with extra time and penalty shootout as the next options.
Major League Soccer
Week two in MLS had plenty of surprises including the second consecutive road win of expansion side LAFC, winning 5-1 at Real Salt Lake. Columbus and New England got gritty last minute wins at home, one off a penalty and the other off a free kick. Red Bulls continued their impressive form in Champions League with a 4-0 beatdown of Portland Timbers while everyone else won on the road on Saturday.
The winning road teams included the already mentioned LAFC, Sporting KC (in a 4-3 thrilling win at Chicago), Vancouver (picking up their first ever win in Houston) and Minnesota (where former Orlando coach Adrian Heath got a win over his former club).
Atlanta, meanwhile, opened at home in front of a full house of 72,035 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In doing so they have now surpassed the single-match MLS attendance record, again. On the field they put on a show with three astonishing goals from star players Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba.
East Top 6: Columbus Crew SC (6), NYCFC (6), NY Red Bulls (3), Philadelphia Union (3), New England Revolution (3), Atlanta United (3)
West Top 6: LAFC (6), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6), Houston Dynamo (3), San Jose Earthquakes (3), Minnesota United (3), LA Galaxy (3)
South of the border, Santos Laguna continues to lead the standings in Mexico. Los Guerreros remain there with a 3-2 win over Monterrey. Cruz Azul picked up a 5-0 win against Pachuca, Club America defeated Club Leon 2-0 at home and Tigres defeated Xolos 1-0 in a battle of Champions League clubs. Toluca and Guadalajara both picked up 1-0 wins on the road, Monarcas won 2-0 over Veracruz while Queretaro and Queretaro split points. Atlas won 1-0 over Puebla but remain last in the standings.
Top 5: Santos Laguna (23), Club America (21), Toluca (21), Tigres (21), Monarcas (19)
MLS-Liga MX partnership
Revealed Tuesday, the top two leagues in North America have joined forces to provide some interesting matches. Beginning in September, the two league champions will face off in the “Campeones Cup.” Just as much of a spectacle, an MLS-Liga MX All-Star match is finally in the works with that format available as early as this year.
Upcoming matches (All Times CT):
Tuesday, Mar. 13:
2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester United vs. Sevilla (FS1/ESPN Deportes)
2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Roma vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (Facebook LIVE)
7 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Tijuana vs. New York Red Bulls (go90/Univision Deportes)
9 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Toronto FC vs. Tigres UANL (go90/Univision Deportes)
Wednesday, Mar. 14:
2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Chelsea (FS1/ESPN Deportes)
2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Besiktas vs. Bayern Munich (FS2)
7 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Tauro FC vs. Club America (go90/Univision Deportes)
9 p.m. - [CONCACAF Champions League] Seattle Sounders FC vs. Guadalajara (go90/Univision Deportes)
Thursday, Mar. 15:
11 a.m. - [Europa League] Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Atletico Madrid (FS2/ESPN Deportes)
1 p.m. - [Europa League] Zenit vs. RB Leipzig (FS1)
1 p.m. - [Europa League] Bilbao vs. Marseille (ESPN Deportes)
3 p.m. - [Europa League] Arsenal vs. A.C. Milan (FS1/ESPN Deportes)
3 p.m. - [Europa League] Salzburg vs. Dortmund (FS2)
Friday, Mar. 16:
2:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Freiburg vs. Stuttgart (FS2)
2:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Monaco vs. Lille (beIN Sports)
Saturday, Mar. 17:
7:15 a.m. - [FA Cup] Swansea vs. Tottenham (FS1)
9:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Frankfurt vs. Mainz (FS2)
12:30 p.m. - [MLS] D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE 57)
2:45 p.m. - [FA Cup] Manchester United vs. Brighton (FS2)
2:30 p.m. - [MLS] NYCFC vs. Orlando City (Univision)
Sunday, Mar. 18:
7 a.m. - [Ligue 1] Nice vs. Paris-Saint Germain (beIN Sports)
8:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Wigan vs. Southampton (FS2)
10:15 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Bilbao (beIN SPORTS)
11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Leicester City vs. Chelsea (FS2)
2:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Girona (beIN SPORTS)