ON THE PITCH
Soccer Recap: Dynamo win 9-1 at RGVFC, Academy product Lucatero debuts in Mexico and Barça avoids loss
Top European clubs will be looking to make their mark in local competitions before the return of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League next week. Major League Soccer clubs intensify preseason work with the start of the season less than month away. This was the week in soccer:
English Premier League
Chelsea fans are feeling blue after seeing their team squander an opportunity to pick up six points and falling from third to fourth as a result. The defending champions lost both of their matches this week to midtable Bournemouth and Watford - both by a margin of three goals. Olivier Giroud did debut for Chelsea but the new signing that took the headlines was Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu (on loan from FC Barcelona).
Tottenham, after a 2-0 win over Manchester United, looked primed to also jump Chelsea in the standings if not for being held to a 2-2 draw at Liverpool. The match also pit the two current top scorers in the Premier League in Harry Kane (22) and Mohamed Salah (21), both of whom scored in Sunday’s match. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also debuted with new club Arsenal, with Aubameyang scoring in the Gunners 5-1 win over Everton.
Speaking of debut goals, Alexis Sanchez also opened his league account with Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Huddersfield. Off the pitch, Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster that left 23 dead in a plane crash - including eight United players and three club officials. The team will hold a minute of silence at 3:04 p.m. local time (9:04 a.m. CT) - the time of the crash - as legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson and current manager Jose Mourinho will be among the speakers in the ceremony.
Top 5: Manchester City (69), Manchester United (56), Liverpool (51), Chelsea (50), Tottenham (49)
After guiding Real Madrid to two Champions League titles, manager Zinedine Zidane is undergoing the most challenging part of his tenure as ‘Los Blancos’ keep stumbling in league play. This time his star-studded roster of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric were held to a 2-2 draw at Levante - now 19 points behind the top spot. With league title hopes all but officially done, Zidane’s only hope to save the season will come in the coming weeks when they face PSG in the Champions League. As for the league, second and third place faced off as Atletico defeated Valencia with an Angel Correa goal being the only score of the match.
There is a nine point gap between first and second place as well as second and third place. Atleti remain the only real threat to FC Barcelona’s title hopes, though they are essentially three games back. Barça doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, however, as they remain undefeated. This week they fended off crosstown rivals Espanyol, with a Gerard Pique goal causing the 1-1 draw.
Top 5: FC Barcelona (58), Atletico Madrid (49), Valencia (40), Real Madrid (39), Villareal (37)
With the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal, Dortmund obtained Michy Batshuayi (on loan from Chelsea) hoping to replace the goal output. “Bats-man,” as supporters are calling him, got off to a great start with a double in his debut in the 3-2 win at Cologne. Another debutante coming from the Premier League was 20-year-old Ademola Lookman, who scored the lone goal in RB Leipzig’s 1-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach. Of course, Bayern Munich is head and shoulders above the rest and extended their lead to 18 points clear with a 2-0 win at Mainz.
Top 5: Bayern Munich (53), Bayer Leverkusen (35), RB Leipzig (35), Borussia Dortmund (34), Schalke 04 (34)
Marseille kicked off the weekend in France with a 6-3 win over Metz in a match where Frenchman Florian Thauvin had a hat-trick. Marseille did take over second place but Monaco would not stay behind after defeating Lyon 3-2 at home. Paris ultimately kept the gap from first to second with a 3-0 win over Lille.
Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (62), Marseille (51), Monaco (50), Lyon (48), Nantes (37)
Napoli defeated Benevento with a 2-0 lead but it is Juventus 7-0 win over Sassuolo that will steal the headlines. Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick in the Juve emphatic win. The goals will, at least for now, only count for goal difference in case of a tie breaker as Napoli hold on to their one point lead. Inter Milan continue to stumble with another 1-1 draw, this time at Crotone. Milan does the same with a 1-1 draw at Udinese, Roma picks up a 1-0 win at Hellas Verona and Lazio hold on to third despite a 1-2 loss vs. Genoa.
In Coppa Italia semi-finals, Juventus defeated Atlanta 1-0 while Milan and Lazio tied at zero midweek. The second leg matches will take place at the end of the month on the 28th of February.
Top 5: Napoli (60), Juventus (59), Lazio (46), Inter Milan (45), Roma (44)
Monterrey took over the top spot in the standings after a 5-1 win over Leon, where there is still no news on when Donovan could debut. Club America joined Monterrey in a tie for first with 5-1 result of their own against Lobos BUAP. Henry Martin scored a hat-trick after featuring for the Mexican national team on Wednesday in San Antonio. Pumas - who led coming into the weekend - made it a three-way tie for first as Spanish defender Alejandro Arribas scored his first goal with the team in a 2-0 win over the defending champions Tigres. Arribas joined in the offseason from La Liga side Deportivo La Coruña while former Dynamo Erick Torres has yet to debut.
Morelia picked up an important 3-2 win at Pachuca to move up to fourth in a back and forth match that featured a Keisuke Honda free kick goal but was ultimately decided by a penalty. Tijuana, who signed U.S. Men’s national team player Rubio Rubin earlier in the week, drops to fifth after a scoreless draw at Santos Laguna. In a battle of sides fighting relegation, Veracruz won 1-0 at Queretaro but still remain in last place of the relegation table.
In the Under-20 category, Houston Dynamo Academy product Christian Lucatero got his first minutes - two to be exact - in Necaxa’s 1-0 win over Toluca. It is the Houston native’s debut, albeit as a substitute, since joining the Liga MX reserves league after foregoing an offer to play at the Dynamo’s second-division affiliate RGVFC. His next opportunity for minutes could come Saturday when the team travels to Mexico City to face Cruz Azul U20.
Top 5: Monterrey (11), Club America (11), Pumas UNAM (11), Morelia (10), Tijuana (9)
Major League Soccer
The Houston Dynamo spent the week training down in Edinburg, TX where they held two scrimagges. The first was a closed-door practice that ended in a 2-0 win over UTRGV with goals by Alberth Elis and 16-year-old Academy player Marcelo Palomino. The match was divided into four periods of 20 minutes. On Saturday night, the Dynamo played three periods of 30 minutes against their USL hybrid-affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC. That match ended in a 9-1 win that had more to do with increasing match fitness than the result. Forward Romell Quioto did not travel with the team and spent the week in Houston because of the flu. The Dynamo are back in Houston to resume preseason, Palomino is off to Florida to join the U.S. Under-18 national team.
Elsewhere in Major League Soccer, teams have been boosting their rosters and the number of South American imports has increased to at least 22 at the time of this article’s publishing. As part of free agency, Ricardo Clark - the last remaining Dynamo from the back-to-back title teams - has joined Columbus Crew SC for the upcoming season. Toronto FC has added a FIFA World Cup runner-up in Dutch defender Gregory van der Wiel to their roster. TFC have made their intentions clear to compete for the CONCACAF Champions League title and this could be a move to try and achieve that goal.
Other CONCACAF Champions League teams like the Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders FC have intensified their preseason with matches against MLS competition. Speaking of Seattle, defender Roman Torres announced via his Twitter that he has extended his stay in the Emerald City.
National Women’s Soccer League
U.S. Women’s National Team forward Sydney Leroux joined the Orlando Pride, reuniting with husband and Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer. The two previously played in Kansas City before Dwyer was traded away last season and Leroux’s team folded in the offseason. Speaking of folding, the week began with the dispersal draft to distribute players on the Boston Breakers roster across the league. Standout player Rose Lavelle was selected by the Washington Spirit after the first pick was acquired from New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC.
The Houston Dash made three selections including Swedish defender Lotta Ökvist and goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme, both under 25 years of age. The Dash also added three more players throughout the week - midfielders Michaela Hahn, Allison Wetherington and Linda Motlhalo - to add to last week’s re-signings of Kealia Ohai and Amber Brooks. Dash did lose forward Sarah Hagen, who announced her retirement on Friday. Dash coach Vera Pauw joined Glenn Davis on Soccer Matters last Wednesday, that interview can be heard at the 37:37 mark of the first hour from the January 31 episode.
Upcoming matches (All Times CT):
Tuesday, Feb. 6:
11:30 a.m. - [DFB Pokal] Paderborn vs. Bayern Munich (ESPN3/ESPN Deportes)
1:45 p.m. - [DFB Pokal] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Werder Bremen (ESPN3)
2 p.m. - [FA Cup] Swansea vs. Notts County (FS2)
2 p.m. - [Coupe de France] Sochaux vs. Paris Saint-Germain (beIN Sports)
Wednesday, Feb. 7:
11:30 a.m. - [DFB Pokal] Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Mainz (ESPN3/ESPN Deportes)
1:30 p.m. - [DFB Pokal] Schalke 04 vs. Wolfsburg (ESPN3)
1:45 p.m. - [FA Cup] Tottenham vs. Newport County (FS1)
2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Sevilla vs. Leganes (beIN Sports)
Thursday, Feb. 8:
2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Valencia vs. Barcelona (beIN Sports)
Friday, Feb. 9:
1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Augsburg (FS2)
1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Fiorentina vs. Juventus (beIN Sports)
Saturday, Feb. 10:
6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Spurs vs. Arsenal (CNBC/Universo)
8 a.m. - U.S. Soccer National Council Meeting [Presidential Election] (ussoccer.com)
8 a.m. - [Serie A] SPAL vs. AC Milan (beIN Sports)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Hamburg (FS2)
9 a.m. - [Premier League] Stoke City vs. Brighton (CNBC)
10 a.m. - [Ligue 1] Toulouse vs. Paris Saint-Germain (beIN Sports)
11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Leicester City (NBC/Universo)
11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04 (FS2)
1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad (beIN Sports)
7 p.m. [Liga MX] Tigres vs. Club America (Univision)
9 p.m. [Liga MX] Guadalajara vs. Santos Laguna (Univision)
Sunday, Feb. 11:
6 a.m. - [Premier League] Huddersfield Town vs. Bournemouth (CNBC)
8:15 a.m. - [Premier League] Newcastle vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports/Telemundo)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Stuttgart vs. Monchengladbach (FS1)
9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Getafe (beIN Sports)
10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Southampton vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)
11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Wolfsburg (FS2)
12 p.m. [Liga MX] Toluca vs. Monterrey (Univision)
1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] AS Roma vs. Benevento (beIN Sports)
Monday, Feb. 12:
2 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. West Brom (NBC Sports/Universo)