ON THE PITCH

Soccer Report: League titles clinched in Europe; Toronto FC chasing history

Former MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco will not make the trip to Houston this weekend as Toronto FC prioritizes the CONCACAF Champions League final. Victor Araiza/SportsMap

Cristiano Ronaldo has hit another gear in the Champions League while FC Barcelona have been sent home packing. Manchester City, Bayern Munich and PSG have secured league titles and the battle for North America’s champion is in its final stage. Here are the top stories in soccer:

UEFA Champions League

The final four teams in the Champions League have been decided - FC Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Roma and defending champions, Real Madrid. Looking to win the top crown in European club competition for the third consecutive year, Madrid are looking to make history once more after becoming the first back-to-back champion in the 2016/17 season.Cristiano Ronaldo was the catalyst by scoring a double - including a bicycle kick goal that went viral - in the 3-0 first leg win, followed by his series-clinching penalty kick goal in the final moments of the 3-1 second leg loss. By scoring that penalty, Madrid avoided going to extra time and instead won 4-3 on aggregate, causing debate over if the penalty should have been called in that spot - some fans even debating if it was even a penalty.

Two upsets took place in the quarterfinals thanks to Liverpool and Roma. Liverpool throunced Manchester City 3-0 in their first leg home match and proceeded to defeat City at their own place, 2-1, to advance 5-1 on aggregate. Roma, who lost their first leg 4-1 in Barcelona, were thought eliminated until a 3-0 win at home saw them tie the aggregate an advance on away goals. Bayern Munich, who clinched the Bundesliga during this series, held Sevilla to a scoreless draw in the second leg to lean on their 2-1 win in the first leg in Spain.

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will face off in the semifinals while Liverpool and Roma will fight for the other ticket to the final. The semifinals begin April 24 and 25 and conclude on May 1 and 2. The final will take place in Kiev, Ukraine on May 26.

UEFA Europa League

The final four have also been decided in Europe’s secondary club competition, with the winner receiving a berth in next season’s Champions League on top of their place in the UEFA Super Cup match vs. this season’s Champions League winner. Marseille have an opportunity to win the tournament at their rival’s stadium but to do that they must first overcome Red Bull Salzburg. The other semifinal will pit two of Europe’s big names - and two Champions League caliber sides - as Arsenal and Atletico de Madrid face off in the series that will probably give us this year’s champion.

The first leg matches will take place on April 26 and the second leg matches will be on May 2. The final will be played on May 16 in Lyon, France.

Premier League

Manchester City are back on top of the Premier League, officially, as the club clinched its third Premier League this past weekend. This is the first league title under Manager Pep Guardiola - his second cup with the club - and the fifth first division championship for the Citizens. While there are still seven matches left in the season, City secured their crown thanks to their 3-1 win at Tottenham plus a West Brom 1-0 win at second place Manchester United.

Liverpool won 3-0 at home over Bournemouth, pulling in within one point from the second place spot before Manchester United won on Wednesday to regain some breathing room. After losing to Man City, Tottenham picked up a point on Tuesday in 1-1 home draw against Brighton. Looking to jump back into the top four, Chelsea won 3-2 at Southampton. Among other notable results, Newcastle won 2-1 over Arsenal, Burnley picked up a 2-1 win over Leicester City and Swansea drew 1-1 with Everton.

The bottom three at the moment are West Brom (24), Stoke City (28) and Southampton (28). Wolverhampton Wanderers - known commonly as Wolves - have already secured their Premier League status for next season by clinching one of the two automatic promotion spot in the Championship.

Top 5: Manchester City* (87), Manchester United (74), Liverpool (70), Tottenham (68), Chelsea (60)

La Liga

After their shocking elimination from the UEFA Champions League, FC Barcelona counting down the days to until the Copa del Rey final on Saturday. Barca remain undefeated after defeating Valencia 2-1 over the weekend and drawing 2-2 with Celta Vigo on Tuesday. While the top four spots look decided, clubs like Real Betis, Villarreal and Sevilla continue to fight to attain one of those Champions League spots. Malaga (17), Las Palmas (21) and Deportivo La Coruña (27) are the three bottom teams fighting to stay in Spain’s top division.

Top 5: FC Barcelona (83), Atletico Madrid (71), Real Madrid (68), Valencia (65), Real Betis (52)

Bundesliga

One weekend after clinching their 28th league title (a German record), Bayern Munich continue their domestic dominance with a 5-1 win over Monchengladbach. Schalke defeated Dortmund 2-0 in the Revierderby and have assured themselves at least a Europa League spot for next season. Bayer Leverkusen continue to work towards their own European berth with a 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Cologne (21) and Hamburg (22) are the two bottom teams in the table, the two spots that are assured automatic relegation, behind Freiburg who have accumulated 30 points this season.

In cup competition, the semifinals of the DFB-Pokal took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bayern Munich, thanks to their 6-2 win over Leverkusen, and Eintracht Frankfurt, via their 1-0 win over Schalke, will face off on May 19 in the final.

Top 5: FC Bayern Munich* (75), Schalke 04 (55),  Bayer Leverkusen (51), Dortmund (51), RB Leipzig (47)

Serie A

Juventus took another step towards the Serie A title with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday and kept that pace with a 1-1 draw at Crotone on Wednesday. Napoli, who early in the season where top of the table, did themselves no favors towards their title hopes with a 0-0 draw at A.C. Milan but got back to the winning on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over Udinese. Lazio and Roma also drew in a scoreless bout over the weekend but both won on Wednesday to jump Inter Milan in the standings. Inter, meanwhile, picked up a point over the weekend and a 4-0 win over Cagliari on Tuesday. Argentine sensation Mauro Icardi set a personal record by scoring his 25th goal of the season - matching Inter legends Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who were the last players to score a quarter of goals with the Nerazzurri.

Top 5: Juventus (85), Napoli (81), Roma (64), Lazio (64), Inter Milan (63)

Ligue 1

PSG clinched their 7th Ligue 1 title by dethroning previous champions Monaco in a 7-1 beat down at the Parc des Princes. Monaco was so embarrassed that the club published a statement offering to refund the travel expenses of their traveling fans. Neymar was not in attendance to celebrate the title win, a gesture that was criticized by France World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry. By virtue of their championship, PSG have qualified to next year’s Champions League.

Monaco, Lyon and Marseille have assured themselves a berth in at least the Europa League. Lyon and Marseille both picked up wins over the weekend. Metz and Troyes are the two teams currently in the automatic relegation zone.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain* (87), Monaco (70), Lyon (66), Marseille (66), Rennes (47)

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CONCACAF Champions League

Two of the sides considered favorites to win the tournament met in one of the semifinals as Liga MX giant Club America faced off against the current MLS Cup Champion Toronto FC. Just like in their previous series against defending Liga MX Champion Tigres, Toronto won their opening match in a 3-1 affair against America. The lead would allow them to head down to Mexico City and seal a spot to the final with a 1-1 result, a 4-2 win on aggregate.

Another Liga MX traditional power faced off against an MLS original in the other semifinal. Chivas of Guadalajara took a 1-0 lead at home against the New York Red Bulls, a result that would prove to be the decider as they withastood a bombardment to their goal in a scoreless second leg. New York’s elimination also means no U.S. club will win the tournament this year.

On Tuesday, Toronto - considered the favorite by most - hosted Chivas in a cold night at home. It would be the Canadians who would be left feeling cold as Guadalajara immediately struck a gut punch with a goal in the second minute of the match. Toronto native Jonathan Osorio equalized the match in the 19th minute but a sensational cross towards goal by Alan Pulido ended in the back of the net in the 72nd minute and the visitors take a 2-1 lead back to next Wednesday’s second leg in Mexico.

Major League Soccer

As the schedule moves forward in the early MLS season, some teams are already looking like contenders. New York City FC is one of those teams with an undefeated 5-0-2 record after their midweek thumping in a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake. Atlanta is also looking strong, remaining undefeated at home in a 2-2 draw vs. NYCFC. In the West, the two Los Angeles clubs are the ones rising to the top. New club LAFC went up to Vancouver and picked up a 2-0 win with another wondergoal from Carlos Vela while Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues to steal the show, scoring the only goal in LA Galaxy's 1-0 win at Chicago Fire.

Locally, the Houston Dynamo returned to action after being off for 14 days due to a change in their schedule. A trip to San Jose would result in the Dynamo’s second draw on the road this year in a 2-2 affair with the Earthquakes. After being down 1-0 at the half, Argentine midfielder Tomas Martinez became the catalyst the team needed by scoring the tying goal in the 48th minute. The team’s playmaker would later generate the second goal with a long pass down the right side of the field to Alberth Elis, who would cross it to the far post and feed Mauro Manotas the tap in in the 63rd minute of play. A San Jose goal in the 85th minute would ultimately deny Houston their first road win of the season. The Dynamo return to BBVA Compass Stadium to welcome Toronto FC on Saturday, though it’s been reported that the squad representing TFC will be a reserve heavy side as the first team focuses on next week’s second leg of the Concacaf Champions League final.

East Top 6: NYCFC (17), Atlanta United (13), New England Revolution (10), Columbus Crew SC (10), Orlando City (10), NY Red Bulls (9)

West Top 6: Sporting KC (14), LA Galaxy (10), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10), LAFC (9), FC Dallas (9), Colorado Rapids (8)

Liga MX

With only two match days left in the season, the playoff picture is becoming clear in Liga MX. The top eight teams in the standings advance to the postseason tournament and only Toluca and Santos have clinched, leaving six spots up for grabs. Atlas, Tijuana and Necaxa are among the sides fighting to qualify and all three kicked off the weekend with wins. Tigres and Cruz Azul fought to a 2-2 draw while Santos fell 3-1 at Pachuca. America and Monterrey faced off in a scoreless draw while Toluca, Pumas and Leon where among the sides also picking up wins.

In midweek action, Necaxa defeated Toluca at home in the Copa MX final. An own goal - the only score of the match- was the difference as Necaxa picked up their fourth cup title and first major title since 1998.

Top 5: Toluca (33), Santos Laguna (29), Club America (26), Tigres UANL (26), Monterrey (25)

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National Women’s Soccer League

NWSL action returned after a break for international competition. The Utah Royals played their inaugural home match in front of 19,203 in Sandy, Utah. The crowd and altitude would not be enough of an advantage as the Chicago Red Stars would take the three points in a 1-0 win. North Carolina Courage stayed at the top with a 4-2 win at Washington Spirit, Seattle Reign picked up a 1-0 win in New Jersey against Sky Blue FC and Portland Thorns won 2-1 at home against the Orlando Pride.

On Wednesday, the top two teams faced off in North Carolina where the home side picked up a 1-0 lead over Seattle. The Houston Dash appeared in their first road match of the season but an own goal in the seventh minute would make for a tough night. After being down by one, the second goal would drop four minutes later and 74th minute goal sealed a 3-0 win for the Red Stars. Goalscorer Kealia Ohai did not appear in the road loss, still recovering from a grade 3 ACL sprain and medial meniscus tear. The Dash travel to Orlando to take on the Pride on Saturday afternoon.

Top 4: North Carolina Courage (12), Chicago Red Stars (7),  Portland Thorns (6), Seattle Reign (6)

Upcoming matches (All Times CT):

Thursday, Apr. 19:

12:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Burnley vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

Friday, Apr. 20:

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Moenchengladbach vs. Wolfsburg (FS2)

2 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Dijon vs. Lyon (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Apr. 21:

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] West Brom vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

8 a.m. - [Serie A] SPAL vs. Roma (beIN Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Hannover vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Frankfurt vs. Hertha Berlin (FS2)

9 a.m. - [Premier League] Watford vs. Crystal Palace (NBC Sports)

11:15 a.m. - [FA Cup - semis] Manchester United vs. Spurs (FOX)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Leverkusen (FS1)

2 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC (KUBE  57 in Houston, ESPN+ elsewhere)

2:15 p.m. - [Copa del Rey - Final] FC Barcelona vs. Sevilla (ESPNews)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire (Univision)

2:30 p.m. - [NWSL] North Carolina Courage vs. Utah Royals (Lifetime)

4 p.m. - [NWSL] Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash (go90.com/go90 app)

Sunday, Apr. 22:

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)

8 a.m. - [Serie A] Chievo Verona vs. Inter Milan (beIN Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Mainz (FS2)

10 a.m. - [FA Cup - semis] Chelsea vs. Southampton (FS1)

10 a.m. - [Ligue 1] Marseille vs. Lille (beIN Sports)

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

11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Cologne vs. Schalke (FS2)

3 p.m. - [MLS] Seattle Sounders FC vs. Minnesota United FC (ESPN)

5 p.m. - [MLS] Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC (FS1)

Monday, Apr. 23:

2 p.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

2 p.m. - [La Liga] Athletic Bilbao vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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