Soccer recap

Soccer week in review: Dynamo draw in first game of series

The Houston Dynamo battled to a scoreless draw with Portland on Monday night. The two will finish the series on Sunday. Victor Araiza

League action heats up in Europe as the MLS Cup Playoffs began stateside. The Houston Dynamo were one of the teams that was victorious in the MLS postseason and are one of eight  left in the run for the MLS Cup. 

Premier League

Manchester City continues to hold its place at the top of the table with a 3-2 win at West Brom. Second place Manchester United built some distance with a 1-0 home win over third place Tottenham, while Chelsea and Arsenal kept pace with wins of their own. Everton, with a 2-0 loss at Leicester City, has fallen to the relegation zone for the moment.

Top 5: Manchester City (28), Manchester United (23), Tottenham (20), Chelsea (19), Arsenal (19)

La Liga

Barcelona and Valencia obtained wins, which keep them at the top of Spain’s top flight. While that sounds like clockwork, a win was hard to come by for Atletico Madrid (draw at Villarreal) and Real Madrid, who was upset at Girona. Sevilla, meanwhile, jumped into the top five.

The 5: Barcelona (28), Valencia (24), Real Madrid (20), Atlético Madrid (20) and Sevilla (19).

Bundesliga

Bayern Munich has taken over the top of the table by way of two important results. A 2-0 win over Leipzig would’ve been a big win on it’s own, but Dortmund continues to struggle and this weekend fell 4-2 at Hannover 96. Looking back, this may be the week that decided the league during the 2017 season. Dortmund will have something to say about that this week when they host Bayern.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (23), Dortmund (20), RB Leipzig (19), Hannover 96 (18), Schalke 04 (17).

Ligue 1

Edinson Cavani scored twice to lift PSG 3-0 over Nice. Neymar did not play as he served his suspension from a red card in the previous game. Monaco continue to string wins together again and follow behind PSG, and Lyon are on their tail as they won 2-0 over Metz. Marseille follow close behind in fourth with a win at Lille, Nantes dropped points at Dijon.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (29), Monaco (25), Lyon (22), Marseille (21), Nantes (20).

Serie A

The stellar match of the weekend was between Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus, as Juve picked up a 2-0 win in Milan. Roma picked up a 1-0 win over Bologna as they prepare to face Chelsea in the Champions League. Napoli also has an important UCL match coming up midweek but took care of business against Sassuolo to stay at the top in Italy.

The top 5: Napoli (31), Inter Milan (29), Juventus (28), Lazio (28), Roma (24)

Major League Soccer

The MLS Cup Playoffs got underway midweek with the elimination of four teams: Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes, Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City. That set up the conference semis to be Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls, New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew, Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps.

Only Toronto - the favorite to win it all - was able to take a result from the first leg over the weekend, leaving much to play for on Thursday and Sunday. Locally, the Houston Dynamo’s 0-0 draw with the Timbers mean a Dynamo goal would force Porland into a win, while any tie that isn’t scoreless will also see them through to the next round.

MVP of the Week - Vicente Sánchez

The ageless wonder Vicente Sánchez has been a savior for the Houston Dynamo. The oldest guy on the team at 37 years old, Sánchez is no longer the breakout star he was when he was scoring goals by the bucket in Mexico. Even with limited minutes, Sánchez has been a difference maker for the Dynamo with his ability, leadership and experience. Without him, the Dynamo don’t finish the push for a playoff spot and his nifty footwork was the difference in creating the goal that won the game against Sporting Kansas City to help the Dynamo advance to the conference semis.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Oct. 31:

2:30 p.m.- Manchester United vs. Benfica (FS1)

2:30 p.m.- Roma vs. Chelsea (FS2/FOX Deportes Facebook)

2:30 p.m.- FC Barcelona vs Olympiacos FC (FOX Sports Facebook)

Wednesday, Nov. 1:

2:30 p.m.- Tottenham vs. Real Madrid (FS1)

2:30 p.m.- Napoli vs. Manchester City (FS2)

2:30 p.m.- FC Porto vs. RB Leipzig (FOX Sports Facebook)

2:30 p.m. - Liverpool FC vs. NK Maribor (FOX Deportes Facebook)

Thursday, Nov. 2:

1 p.m. - Lyon vs. Everton (FS2)

3 p.m. - Arsenal vs. Red Star Belgrade (FS1)

3 p.m. - Lazio vs. Nice (FS2)

9:30 p.m. - Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (FS1)

Saturday, Nov. 4:

10:15 a.m. - Deportivo La Coruña vs. Atlético Madrid (BeIN Sports)

12:30 p.m. - West Ham vs. Liverpool (NBC)

12:30 p.m. - Dortmund vs. FC Bayern Munich

2:45 p.m. - FC Barcelona vs. Sevilla (BeIN Sports)

Sunday, Nov. 5:

8:15 a.m. - Manchester City vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports/Telemundo)

10:30 a.m. - Chelsea vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports/Telemundo)

1:45 p.m. - Real Madrid vs. Las Palmas (BeIN Sports)

3:05 p.m. - River Plate vs. Boca Juniors

4 p.m. - MLS Cup Playoffs [NYC vs. Columbus or Portland vs. Houston] (ESPN)

6:30 p.m. - MLS Cup Playoffs [NYC vs. Columbus or Portland vs. Houston] (FS1)

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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