On the pitch
Soccer weekly recap: Cristiano Ronaldo named “The Best,” Dynamo secure home field for playoffs opener
European competition takes a break this week as FIFA celebrated “The BEST” in London after an action-packed weekend. Here are the takeaways from the week in soccer:
The Best FIFA Football Awards 2017
The second edition of FIFA’s “The Best” award ceremony took place this past Monday in London. Cristiano Ronaldo was named the best male player for the second year in a row over Lionel Messi. Here is the complete list of winners:
Men’s Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Women’s Player: Lieke Martens
Men’s Coach: Zinedine Zidane
Women’s Coach: Sarina Wiegman
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Puskás Award: Olivier Giroud
Fan Award: Celtic supporters
Fair Play Award: Francis Kone
World11: Gianluigi Buffon; Dani Alves, Leonardo Bonucci, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric; Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar.
UEFA Champions League
The group stage reached the halfway point in Europe’s premier club competition. The biggest takeaway is that, for the moment, all five English teams lead their groups. Harry Kane forced an own goal and Cristiano Ronaldo tied things up in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at Real Madrid. Manchester City scored two goals in the first 13 minutes to win 2-1 at home against Napoli, at the time the only perfect team out of one of Europe’s top league’s.
Wednesday’s matchups featured wins by Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United and Paris while Chelsea and Roma played to a thrilling 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge. Atletico Madrid made life difficult on themselves by tying 0-0 at Azerbaijan champion Qarabag.
UEFA Europa League
In Europa’s secondary competition, the scores that stand out are wins by Marseille, Zenit, Red Bull Salzburg, Real Sociedad, Lazio and Hoffenheim. Arsenal collected three points in Serbia against Red Star Belgrade on an 85th minute wonder goal by Olivier Giroud to extend their comfortable lead in the group. AC Milan still lead their group despite a 0-0 draw at home against AEK Athens. Everton remains in the bottom of their group, with only one point, after a 2-1 loss at French club Lyon.
Chelsea, Manchester City and Newcastle all took care of business by collecting three points. Manchester United, however, were upset 2-1 at newly-promoted Huddersfield Town, managed by former United States national team forward David Wagner. After firing their manager Craig Shakespeare, Leicester City bounced back with a 2-1 win at Swansea. Everton’s downward spiral continued with a 5-2 loss at home against Arsenal and Tottenham demolished Liverpool 4-1 at Wembley.
Top 5: Manchester City (25), Manchester United (20), Tottenham (20), Chelsea (16), Arsenal (16)
Everything was business as usual in Spain this weekend as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico collected three points. Real Betis, Valencia and Villarreal also picked up three themselves as did Leganes over Athletic Bilbao.
These results lead to the top 5 to look like this: Barcelona (25), Valencia (21), Real Madrid (20), Atletico Madrid (19) and Leganes (17).
In Germany, things are getting interesting at the top as Dortmund dropped points by drawing 2-2 at Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich earned a 1-0 win at Hamburg. Leipzig and Schalke also earned wins as Hoffenheim drew at Wolfsburg.
The top 5 in Germany: Dortmund (20), Bayern Munich (20), RB Leipzig (19), Hoffenheim (16), Schalke 04 (16).
PSG remain at the top of the table but not without some drama as Neymar was ejected from his first match in Ligue 1 in the 2-2 draw at Marseille. Monaco got right with a 2-0 win over Caen and Lyon got a 5-0 win at Troyes.
The top 5 in France: Paris Saint-Germain (26), Monaco (22), Nantes (20), Lyon (19), Marseille (18)
The weekend in Italy began on Friday with a matchup of the two top teams in the standings. Napoli hosted Inter Milan to a 0-0 draw at home, a result that ends their perfect run to start the season. Roma got a 1-0 win at Torino, Juventus demolished Udinese 6-2 on the road and AC Milan continued their winless form with a 0-0 draw vs. Genoa.
The top 5: Napoli (25), Inter Milan (23), Juventus (22), Lazio (22), Roma (18)
Major League Soccer
Decision Day, what has become an annual tradition in MLS, took place as all 22 teams took place in 11 simultaneous matches. One playoff berth was on the line and playoff positioning was at stake. The Houston Dynamo were big winners, 3-0 over Chicago Fire, as a Sporting Kansas City loss allowed them to move up to 4th place and will now host SKC in the one-off playoff match Thursday. The biggest loser was FC Dallas, who’s last minute effort at the playoffs was done in by San Jose’s stoppage time goal against Minnesota. By the way, expansion side Atlanta United broke their own record by once again setting an MLS record in attendance as 71,874 packed the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.
The MLS Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday and Thursday, with the winners advancing to take on the top two teams in each conference.
Knockout matches: Chicago vs. NY Red Bulls, Vancouver vs. San Jose, Atlanta vs. Columbus, Houston vs. Kansas City (TV listings below)
First round byes: Toronto FC, New York City FC, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders FC
MVP of the Week - Sebastian Giovinco
The “Atomic Ant,” dubbed that because of his 5’4 stature, continues to dazzle Major League Soccer as he rose to the occasion once again in front of the 71,874 record-breaking crowd in Atlanta. The former Juventus midfielder played the villain as his top-seeded Toronto, having nothing to play for as they are assured home-field throughout the playoffs, helped deny Atlanta a higher seed with a 2-2 draw. Altidore scored tied the match, 1-1, in the 60th minute and, after a fan threw a beer at Altidore, Giovinco picks up the cup and drinks the beer to celebrate. In the 84th minute, he drew the match 2-2 with one of his trademark free kicks. He is a big reason why Toronto where far and away the best club in the regular season and may be the reason they are favored to win it all.
Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):
Wednesday, Oct. 25:
7:30 p.m. - Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls (FS1)
9:30 p.m. - Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes (UniMás [ENG via SAP])
Thursday, Oct. 26:
6:00 p.m. - Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew (ESPN2)
8:30 p.m. - Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City (KUBE 57/UniMás [ENG via SAP])
Saturday, Oct. 28:
6:30 a.m. - Manchester United vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)
8:30 a.m. - Hannover 96 vs. Dortmund (FOX Sports)
9:00 a.m. - Liverpool vs. Huddersfield (NBC Sports)
9:00 a.m. - West Brom vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)
11:30 a.m. - Bournemouth vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)
11:30 a.m. - Atletico Madrid vs. Villarreal (BeIN Sports)
11:30 a.m. - Bayern Munich vs. RB Leipzig (FOX Sports)
1:45 p.m. - Athletic Bilbao vs. FC Barcelona (BeIN Sports)
Sunday, Oct. 29:
10:15 a.m. - Girona vs. Real Madrid (BeIN Sports)
11:00 a.m. - Leicester City vs. Everton (NBC Sports)
Monday, Oct. 30:
3:00 p.m. - Burnley vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)