On the pitch

Soccer weekly recap: Dynamo makes playoffs; U.S. fails in World Cup bid

Tyler Deric and the Houston Dynamo are back in the playoffs. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The week began with some World Cup qualifiers wrapping up, and with 23 of the 32 teams now confirmed for next summer’s competition. The rest will be figured out next month as players return to their clubs.

World Cup Qualifying

The biggest surprise in qualifying came in CONCACAF where the United States failed to qualify for their first World Cup since 1986. The USA lost 2-1 at Trinidad & Tobago while Panama (2-1 over Costa Rica) and Honduras (3-2 over Mexico) both won at home. The results mean Panama qualifies directly to their first World Cup while Honduras will play a playoff series next month against Australia.

Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick in CONMEBOL qualifying to send Argentina to the World Cup, helping his country to a 3-1 win in Ecuador. Peru and Colombia drew one apiece, assuring Peru the playoff against New Zealand while Colombia goes through directly. The surprise in South America was the elimination of Chile, losing 3-0 at Brazil. Chile would have probably been a favorite in next year’s spectacle had they gone through.

Qualified: Russia, Brazil, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, England, Spain, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Poland, Egypt, Iceland, Serbia, Portugal, France, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Panama.

FIFA U-17 World Cup

There is hope yet for the United States as the under-17 national team impressed Monday morning with an emphatic 5-0 win over Paraguay. Timothy Weah, the son of former Liberian footballer and ex Ballon d’Or Winner George Weah, scored a hat-trick to send the “Baby Nats” to the quarterfinals on Saturday.

English Premier League

The EPL returned with a stellar matchup opening the weekend as Liverpool and Manchester United battled to a 0-0 draw. United goalkeeper David De Gea was the talk of the match as his heroics helped save a point for his side. Meanwhile, Manchester City took advantage to steer two points clear of United at the top of the table after a 7-2 beating of Stoke City. The stunners came in the form of Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace and Arsenal’s 2-1 loss at Watford.

La Liga

The biggest match of the weekend was league leaders FC Barcelona on the road against Atletico Madrid. The two played to a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from Saul and Luis Suarez and keeps Barça at the top of the table. The result hurts Atletico who go down to fourth as Real Madrid won 2-1 at Getafe. Other important results were Athletic Bilbao’s 1-0 win over Sevilla and Valencia’s 6-2 win at Real Betis.

Bundesliga

Christian Pulisic’s Dortmund suffered a costly 3-2 defeat at Red Bull Leipzig. The win puts Leipzig in third and, more importantly, allowed FC Bayern Munich to jump up to second after their 5-0 win over Freiburg. Dortmund now only holds a two point lead over Munich after the shocking loss at home, which broke a 41-match unbeaten streak. Mönchengladbach was another winner, moving up to 5th after a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen.

Ligue 1

It was a big weekend for Paris Saint Germain as they begin to build a good cushion at the top of the table. The weekend started Friday as second-place Monaco lost 3-2 at Lyon. Paris was on the road as Dijon and came away with a scrappy 2-1 win thanks to a double from Belgian Thomas Meunier. St-Étienne’s 3-1 win over Metz catapulted them to third place as Marseille and Nantes each picked up a draw.

Serie A

Napoli is the only remaining undefeated club in one of Europe’s top leagues as they defeat Roma at their place 1-0 to remain a perfect 8-0-0 to start the season. That record is still only enough to be two points clear of second-place Inter Milan who won the Milan Derby 3-2 over AC Milan. Lazio also picked up a pivotal win as they stunned Juventus 2-1 on the road to jump over them to third in the table.

Major League Soccer

Four spots were clinched in the MLS Cup Playoffs over the weekend, all in the Western Conference: Portland, Seattle, Kansas City and Houston. The biggest blow was to FC Dallas who not only failed to clinch but also got jumped in the table by the San Jose Earthquakes. San Jose, Dallas and Real Salt Lake are battling for the last playoff spot, to be decided this weekend.

In the East all spots have been secured and the seedlings remain the same for the moment. The most emotional moment of the weekend came as Kaká played his final home match in Orlando, who lost 1-0 to Columbus in the Brazilian’s farewell. The regular season concludes this weekend and all matches will air simultaneously at 3 p.m. CT.

National Women’s Soccer League

The top-tier of women’s professional soccer came to a conclusion on Saturday afternoon in as the NWSL Championship match took place in Orlando. Lindsey Horan’s goal in the 50th minute was the deciding moment in the Portland Thorns 1-0 win over North Carolina Courage. It is Portland’s second NWSL title, tying the most by a club in the five-year-old league.

MVP of the Week - Tyler Deric

Klein High School product Tyler Deric had an incredible nine saves in the Houston Dynamo’s 0-0 draw at Sporting Kansas City. Because of other results, the Dynamo would have qualified to the playoffs regardless of the result. Even so, Deric’s heroics to deny SKC a win come out with the point sets up the Dynamo to be in play for the 3rd or 4th seed in the Western Conference. Currently in 5th, the Dynamo would have to open the playoffs on the road (where they’ve only won once all season) and moving up a spot would mean the difference in hosting their opening playoff match.

Upcoming games (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Oct. 17:

1:45 p.m. - Real Madrid vs. Tottenham (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - Spartak Moskow vs. Sevilla (ESPN Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - RB Leipzig vs FC Porto (FOX Soccer Facebook)

Wednesday, Oct. 18:

1:45 p.m. - Barcelona vs. Olympiakos (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - Benfica vs. Manchester United (Fox Soccer Facebook/FOX Deportes)

1:45 p.m. - Juventus vs Sporting CP (FOX Deportes Facebook)

Saturday, Oct. 21:

6:30 a.m. - Chelsea vs. Watford (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - Huddersfield vs. Manchester United

9:00 a.m. - Manchester City vs. Burnley

Sunday, Oct. 22:

7:30 a.m. - Everton vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

10:00 a.m. - Tottenham vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

3:00 p.m. - MLS Decision Day (ESPN)

3:00 p.m. - Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire (KUBE 57)

Getty Images

In November 2022 – just a scant three years from now – comes the next World Cup, in Qatar. This will set up one of the extraordinary, epic collisions in recorded human history:

The global game meets global warming.

(I know what you're thinking: Why can't I write about Baker Mayfield shaving his handlebar mustache or LeBron James' triple-double frenzy, or at least preview which nations are favored to win the World Cup? You want that stuff, go subscribe to The Athletic or marry Skip Bayless.)

(Do the words "existential threat" mean anything to you? I have been inspired by the 16-year-old Swede, Greta Thunberg; it's time to get up, get out and shout about something other than College Football Playoff rankings.)

Qatar is hot, baby. And getting hotter.

Temperatures in its capital city, Doha, have risen five degrees since 1962. Earlier this decade, during what can only be described as a particularly unforgiving heat wave, they recorded an all-time high reading of 122.7 degrees.

The average high temperature is Qatar in June and July – when the World Cup is typically played – is 108 degrees; the average low is in the mid 80s.

So, why oh why, we might wonder, would FIFA, soccer's international governing body, grant the World Cup to you-could-cook-an-egg-on-that-soccer-pitch Qatar?

Oh, I know, I know, I know!

$$$$$.

(That's the worldwide symbol for "lots of cash changing hands illicitly.")

Speaking of which, let's take a moment to celebrate FIFA, the IOC and the NCAA, the Mount Rushmore of autocratic, predatory, dystopian sporting warlords. For those of you new to the pillage-and-plunder game of monolithic athletic officialdom, IOC is short for International Olympic Committee, NCAA is short for National Collegiate Athletic Association and FIFA is short for Corrupt to the Core.

Anyway, upon further consideration, FIFA decided to push the 2022 World Cup back five months, to the milder climes of November and December.

It's still no picnic made in the shade then.

Several weeks ago, Doha hosted the world track and field championships. The start time of the women's marathon was moved to midnight, but with temperatures still near 90 degrees, 28 of the 68 runners failed to finish. First-aid responders literally outnumbered the competitors.

So when watching the 2022 World Cup, please note: They're not flopping, they're collapsing.

The next World Cup slogan is "Expect Amazing."

It should be: "Expect Amazingly Non-Ambulatory Athletes."

To combat the heat, Qatar is taking an unusual tack – it is air-conditioning the outdoors. Besides forced air cooling the playing fields, there will be vents under each stadium seat to comfort fans.

Now, I'm no rocket scientist – heck, I am barely a sports journalist – but while air conditioning relieves us from increasing heat, it is one of the causes of warming the planet, no? Qatar, by the way, is the largest per-capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, three times as much as the United States and almost six times as much as Stephen A. Smith.

If FIFA had any conscience – I realize this is a fantastical notion – it would tie the 2015 Paris Agreement to World Cup qualifying. If you are not part of that climate accord, you cannot participate in the World Cup. Now, that would be a game changer. Sure, current U.S. officials might not care much about climate change or the future of the planet, but they definitely would not want to miss on a chance to kick some Ukrainian butt on the soccer pitch.

You think I'm kidding here? We often make a big deal about sports making a difference and leading the way to societal change. Well, what better spot to be a leader than saving the Earth?

More realistically, Couch Slouch has two easy solutions to alleviate World Cup health dangers:

1. Play the games with a running a clock.

2. Reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy, change what we eat and buy, consume less and waste less, travel smarter.

What, they already have a running clock? Dang. I guess we better do the other thing!

Ask The Slouch

Q. You seem to question student-athletes' rights to earn. Didn't you make money in college as a sportswriter? (M.J. Hunter; Naperville, Ill.)

A. I was a student-journalist at Maryland and got paid for my work in the campus newspaper – $6 for news articles, $4 for sports articles. This, in fact, jeopardized my amateur journalist status, but I chose to take the quick cash and dash my Fourth Estate Olympic dreams.

Q. If you put half the effort towards your column as your readers do when posing their thought-provoking questions, how much improvement would you see in your writing? (Jack Drury; Cumberland, Md.)

A. Uh, dunno.

Q. Politics is a blood sport in Washington, D.C. Keeping with this theme, will the impeachment hearings be commentated by Joe Buck? (Vince Banes; Silver Spring, Md.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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