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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)

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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