On the Pitch

Soccer weekly recap: Dynamo, Real Madrid and Dortmund score big wins

Elis is coming through at an important time with three goals this week. Photo by Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

This is a weekly soccer recap featuring a look back at all the major international soccer leagues:

UEFA Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale lit it up with spectacular goals in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund. Sevilla, Napoli, Tottenham and Manchester City all picked up an expected three points and Porto got an important 3-0 win at Monaco. To conclude Tuesday’s matches, Beşiktaş defeated Leipzig to lead their group and Liverpool (yet to win) picked up a disappointing 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow, thanks to a tying goal from Philippe Coutinho.

Wednesday had two big bouts as Paris defeated Bayern Munich, 3-0 at home, and Chelsea handed Atletico Madrid the first loss at their new stadium on the last play of the match. Barcelona and Roma did their job by getting slim road wins, Celtic got a 3-0 win at Anderlecht, while Basel and Juventus rode their home field to convincing wins. Oh by the way, Manchester United are cruising in their group after a demolishing 4-1 road victory at CSKA Moscow.

UEFA Europa League

On Thursday, the second matchday of Europe’s second-tier competition took place. Some important results to note are Arsenal’s 4-2 win at BATE, AC Milan’s 3-2 win vs. Rijeka and two Spanish teams picking up losses (Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad).

English Premier League

Harry Kane continued his good form with a double in Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Huddersfield Town. Leicester City will rue missed chances in a goalless draw at Bournemouth and West Brom and Watford also split points. West Ham, Stoke City and Manchester United where home winners on Saturday while Manchester City picked up a big 1-0 win away at Chelsea, doing so without their best player in injured forward Sergio Agüero.

On Sunday, Arsenal handled Brighton 2-nil, Burnley stuns Everton 1-nil and Newcastle and Liverpool tie 1-1 at St. James’ Park.

La Liga

Sevilla built on their midweek Europe win with a league win on Saturday while Atletico Madrid could not find the back of the net against Leganes. On Sunday, Real Sociedad and Real Betis battled to a 4-4 draw, Valencia got a 3-2 victory over Bilbao and Real Madrid picked up their first home win against Espanyol. The strangest sight of the weekend was Barcelona playing in front of an empty stadium due to the violent aftermath of the Independence referendum vote. Rather than forfeiting the match, Messi and Co. took care of business in a 3-0 win against Las Palmas.

Bundesliga

Dortmund got back to their winning ways in a 2-1 away win against FC Augsburg to keep pace atop the standings. Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig and Leipzig also picked up wins as everyone else drew.

The biggest news in the Bundesliga, of course, was Bayern’s parting of ways with manager Carlo Ancelotti after the midweek loss at Paris in the Champions League. The Bavarians had the lead but home side Hertha came back for a 2-2 draw. To make matters worse, Bayern’s Franck Ribéry left the match injured.

Italian Serie A

The biggest result in Italy this week was Roma’s 2-0 win at AC Milan. Juventus could not carry over their success in Europe as they drew on the road, 2-2, with Atalanta. Napoli, meanwhile, picked up a 3-0 win against Cagliari to stay at the top of the standings. Lastly, Inter Milan also took advantage of Juve’s slip up, defeating Benevento to even the defending champs on points.

French Ligue 1

Paris cannot stop scoring goals as they competed 6-2 drubbing of Bordeaux. Neymar scored two as Cavani, Draxler and Mbappé also got in on the action, keeping the Parisians three points ahead in the standings of Monaco, who drew 1-1 on Friday against Montpellier. Lyon also drew away, Marseille got an important 4-2 win at Nice and the once great St-Étienne lost 2-1 at recently promoted Troyes.

Major League Soccer

The playoff picture is starting to take take shape fast in MLS. Five of the six spots in the Eastern Conference have been clinched (Toronto, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Columbus) with the last up for grabs between New York Red Bulls, who are in the pole position, and four other clubs. Toronto FC clinched the Supporters’ Shield, given to the team with the most points, and look like the odds-on favorite to win it all.

In the West, only the Vancouver Whitecaps have clinched a spot. Portland and Kansas City missed a chance to book their place in the postseason this week and the Houston Dynamo, who was outside the playoff line, took care of business to jump within the qualifying spots for the moment. Real Salt Lake got a last-minute draw at LA Galaxy to keep their hopes alive while FC Dallas took a hit and drops below the playoff line for now.

Liga MX

After last week’s earthquakes, Liga MX returned to action on Tuesday. To no surprise, the teams affected by the natural disaster could not pick up a win midweek. That changed over the weekend as America got a 1-0 win at Toluca and Cruz Azul won 4-1 over Mexico City rivals Pumas UNAM. Tigres, meanwhile, picked up a 1-0 win over Guadalajara in a rematch of last season’s final.

MVP of the Week - Alberth Elis

The MVP for this week is Houston Dynamo’s Alberth Elis. The 21-year-old put the team on his back with two crucial matches this week and scored three goals, one of them a penalty. With the Dynamo needing results to fix their run of winless matches, Elis is showing up at just the right time. “La Panterita” (the little panther) is also bringing entertainment as he donned a Black Panther mask after Saturday’s goal vs. Minnesota United FC. The Honduran will now look to help his country qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in this weekend’s decisive matches.

Upcoming games (All Times CT):

This weekend is a FIFA International date, meaning leagues take a break while FIFA World Cup Qualifying resumes.

The United States (currently in fourth place), Panama and Honduras are all battling for the last spots in next week’s summer spectacle. After this weekend’s matches, one will be left out. Also, if you can believe it, Messi’s Argentina and South American champions Chile are fighting to stave off elimination.

Thursday, Oct. 5:

6:30 p.m. - Argentina vs. Peru (beIN Sports)

Friday, Oct. 6:

1:45 p.m. - Spain vs. Albania (ESPN Deportes/Watch ESPN)

6:35 p.m. - USA vs. Panama (ESPN2)

8:30 p.m. - Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Univision)

9:00 p.m. - Costa Rica vs. Honduras (beIN Sports)

Tuesday, Oct. 10:

6:30 p.m. - Brazil vs. Chile

7:00 p.m. - Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA (beIN Sports)

7:00 p.m. - Panama vs. Costa Rica

7:00 p.m. - Honduras vs. Mexico (Telemundo)

 

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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