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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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