ON THE PITCH

Soccer weekly recap: MLS playoffs down to 4 including Dynamo; Tottenham and Man City stock rises in UCL

Portland fans are known for their creative tifos but will have to wait till next season to display their next one. Victor Araiza

It was a big week all over the soccer world as another FIFA international break is upon us. Two English teams in particular saw their stock rise while the race to the MLS Cup is down to four clubs, including the local Houston Dynamo.

UEFA Champions League

Tottenham and Manchester City are the two names that will stand out in most people’s minds when they look at this round of scores. Spurs defeated reigning champions Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley while Pep Guardiola’s side got an important 4-2 victory at Napoli. Manchester United and Liverpool also got results. The only other English club, Chelsea, suffered a 3-0 draw at Roma. The biggest surprises are Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, semifinalists and quarterfinalists respectively last year, who don’t look like they’ll be moving on past the group stage this year.

Qualified to knockout phase: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham Hotspur

UEFA Europa League

Four teams are through to the knockout round of Europe’s secondary club competition. The motivation to win the Europa League is that the champion qualifies directly to next year’s UEFA Champions League. For teams historic UCL teams like Arsenal, Milan this could serve as insurance policy in case they fail to qualify (which is the reason why they are playing here).

Arsenal are through while Milan, who played at AEK Athens to a scoreless draw, looks poised to qualify. Other teams like Atalanta, Lyon and Villarreal also look on their way to qualify. Meanwhile, English club Everton are one of three sides already eliminated after poor results.

Qualified to knockout phase: Arsenal, Dynamo Kyiv, Lazio, Steaua București, Zenit Saint Petersburg

Premier League

To add to their Champions League success, Manchester City are pulling away in the Premier League table after a 3-1 win over Arsenal. The loss drops Arsenal out of the top five as Liverpool moves in thanks to their 4-1 win at West Ham. Chelsea inches closer to Manchester United by facing them directly in a 1-0 home win for the Blues. Tottenham take care of business with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

Top 5: Manchester City (31), Manchester United (23), Tottenham (23), Chelsea (22), Liverpool (19)

La Liga

Barcelona’s 2-1 win versus Sevilla knocks the Sevillistas out of the top five while keeping the blaugranas at the top.Valencia, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid all got wins to maintain their place. Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo and Girona also picked up wins.

The 5: Barcelona (31), Valencia (27), Real Madrid (23), Atlético Madrid (23) and Villareal (20).

Bundesliga

All eyes in Germany where on Der Klassiker, the rivalry match between top clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Last week the Bavarians took over the top of the table and this week’s 3-1 win at Dortmund extended the gap over their rivals. To make matters worse for Dortmund, Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Hannover drops them to third in the table. Hoffenheim took advantage of that result as well as they move up into fifth. Schalke quietly picked up a 1-0 win at Freiburg.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (26), RB Leipzig (22), Dortmund (20), Schalke 04 (20), Hoffenheim (19).

Ligue 1

PSG continue to cruise in the French top division with a 5-0 win over Angers, driven by doubles from Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé. Monaco had a blowout win for themselves 6-0 over Guingamp, with doubles from Guido Carrillo and Adama Traoré. Lyon and Marseille had 5-0 wins of their own while Nantes got a 2-1 win over Toulouse.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (32), Monaco (28), Lyon (25), Marseille (24), Nantes (23).

Serie A

Napoli is still unbeaten to start the season, a run of 12 consecutive matches, but their recent draws have allowed last year’s champions to catch up to them. A scoreless draw for Napoli plus a 2-1 Juventus win against Benevento now have the race for the top spot one point apart. Inter Milan dropped to third this weekend thanks to a 1-1 draw with Torino but are still within striking distance of first place. Lazio’s match with Udinese was postponed due to rain, Roma got a 4-2 win over Fiorentina to go with their Champions League group lead and A.C. Milan picked up a 2-0 win at Sassuolo.

The top 5: Napoli (32), Juventus (31), Inter Milan (30), Lazio (28), Roma (27)

Major League Soccer

The second leg of the conference semifinals took place over the weekend in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Seattle defeated rivals Vancouver behind a double from Nacogdoches native Clint Dempsey on Thursday night as they waited to find out their next opponent. Many were already penciling in another pacific northwest rivalry for the Western Conference Championship but the Houston Dynamo had other plans. Behind goals from Dylan Remick and Mauro Manotas, the Dynamo eliminated the Portland Timbers and will host Seattle for the first leg on November 21.

In the Eastern Conference, both New York clubs were eliminated as Toronto and Columbus Crew will meet for the East ticket to the MLS Cup Final. TFC lost 1-0 at home but advance on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-1. The story of that match was a brawl inside the stadium tunnel during halftime that saw red cards given to U.S. national team players Jozy Altidore and Sasha Kljestan. Columbus’ 4-1 lead from the first leg carried over to see them advance as New York City FC could only manage a 2-0 win. The elimination of NYCFC also means the retirement of FIFA World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo.

MVP of the Week - Mauro Manotas

Colombian forward Mauro Manotas collected his first playoff goal for the Houston Dynamo to secure the team’s qualification to the Western Conference Championship. The 22-year-old who never wavered during a mediocre season for the club in 2016 - biding his time in the “minors” at Rio Grande Valley FC before returning to score a club-leading nine goals in all competitions - is having his best season with 11 goals in MLS this year. A stunning goal on the Portland turf makes him the MVP of the week and the kid didn’t shy away from the rowdy Timbers fans after scoring.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Thursday, Nov. 9:

1:30 p.m.- Leg 1: Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland (ESPN2)

1:30 p.m.- Leg 1: Croatia vs. Greece (ESPN3)

1:30 p.m.- Friendly: Scotland vs. Netherlands (ESPN3)

9 p.m. - Friendly: U.S. Women vs. Canada (ESPN2)

Friday, Nov. 10:

6 a.m.- Friendly: Japan vs. Brazil (beIN Sports)

11 a.m.- South Africa vs. Senegal (beIN Sports)

1:30 p.m.- Leg 1: Sweden vs. Italy (FS1)

1:30 p.m.- Algeria vs. Nigeria (beIN Sports)

1:30 p.m.- Friendly: Belgium vs. Mexico (Univision Deportes)

4 p.m.- Leg 1: Honduras vs. Australia (Telemundo)

9 p.m.- Leg 1: New Zealand vs. Peru (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Nov. 11:

1:30 p.m.- Leg 1: Denmark vs. Ireland (FS2)

Sunday, Nov. 12:

8 p.m. - Friendly: U.S. Women vs. Canada (FS1)

Monday, Nov. 13:

1:30 p.m.- Leg 2: Italy vs. Sweden (FS1)

Tuesday, Nov. 14:

2:45 p.m.- Friendly: Portugal vs. USA (FS1/UniMas/Univision Deportes)

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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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