On the pitch

Soccer weekly recap: Manchester Clubs making an impact

The Dynamo are on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

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

English Premier League

The two Manchester clubs lead the Premier League table with 16 points after six matchdays, City being first over United on goal difference. Manchester City made their presence felt at home with a 5-0 thumping of Crystal Palace, who have yet to pick up a point this season. Manchester United, on the other hand, rode a Romelu Lukaku 20th minute goal to a 1-0 victory at Southampton as the ever-controversial manager José Mourinho was sent off in stoppage time for stepping onto the pitch. 

Chelsea keep pace in third with a 4-0 win at Stoke City as summer signing Alvaro Morata collected his first hat-trick as a blue. Harry Kane’s double helped Tottenham win 3-2 away at London rivals West Ham, Leicester City fell at home by that same scoreline against Liverpool and Oumar Niasse (in for a Wayne Rooney that was bloodied earlier in the match) had a double of his own to guide Everton to a 2-1 win vs. AFC Bournemouth. Arsenal closed the weekend on Monday with a 2-0 home win over West Bromwich.

La Liga

It was a busy week in Spain as teams had two matchdays. Undefeated Barcelona sit at the top of the table, four points clear over the second-place Atlético Madrid. Barça humbled Eibar on Tuesday, 6-1 at home, behind four goals from Messi and went on to win 3-0 against new Catalan rivals Girona on Saturday. Atleti had a great week, winning 2-1 midweek at Athletic Bilbao and 2-0 vs. Sevilla. 

The biggest upset was on Wednesday when current champions Real Madrid were stunned in their own place by Real Betis and almost let up another result at last place Alavés, whom they managed to defeat 2-1. Betis was the big winner of the week, adding a 4-0 home win over Levante on Monday to place them fifth in the standings over Real Madrid.


In Germany, Dortmund leaves the double-matchday week as the top dog, at least at the moment, with wins at Hamburg and Mönchengladbach. American wonderboy Christian Pulisic celebrated his 19th birthday with a goal in the 3-0 win over Hamburg and Bundesliga starlet Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 humiliation of Borussia Mönchengladbach. Hoffenheim also picked up two wins and now they are second in front of FC Bayern Munich, who won at Shalke 04 but drew at home against Wolfsburg. The good news for Bayern is James Rodríguez collected his first goal with the Bavarians.

Italian Serie A

Another league that played twice this week was the Italian top-division, where Napoli and Juventus remain perfect with six wins apiece. Argentina’s Paulo Dybala, who has to be amongst most people’s lists of top European scorers, scored twice in Saturday's 4-0 win over cross-town rivals Torino. Inter Milan stumbled with a 1-1 draw at Bologna on Tuesday, Roma sits in 5th place on the league table with one game in hand and A.C. Milan are still looking to find their stride,sitting in sixth after a 2-0 loss at Atalanta.

French Ligue 1

After fighting during last week’s match over who takes the free kicks and penalty attempts, the drama between Neymar and Edinson Cavani continued during the week in the Paris newspapers. Whether that had an influence is debatable but, in the end, Paris Saint-Germain will be disappointed to be shutout in a road draw at Montpellier. It slows down the Parisians just enough for the only other contender, defending champion Monaco, to come within a point of them in the table. With a record-breaking price paid for Neymar this past summer, the Paris club will regret giving up points if they lose the league to Monaco for a second straight year.

Major League Soccer

The push towards the postseason continues in MLS as the Eastern teams continue to look explosive and the spots in the West are all up for grabs. Atlanta United are looking every bit as dangerous, picking up two more wins (both shutouts) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. New York City FC, forced to play this week’s match in Connecticut due to a scheduling conflict with the Yankees, left points on the table against an urgent Houston Dynamo side that are (for the moment) on the bubble looking in. 

On a side note, Sporting Kansas City are the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Champions after a 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night. The win comes with a berth to the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League.

Liga MX

Due to the recent Earthquakes that has impacted the central part of Mexico, all Mexican cup and league matches were suspended this past weekend (including the country’s biggest soccer rivalry between América and Guadalajara). The national pastime has taken a backseat to an obviously tragic situation that has united fan bases across the nation. Soccer resumes in Mexico on Tuesday.

MVP of the Week - Mexican national team players

Javier Hernández picked up his third goal of the season in West Ham’s 2-3 loss against Spurs, but his actions off the field, and those of his teammates, will resonate louder than any goal scored. 

“Chicharito” and fellow European-based player Miguel Layún launched a YouCaring campaign (similar J.J. Watt’s) to raise funds for the recovery of Mexico after two major earthquakes hit the country as many weeks. Javier Aquino, a player for Monterrey area Tigres UANL, collected and distributed resources when his native state of Oaxaca was demolished by an 8.1 magnitude quake in early September. José de Jesús Corona was spotted on the streets of Mexico City, the city where he suits up in goal for Cruz Azul, helping cleanup efforts. Even in Houston, Dynamo forward Erick Torres has launched his own fundraising effort to “help from afar.” 

The main heroes are the first responders and volunteers on the streets helping in any way possible but help from these rockstar-esque players are what make sports a tool for healing. We saw it with New Orleans, we’re seeing it with Houston and now Mexico.

Upcoming games:

The UEFA Champions League returns and here are some of the bigger games to watch:

Tuesday, 1:45pm CT:

Dortmund vs. Real Madrid (FS1)

Spartak Moscow vs. Liverpool (FS2)

Manchester City vs Shakhtar Donetsk (Facebook/ FOXSportsChampionsLeague)

Wednesday, 1:45pm CT:

CSKA Moscow vs. Manchester United (FS1)

Sporting Lisbon vs. FC Barcelona (FS2)

Paris Saint-Germain vs. FC Bayern Munich (Facebook/ FOXSportsChampionsLeague)

Clubs take the field for the second of six group stage games. Remember, only top two from each group advance to the knockout round.

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5 questions on the John Wall trade

The Rockets made a big move. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets point guard carousel continued to spin Wednesday night, as the Woj bomb-iest of Houston-related Woj bombs erupted in the Space City:

For the third year in a row, the Rockets will begin the season with a new point guard, in an attempt to finally find someone that can play alongside James Harden. Let's take a look at how the Rockets got to this point, and what it means moving forward.

What led to the trade?

Russell Westbrook simply wanted out. Westbrook is the type of player that needs to be the number one ball handler and that simply wasn't ever going to happen on a James Harden led team. Other reports cited Westbrook's frustration with the lack of accountability and casual atmosphere within the locker room. Ultimately if anyone was going to be moved between Harden and Westbrook, it was always going to be Westbrook.

Why John Wall?

This one is another fairly straightforward answer: they both have relatively similar contracts. Each is making an absurdly overpriced $40 million this season, and both were disgruntled with their current team. Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard tossed the idea around a few weeks ago, but couldn't find a deal they liked. It was reported that discussions resumed Wednesday afternoon and within a few hours the deal was done in an almost one-for-one swap.

How does Wall fit?

This is a little more complicated because it's not exactly known what head coach Stephen Silas' game plan is. It's also difficult to predict whether or not Harden will still be on the roster when the season starts. But let's assume that Harden takes the court for the Rockets and that Silas' system resembles something similar to what we've seen in Houston for the past few years. In that case, Wall would be a slight upgrade to Westbrook. Westbrook is more athletic than Wall, but when healthy Wall was no slouch. In addition he's a much better defensive player and has much better court vision than Westbrook. Westbrook's assists were usually a bailout after attacking the lane with his head down, while Wall is more likely to set up a teammate.

This isn't to say that Wall doesn't need the ball though. He's fairly ball dominant, but not nearly as much as Westbrook. Harden proved last season that he's capable of effectively playing off the ball if necessary, so it seems like a better fit from a distribution rate alone. If they can find that sweet spot like they did with Chris Paul and stagger the lineups so that each star gets their own time to create, there's potential for an improved Rockets team more reminiscent of their 2018 run than the past two years.

What are the best and worst case scenarios?

The worst case is that the Rockets were sold a lemon. Wall has potential to be an upgrade, but comes with huge risk. He last took the court in 2018, where he was sidelined with a knee injury. He subsequently ruptured his Achilles in an accident at his home while recovering from the knee injury, forcing Wall off the court for almost two years. It's possible an extremely unfortunate Wall reinjures something and completely derails the machinations of the trade. Even if he's recovered fully, it will take time to get him up to game speed which could frustrate Harden on a team that can't afford a slow start in their stacked conference. Harden has managed to cultivate drama with just about every co-star he's played with, so there's no reason to assume this attempt would go any better.

The best case scenario is that Wall arrives ready to play team basketball and resembles the better part of his pre-injury form. Wall and Harden buy into Silas' new system, space the floor, and take turns carving up the lane with dribble drives and kick outs to players who can actually hit from distance. This version of the Rockets could potentially be a 3-seed in this year's Western Conference.

Who won the trade?

At the moment the Rockets. Not only did they remove at least one of their locker room distractions, but they also gain a first round pick. If Wall can stay healthy and Silas can keep both stars happy, this team should be a lot more fun to watch than last season's clunker.

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