THE SOCCER REPORT

U.S. Men host Chile in Houston, Cristiano Ronaldo exits early from Portugal match

Christian Pulisic highlights Team USA's roster to face Chile on Tuesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Courtesy: Nike, Inc.

This week's international fixtures continue with a local connection to the action as the U.S. Men's National Team is set to host reigning South American Champion Chile at BBVA Compass Stadium. It will be the fourth match, and toughest test yet, for Manager Gregg Berhalter since being appointed to the position back in December.

Team USA is 3-0-0 under Berhalter after defeating Ecuador, 1-0, in a friendly last Friday in Orlando. The current roster includes 15 players who ply their trade domestically in Major League Soccer and is headlined by 20-year-old Bundesliga star Christian Pulisic, who will join Premier League club Chelsea this summer after a $73 million move.

Tickets still remain for tonight's match with just over half of the stadium expected to be full. Attendance has been an issue for the USMNT following their failure to qualify to the last year's FIFA World Cup, but the Harris County - Houston Sports Authority will be hoping to attract as big a crowd as possible in their efforts for Houston to be a 2026 FIFA World Cup host city.


International Friendlies

Among some of the other international friendlies that stood out where Venezuela's 3-1 victory over Argentina in Madrid, Spain. Despite it being an exhibition, much of the headlines after would be about Lionel Messi's window to win a championship with his home country. The FC Barcelona star left the national team after that match as an injury precaution. Among those that featured where also Atlanta United teammates Gonzalo Martinez (Argentina) and Josef Martinez (Venezuela), the latter scoring the final goal of the game via a penalty.

Mexico began life with their new coach Gerardo Martino with a 3-1 win over Chile in San Diego, California. The win provided many talking points and positives for El Tri as they, like the United States, prepare for this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup. Mexico hosts Paraguay on Tuesday night in Santa Clara, California.

Panama tied Brazil 1-1 in Portugal where former Houston Dynamo Adolfo Machado scored for the Central Americans in their historic draw with the five-time FIFA World Cup champs.

UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers

One of the bigger international tournaments besides the FIFA World Cup is the European Championship. The 2020 edition, to be disputed across 12 European countries to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition, is undergoing it's qualification stage. One of the thrillers this week has been Germany's 3-2 win at rival Netherlands. France, the current World Champion, continues to look strong as they demolish their competition.

A local tie to the Euro 2020 qualifiers exists as Houston Dynamo defender Aljaz "Kiki" Struna started in both of Slovenia's matches this week, the two results ending in 1-1 draws to Israel and Macedonia.

For the defending European Champions Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo suffered an injury that saw him leave their 1-1 draw with Serbia. Overlapping to club competition, many wonder how big of a hit this could be for Juventus in their aim to win the UEFA Champions League.


Concacaf Nations League

All the participants in this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup are now confirmed after action wrapped up in the Nations League tournament. Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren was one of the players involved in pivotal matches as he started and helped El Salvador win 2-0 over Jamaica.

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Mar. 26

1:00 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier] Armenia vs. Finland (ESPN3, Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Morocco vs. Argentina (beIN Sports)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier] Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Greece (ESPN3)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier] Malta vs. Spain (ESPN+, Univision Deportes)

2:45 p.m. - [UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier] Italy vs. Liechtenstein (ESPN+)

2:45 p.m. - [International Friendly] Czech Republic vs. Brazil (ESPN3)

7:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] USA vs. Chile (ESPN2, UniMas)

9:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Mexico vs. Paraguay (UniMas)

Wednesday, Mar. 27

1:00 p.m. - [UEFA Women's Champions League] PSG vs. Chelsea (beIN Sports)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Cruzeiro vs. Deportivo Lara (beIN Sports)

Friday, Mar. 29

2:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Hoffenheim vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (FS2, Univision Deportes)

3:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Girona vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Mar. 30

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Fulham vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

9:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Freiburg vs. FC Bayern Munich (FS2, UniMas)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester United vs. Watford (NBC Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Southampton (CNBC)

10:15 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Espanyol (beIN Sports)

12:30 p.m. - [Premier League] West Ham vs. Everton (NBC Sports)

12:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Celta Vigo vs. Villarreal (beIN Sports)

12:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Hertha BSC Berlin (FS2)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] San Jose Earthquakes vs. LAFC (Twitter, Univision)

2:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Alaves vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

8:00 p.m. - [MLS] Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo (KUBE57)

Sunday, Mar. 31

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff City vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Hannover 96 vs. FC Schalke 04 (FS1, Univision Deportes)

10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

2:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Huesca (beIN Sports)

5:30 p.m. - [MLS] Orlando City vs. D.C. United (FS1)

8:00 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers (ESPN2)

Monday, Apr. 1

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

Credit: Wilf Thorne/Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo broke a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 win against Minnesota United FC on Wednesday night at BBVA Stadium. The win is the first at home since July 3 against the New York Red Bulls and the first victory in league play since July 20 at Toronto. The result also marked the first win under Interim Head Coach Davy Arnaud.

Here are five observations from the September 11 result on "First Responders Night."

1) A win long worth the wait

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy but it was a much needed result to break free from a bad spell. More so than ending a seven -match winless streak, it was about the team turning around a stretch that saw them winless in 17 out of their last 20 dating back to May. Yes, the Dynamo began the season undefeated in 7 of their first 8 matches - the best start in franchise history. Cool. Anybody who was being honest in their analysis knew the team benefited from a home-heavy schedule to start the season and that the most challenging part was on its way.

Before the start of Wednesday's match, the club had a record of 2-12-1 (W-L-D) since returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup break. It was a similar summer dismantling to what happened in 2018, except that had makeup applied to it in the form of a U.S. Open Cup title.

After the team's shortcomings failed to be addressed, the team began to head towards its fifth playoff absence in six seasons. What the future holds is still to be seen but at least, for one night, Dynamo supporters were rewarded with the sweet taste of victory.

2) Making the switch to a two-forward formation

The 4-2-3-1 formation that featured two wingers and a lone forward had run it's course. It stopped working for the Dynamo a few games back. Truthfully, it was always a formation meant to favor the two speedy wingers Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The results were always going to be less favorable once players without the characteristics of Elis and Quioto, i.e. Memo Rodriguez, Tommy McNamara, etc., began to be inserted.

For whatever reasons, Davy Arnaud continued some of the habits of previous manager Wilmer Cabrera. That included playing in the 4-2-3-1. Arnaud had switched to a 4-4-2 during his debut as the interim, where the team came back from 0-2 down to a dramatic 2-2 home draw. He opted not to repeat the two-forward lineup in the two matches after.

Whether being forced by circumstances (the potential sale of Mauro Manotas and the international FIFA break may have played a part), Arnaud finally went to a lineup that placed his two best attackers on the field: Mauro Manotas and Christian Ramirez.

The resulting win may be a coincidence of that change but the Dynamo looked their best under Arnaud's tenure as head coach.

3) Alejandro Fuenmayor features in first MLS match since June

The 23-year-old defender was one of the better additions to the team during the 2017/18 offseason. The Venezuelan even started in 21 of 22 matches, the sixth most starts on the team. This season, he fell out of favor with former manager Wilmer Cabrera and thrown into the doghouse.

Fuenmayor had featured in 429 minutes and five MLS matches prior to the encounter with Minnesota. It was as if he was played out of necessity for lack of other options. In the Leagues Cup match in late July against Liga MX side Club America and on Wednesday night, Fuenmayor showed why he is one of the better players on the roster.

What happened in the past is done. What happens going forward is in the club's control and, given the proof over the last two seasons, Alejandro Fuenmayor has to be part of the team's plan for the future and the present.

4) Joe Willis matches career-high for wins in a season

Goalkeeper Joe Willis has been one of the more solid performers this season despite the blunders everyone remembers from his performances at Cincinnati and at Philadelphia. He's been a workhorse for the Dynamo. With the win against Minnesota, he matched a career-high nine wins in a singular season and could reach double digits before the year is over.

5) Arnaud turns the corner

Time will tell if Davy Arnaud's interim tag will be removed. As of now, he's the leading candidate for the permanent head coaching job. The biggest benefit that was always going to come from him was the union of the locker room. Now with his first win in hand, Arnaud has five matches to prove why he deserves the gig.

Dynamo player of the game: Mauro Manotas

A game-winning goal and an assist for Manotas makes him the Man of the Match. In every period of turmoil throughout his time in Houston, Manotas has been one of the few voices that gives it to you straight and doesn't spit cliches. That's the same personality he goes on the field with and that's why he's one of the league's better goalscorers.

Next match:

Saturday, September 14 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:00 p.m. CT, KUBE57/TeleXitos 47.2)

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