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)

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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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