THE SOCCER REPORT

U.S. Women sue for gender discrimination; Zidane returns to Real Madrid

Nike unveiled the new kits to be worn by the U.S. Women's National Team as they defend their title at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup this summer. Courtesy: Nike, Inc.

From the U.S. women's lawsuit dropped on International Women's Day to the return of Zinedine Zidane to the manager's seat at Real Madrid, this week left plenty of headlines in the soccer world.

The big story, domestically, is the lawsuit initiated by several stars of the U.S. women's team just a few months before their FIFA Women's World Cup defense at France 2019. One of the bigger points, highlighted in the New York Times, is the issue of equal pay. On the same day, Adidas announced that they would be matching male bonues for female athletes at this summer's Women's World Cup.


UEFA Champions League

One of the bigger headlines on the field was Manchester United winning their Champions League series against Paris Saint-Germain after dropping the first leg at home. Before that happened on Wednesday, Ajax shocked the world with a comeback of their own against Real Madrid - ending the reign of the three-peat champions.

Round of 16 - second leg results:

  • Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (3-5 agg.)
  • Dortmund 0-1 Tottenham (0-4 agg.)
  • Porto 3-1 Roma (4-3 agg.)
  • Paris 1-3 Manchester United (3-3 agg., Man Utd advance on away goals)

Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus look to oversee a 0-2 deficit against Atletico while Manchester City want to see out a lead against Schalke 04. Wednesday will feature the closest matches, so far, with all to play for in Barcelona vs. Lyon and Bayern vs. Liverpool.

UEFA Europa League

Arsenal suffered the biggest shock of the week in a 3-1 loss at Rennes. Spanish side Sevilla were held 2-2 at home while Valencia, Napoli and Chelsea continue looking like favorites to win.

English Premier League

Manchester City and Liverpool continue neck-and-neck for the top of the English league while Tottenham were slowed down by Southampton. Manchester United, who where on a high from advancing in the Champions League, have been jumped in the top four after a 2-0 head-to-head loss to Arsenal.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (74), 2. Liverpool (73), 3. Tottenham (61), 4. Arsenal (60), 5. Manchester United (58), 6. Chelsea (57)

Scoring leader: 18 - Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 11 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Another week, another goal and assist for Lionel Messi who helped leaders Barcelona inch closer to the title with a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano. The big news off the field came from Real Madrid who look to return to glory with the re-appointment of former manager and club legend Zinedine Zidane.
Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (63), 2. Atlético Madrid (56), 3. Real Madrid (51), 4. Getafe (45), 5. Alaves (41), 6. Sevilla (40)

Scoring leader: 26 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 11 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund - Stuttgart [3-1] | GOLES | Jornada 25 | Bundesliga www.youtube.com

Same ol' Bundesliga? Bayern Munich is back on top, at least on goal difference, and Robert Lewandowski is the top scorer. Borussia Dortmund still have something to say about that title race as U.S. star Christian Pulisic scored in their 3-1 win.

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (57), 2. Dortmund (57), 3. RB Leipzig (46), 4. Monchengladbach (46), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (43), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (42)

Scoring leader: 17 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 10 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund) / Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (75), 2. Napoli (57), 3. Milan (51), 4. Inter Milan (50), 5. Roma (47), 6. Torino (44)

Scoring leader: 20- Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 8 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) / Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (71), 2. Lille (57), 3. Lyon (50), 4. Marseille (47), 5. Stade Reims (43), 6. Saint-Étienne (43)

Scoring leader: 24 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 8 - Nicolas Pepe (Lille) / Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Kenny Lala (Strasbourg)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (64), 2. Ajax (59), 3. Feyenoord (47)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (62), 2. Club Brugge (56), 3. Standard Liege (50)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (60), 2. Porto (60), 3. Braga (55)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (67), 2. Rangers (59), 3. Aberdeen (51)

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Concacaf Champions League

The quarter-finals of the CCL took off with three Liga MX vs. MLS ending in victories for the Mexican clubs.

Quarterfinals - first leg results:

  • NY Red Bulls 0-2 Santos Laguna
  • Houston Dynamo 0-2 Tigres UANL
  • Independiente 2-1 Sporting KC
  • Monterrey 3-0 Atlanta United


Major League Soccer

The Houston Dynamo picked up their first league win of the season with a Mauro Manotas decider against the Montreal Impact. They will play at BBVA Compass Stadium for the third straight week after returning from Monterrey after their Concacaf Champions League bout.

Liga MX

The two Monterrey clubs tied 1-1 in their derby match, allowing Club Leon to jump to the top of the Liga MX table.

Top eight: 1. Leon (23), 2. Tigres UANL (23), 3. Monterrey (22), 4. Pachuca (17), 5. Club America (16), 6. Club Tijuana (16), 7. Necaxa (15), 8. Guadalajara (15)

Scoring leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Brian Fernandez (Necaxa)

Assists leader: 7 - Angel Mena (Leon)

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Copa Libertadores

The group stage in the Copa Libertadores got underway with teams looking to pick up their first points of the season.


Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (52), 2. Defensa y Justicia (51), 3. Boca Juniors (44), 4. River Plate (39)

Scoring leader: 16 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 9 - Walter Montillo (Tigre)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Mar. 12

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester City vs. Schalke 04 (B/R Live, Galavision)

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid (TNT, UniMas)

5:15 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] Boca Juniors vs. Deportivo Tolima (beIN SPORTS en Español)

8:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] New York Red Bulls at Santos Laguna (YahooSports.com)

10:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Houston Dynamo at Tigres UANL (YahooSports.com/Univision Deportes)

Wednesday, Mar. 13

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Barcelona vs. Lyon (B/R Live, UniMas)

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Bayern Munich vs. Liverpool (TNT, Galavision)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Atlanta United vs. Monterrey (YahooSports.com/Univision Deportes)

7:30 p.m. - [Copa Libertadores] River Plate vs. Palestino (beIN SPORTS en Español)

Thursday, Mar. 14

12:55 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Dynamo Kiev vs. Chelsea (B/R Live, UniMas)

12:55 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Salzburg vs. Napoli (B/R Live, Galavision)

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Inter vs. Frankfurt (B/R Live, UniMas)

3:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. Rennes (B/R Live, Galavision)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Sporting KC vs. Independiente (YahooSports.com/Univision Deportes)

Friday, Mar. 15

2:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. SC Freiburg (FS2)

3:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. Levante (beIN SPORTS)

Saturday, Mar. 16

7:15 a.m. - [FA Cup] Watford vs. Crystal Palace (ESPN+)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Celta (beIN Sports)

9:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. RB Leipzig (FS2)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

12:20 p.m. - [FA Cup] Swansea City vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

12:30 p.m. - [La Liga] Athletic Bilbao vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

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

2:00 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (KUBE57)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] NY Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Univision)

2:55 p.m. - [FA Cup] Wolves vs. Manchester United (ESPN+)

Sunday, Mar. 17

9:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Millwall vs. Brighton (ESPN+)

9:15 a.m. - [Premier League] Fulham vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Chelsea (NBC)

12:00 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Mainz 05 (FS2)

2:00 p.m. - [MLS] NYCFC vs. LAFC (FS1)

2:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Betis vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

4:00 p.m. - [MLS] FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers (FS1)

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Baseball is right around the corner. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

The Texans and Rockets are disasters, so bring on the Astros! Even if they weren't disasters, bring on the Astros! Their spring training opener is Sunday, their regular season opener one month from Monday. Alexander Pope wrote "hope springs eternal." I hear he played a pretty decent shortstop. All 30 Major League Baseball teams can be hopeful in March. The Astros have plenty to be hopeful about and plenty about which to be wary. A couple of early storylines: 1. Yuli Gurriel admitted he was unacceptably overweight last season. It would be great for the Astros if that explains most of Gurriel's pathetic performance as opposed to age catching up with him. 2. Jose Altuve is in great spirits and health. His MVP level days of 2016 and 2017 are likely gone for good, but getting the Altuve of 2018 or 2019 would be a tremendous boost. The Altuve of 2020 was one of the worst players in MLB.

And now to the dueling debacles…

Rough stretch for the Rockets

The Rockets are awful. They sit with 11 wins and 19 losses. Just three seasons ago they lost 17 games the entire season. They are routinely non-competitive. They lug a nine game losing streak to the court Friday night in Tampa against the Toronto Raptors. Among the losses are blowouts by 20, 22, 25, and 29 points. All of those routs came against teams with losing records. By NBA standards the Rockets' roster stinks. The injured Christian Wood is the only player they have who is or projects to be an average or better starter. John Wall's contract is an anvil.

That they are this bad is actually one of the few silver linings to the Rockets' near term future. The Rockets only retain their first round pick this summer if it falls in the top four of the draft. The Rockets currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA, just one half game ahead of third worst! Where the pick falls comes down to which draft lottery ping pong ball combination is drawn, but the worse their record the better shot the Rockets have of being in the top four. If not in the top four, the Rockets settle for the lowest of their own, Oklahoma City's, or Miami's first rounder. That's probably the Heat pick, and probably not in the top 15.

The longest losing streak in Rockets' franchise history is 17. During their expansion season the San Diego Rockets lost 17 straight. The longest losing streak in Houston Rockets' history is 15 games during the 2001-02 season. They finished the season 28-54. How many of their five most frequent 2001-02 starters can you name? Answer below.

The worst team in Rockets' history was the tanking and awful 1982-83 club that finished 14-68. Longest losing streak that season? 10. The first 10 games of the season.

Releasing JJ Watt might have been a mistake

The Texans are poised to add yet another feather to their dunce cap if J.J. Watt signs with the Packers, Bills, Titans, Roughnecks, Inmates (The Longest Yard) or anybody else for 15-plus million dollars per season. Such a deal would indicate at least one team would have been willing to give up a decent draft pick (say a third rounder) for Watt and the one year 17.5 million that was left on his contract. If the Texans think they score points for doing Watt "a solid" in setting him free they are absurdly mistaken. The Texans need all the draft capital they can get. J.J. Watt will always have a hallowed place in Texans' lore but they owed Watt nothing. Over the last five seasons he played just three seasons worth of football and was paid 82.5 million dollars for them.

More Deshaun Watson drama

Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson reportedly directly told new Texans Head Coach Edward Smith that Watson has no interest in playing for him. It's nothing personal against David Culley (Edward Smith captained the Titanic) but Watson wants the Texans' organization permanently in his rearview mirror. We'll see if Cal McNair and new General Manager Nick Caserio have the stomach to not trade Watson through the draft. If the Dolphins offer Tua Tagavailoa, the third and eighteenth picks in the first round, the fourth pick in the second round, and their first round pick in 2022, the Texans should make the trade and move on.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rockets' starters by most starts in 2001-02: Cuttino Mobley (74) Kelvin Cato (73) Kenny Thomas (71) Steve Francis (56) Moochie Norris (26).

2. It can't soothe Rocket fan nerves that the best bet for the Eastern Conference Final matchup is James Harden's Nets vs. Daryl Morey's 76ers.

3. Most frustrating 2021 Houston-visiting player appearances: Bronze-Harden the Net Wednesday Silver-George Springer the Blue Jay in May Gold-Watt the Titan this fall? Would he really sign with the Titans?

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