THE SOCCER REPORT

UEFA Champions League Final caps off European soccer season

Courtesy Adidas

The 2018-19 season has reached the end of the schedule before a busy summer of international competition kicks off. The Premier League will be on display in all-English European finals with the Europa League crowning its champion on Wednesday followed by the Champions League final on Saturday.

UEFA Champions League

Liverpool F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur will have the face off in the UEFA Champions League final - soccer's equivalent to the Super Bowl - in the neutral site of Madrid on Saturday to crown a new champion in European football. Liverpool, the winningest English club in European competition, are looking for their sixth UCL trophy while Tottenham aim to lift it for the first time in their 136-year history.

  • Saturday, June 1 - 2 p.m. CT [TNT, Univision]

UEFA Europa League

London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea will face off in the final of Europe's secondary competition (equivalent to the NIT in college basketball) with a trophy on the line and, for Arsenal, a spot in next year's Champions League. Chelsea have already qualified for Europe's top tournament via league play but a trophy and denying their crosstown neighbors that honor would taste like sweet victory. For Arsenal, it's a must win to play in the UCL and a win over Chelsea would just be the cherry on top.

  • Wednesday, May 29 - 2 p.m. CT [TNT, UniMas]

English Premier League

While the Premier League concluded a few weeks ago, one spot was still up for grabs for next season. That spot would be reserved for the return of a famed English club to the top flight as Aston Villa, a two-time European champion, defeated Derby County in the promotion play-off final at Wembley.

Up the road in Manchester, United fans were treated to a rematch of the famed 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich that saw the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson back on the sidelines and legends like Peter Schmeichel, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and David Beckham back on the field in a 5-0 win over Bayer legends led by Lothar Matthaus.

Spain's La Liga

Valencia capped off an impressive season by defeating FC Barcelona 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final. The domestic cup win denied the league champions Barcelona from completing the domestic double and gave Valencia fans their first taste of silverware since the 2007-08 season.

German Bundesliga

Over in Germany, Bayern Munich competed the domestic double by defeating RB Leipzig 3-0 in the DFB Pokal final.

The Bundesliga champions, who will be visiting Houston in July, were not the only ones to celebrate as Union Berlin fans stormed the field after seeing their team gain promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in club history. Union and Stuttgard tied 2-2 in the relegation playoffs but the former won the series thanks to the away goals tiebreaker.

Italian Serie A

Atalanta and Inter Milan secured their spots in next year's Champions League by finishing third and fourth in the league standings while A.C. Milan and Roma are forced to settle for Europa League. Fabio Quagliarella finishes the season as the golden boot champion.

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Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1.D.C. United (25), 2. Philadelphia (24), 3. NY Red Bulls (21), 4. Montreal (21), 5. Atlanta (20), 6. NYCFC (19), 7. Toronto (17)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (34), 2. Seattle (26), 3. LA Galaxy (25), 4. Houston (23), 5. Minnesota (21), 6. Real Salt Lake (19), 7. FC Dallas (18)

Scoring leader: 15- Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 9 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Liga MX

Tigres UANL end the season at the pinnacle of Mexican soccer by outlasting Leon 1-0 in the two-match final series to determine the Clausura 2019 champion. Tigres collects it's fifth league title this decade and fifth under Manager Ricardo Ferretti, who ties Ignacio Trelles as the manager with most Mexican league titles (7).

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U.S. Women's National Team

The U.S. Women finished their domestic preparation ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup with a 3-0 win over Mexico at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. Team USA now sets their sights on defending their World title as they look to win their fourth World Cup.

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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