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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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