International club football returns to our TV sets in February with the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg matches kicking off on Tuesday. In Concacaf, their version of the Champions League kicks off with the marquee match of the opening stage pitting Liga MX's Club Leon vs. MLS' LAFC.
A recap of the week that was followed by the upcoming TV schedule:
English Premier League
Top six: 1. Liverpool (76), 2. Man City (51), 3. Leicester City (50), 4. Chelsea (41), 5. Tottenham (40), 6. Sheffield (39)
Bottom three (relegation): 18. West Ham (24), 19. Watford (24), 20. Norwich City (18)
Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Assists leader: 15 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
Spanish La Liga
Top six: 1. Real Madrid (53), 2. FC Barcelona (52), 3. Getafe (42), 4. Atletico Madrid (40), 5. Sevilla (40), 6. Villarreal (38)
Bottom three: 18. Mallorca (21), 19. Leganes (19), 20. Espanyol (19)
Scoring leader: 14 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (46), 2. RB Leipzig (45), 3. Dortmund (42), 4. Monchengladbach (42), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (40), 6. Schalke 04 (36)
Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (17), 17. Werder Bremen (17), 18. Paderborn (16)
Scoring leader: 23 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Assists leader: 14 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Italian Serie A
Top six: 1. Juventus (57), 2. Lazio (56), 3. Inter Milan (54), 4. Atalanta (45), 5. Roma (39), 6. Hellas Verona (35)
Bottom three: 18. Genoa (22), 19. Brescia (16), 20. SPAL (15)
Scoring leader: 26 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)
French Ligue 1
Top four: 1. PSG (62), 2. Marseille (52), 3. Rennes (41), 4. Lille (40)
Bottom three: 18. Dijon (26), 19. Amiens (21), 20. Toulouse (13)
Scoring leader: 16 - Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)
Assists leader: 12 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)
Rodolfo Pizarro, #InterMiamiCF's new Designated Player is here. 🗞️https://t.co/NwCxRQzyRC https://t.co/fAr1pdr3Pw— Inter Miami CF (@Inter Miami CF) 1581984000.0
The influx of Mexican stars to Major League Soccer continues. Rodolfo Pizarro is the latest name to cross the border as the former Chivas and Monterrey star will now feature for David Beckham's Inter Miami CF. The move, which has been its own transfer saga, finally became official on Monday.
Of local interest, the Houston Dynamo played New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw in Tucson, Arizona as part of their "spring training" before the season kicks off on February 29th at BBVA Stadium. The Dynamo have two friendlies this week to wrap up preseason.
Top eight: 1. Pumas (14), 2. Club America (13), 3. Leon (12), 4. Queretaro (12), 5. Juarez (11), 6. Cruz Azul (10), 7. Atletico San Luis (9), 8. Necaxa (8)
Scoring leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Ariel Nahuelpan (Queretaro) / Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul)
TV listings (All Times CT):
For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com
Tuesday, February 18
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atletico Madrid vs. Liverpool (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Dortmund vs. PSG (Galavision, B/R Live)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Club Leon vs. LAFC (FS2)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Motagua vs. Atlanta United (FOX Soccer Plus)
Wednesday, February 19
1:30 p.m. - [Premier League] Man City vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. RB Leipzig (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Atalanta vs. Valencia (Galavision, B/R Live)
5:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Saprissa vs. Montreal Impact (FS2)
Thursday, February 20
12:00 p.m. / 2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Round of 32 first leg matches (B/R Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] San Carlos vs. New York City FC (FS2)
9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Olimpia vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS2)
Friday, February 21
1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Paderborn (FOX Soccer Plus)
1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Brescia vs. Napoli (ESPN+)
7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Atlas vs. Pachuca (TUDN)
9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Tijuana vs. Chivas (FOX Deportes)
Saturday, February 22
6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Dortmund (FS1)
8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Hoffenheim (FS2, TUDN)
9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Sheffield United vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)
9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] FC Barcelona vs. Eibar (beIN Sports)
11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Man City (NBC)
11:00 a.m. - [Serie A] SPAL vs. Juventus (ESPN+)
11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. RB Leipzig (FS2, TUDN)
2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Levante vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)
5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Leon vs. Necaxa (TUDN, ESPN Deportes)
6:00 p.m. - [MLS preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC (HoustonDynamo.com/Live)
7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Tigres (Univision, TUDN, ESPN Deportes)
9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monterrey vs. America (FOX Deportes)
Sunday, February 23
8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Man United vs. Watford (NBC Sports)
8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Wolves vs. Norwich (CNBC)
10:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Everton (NBC Sports)
Monday, February 24
3:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. West Ham (NBC Sports)
After Houston fell to the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the ALCS, the national media couldn't wait to pile on the Astros, their dynasty, and fanbase. A perfect example of this came from Dan Clark, who said the Astros choked or cheated in every season outside of 2022.
The Houston Astros have been great for nine years, but how will history look back at them, winning it all just once?
'15 - ALDS choke
'16 - Missed playoffs
'17 - Cheated
'18 - ALCS choke
'19 - World Series choke
'20 - ALCS choke
'21 - World Series choke
'22 - 💍
'23 - ALCS choke
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) October 24, 2023
Clearly, this take is totally ridiculous. Every time a team loses, it doesn't mean they choked. Sometimes the other team is better, and you just got beat. However, if you asked most fans, they would probably tell you the Astros had some great opportunities and weren't able to cash in.
So, just for fun, let's go through Dan's list and discuss if he has a point. And these are just my opinions below. I'm sure plenty of Astros fans will feel differently, and that's fine. John and I don't agree on all of these in the video above, so be sure to watch for the full discussion.
With that disclaimer out of the way, off we go.
2015: These were the baby Astros. Nobody expected them to get to the division series against the Royals. Houston went 70-92 the previous season, so this was a big jump in 2015. They lost to the Royals in 5 games in the ALDS and Kansas City went on to win the World Series over the Mets, taking the series 4 games to 1. The Astros did lead this series 2-1, but lost Games 4 and 5 pretty convincingly. Not a choke.
2016: Didn't even make the playoffs, further proving 2015 wasn't a choke. This team wasn't ready yet. They exceeded expectations in 2015 and took a step back in 2016. Not a choke.
2017: Won the World Series. While Dan will say it doesn't count because they cheated, I say, at least they won. Houston fans are well aware the Dodgers and Yankees had their own style of funny business going on in the video rooms, too. At least the Astros didn't cheat AND lose that year. They won the title so clearly, not a choke.
2018: Boston won the most games in baseball during the regular season (108). They won the ALCS 4 games to 1 over Houston and went on to win the World Series. The ALCS series wasn't close, and Jose Altuve had knee surgery immediately following the season. Boston was later punished by MLB for cheating in 2018. Not a choke.
2019: He might have a point here. This was the best roster the Astros ever had in my opinion. Houston never won a home game in this World Series. Heading home with a 3-2 lead in the series, the Astros were unable to close the deal against the Nationals (sounds familiar). The Astros won 107 games in the regular season, more than any other team. The top of their rotation was Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. They choked.
2020: This was the weird covid season. The Astros didn't have a winning record in the regular season and got down 3-0 to the Rays in the ALCS. Houston won three straight and lost in Game 7. Both Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez were injured and unavailable that year. Not a choke.
2021: The Braves were just better and won the World Series in 6 games. Atlanta hammered Houston 7-0 in Game 6, securing the series. Lance McCullers was the ace of this squad and hurt his arm in the ALDS. Verlander didn't pitch in 2021. Not a choke.
2022: Astros win the World Series in 6 games against Philly.
2023: This one I could be convinced either way. I lean to it not being a choke because this team barely made the playoffs, winning just 90 games. They finished with the same record as the Rangers, and won the division because of head-to-head record. The Astros were down 2-0 in the series to start.
However, they did return to Houston up 3-2 needing only 1 win in 2 games to advance. But once again, the Astros couldn't win a game at home, and lost the series in 7 games. They also went 2-14 with runners in scoring position in Game 7, so that looks pretty bad. Inconsistency plagued this team all season, and it showed up again in the ALCS.
I'm willing to say the 2019 World Series against the Nationals was a choke for the reasons I listed above. And I'm kinda on the fence about 2023. The Rangers were the better team for most of the regular season, but not winning 1 game at home in the ALCS is hard to ignore.
Maybe you can convince me one way or the other in the comments! Go 'Stros!