ON THE PITCH

Weekly Soccer Recap: Dynamo’s “Cubo” Torres in transfer talks; Coutinho arrives at FC Barcelona

Erick "Cubo" Torres remains a Houston Dynamo as negotiations with Liga MX side Veracruz come to a standstill. Victor Araiza/SportsMap

The first week of 2018 brought about new business off the field but not much has changed on the field at the top of the league tables. The interesting headlines are happening with teams like Arsenal and Real Madrid, who are hovering in and around the top four. Off the field, the winter transfer window is in full swing and many teams are looking to boost their rosters - including with Usain Bolt?

Premier League

The Premier League kicked off 2018 with some exciting matches on New Year’s Day (as told in last week’s soccer recap) but the drama ensued into the following days of matches. For starters, Tottenham and West Ham had to play twice in three days because of their postponed match from a few weeks ago. Both picked up wins on Tuesday before the London rivals faced off in a 1-1 draw on Thursday. Back to Tuesday’s action, Manchester City easily handled Watford, 3-1, while Crystal Palace earned a 2-1 win at Southampton. Arsenal and Chelsea fought to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday, after which Arsene Wenger expressed his discontent with the officiating because of a penalty call in Chelsea’s favor.

The league took a break over the weekend as English clubs took part in the FA Cup. On Friday, Liverpool defeated their Merseyside rivals Everton while Manchester United were victorious over Derby County. Chelsea and Leicester City were among the sides that tied and will have to replay their 3rd round matches. The biggest upset came from Championship side Nottingham Forest who eliminated Arsenal 4-2, in part thanks to two goals from U.S. defender Eric Lichaj.

Top 5: Manchester City (62), Manchester United (47), Chelsea (46), Liverpool (44), Tottenham (41)

La Liga

The biggest news in La Liga this week came off the field with FC Barcelona’s acquisition of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho on a €160 million transfer fee (approximately USD $190 million). The Catalan giants already held a nine-point lead in the league, which they kept after a 3-0 win over Levante. Meanwhile, second place Atlético welcomed back an old friend as Diego Costa’s transfer from Chelsea became official this month. The Spanish national team forward scored in both Atleti’s midweek cup match and Saturday’s league bout with Getafe - where he was ejected due to a second yellow card. Yep, Costa’s back.

Valencia continues to hang around in third thanks to a 2-1 win over Girona. Sevilla was upset 5-3 by Real Betis, who are currently in 10th place and five points from the top five. This adds another shocking result to Betis’ season after producing a win at Real Madrid back in September. Speaking of Real, the defending champions look farther than ever from retaining their title after a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo.

The 5: Barcelona (48), Atlético Madrid (39), Valencia (37), Real Madrid (32), Sevilla (29)

Bundesliga

The Bundesliga winter break has concluded as the league will resume on Friday when leader’s Bayern Munich host Bayer Leverkusen. Off the field, Usain Bolt has earned headlines with the announcement that the Olympian will go on trial with Borussia Dortmund in March.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (41), Schalke 04 (30), Dortmund (28), Bayer Leverkusen (28), RB Leipzig (28)

Ligue 1

French teams returned to action by taking part in domestic cup competition. As expected, all top five Ligue 1 teams won their cup ties and are through to the Coupe de France Round of 32. League play resumes Friday as Strasbourg hosts Guingamp.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (50), Monaco (41), Lyon (41), Marseille (38), Nantes (33)

Serie A

Inter Milan - at one point at the top of the table - could not start the year off right as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Fiorentina. League leaders Napoli and second place (by a point) Juventus rightfully took advantage and went on to pick up three points. Roma is another team that was set back, losing 2-1 at Atalanta, and dropped to fifth after Lazio’s 5-2 win at SPAL. Milan fans can rejoice as they get right to start the year in a 1-0 win over Crotone.

The top 5: Napoli (51), Juventus (50), Inter Milan (42), Lazio (40), Roma (39)

Liga MX

The Clausura 2018 season is off and running in Mexico and team’s who missed the playoffs were eager to get going with results. Santos Laguna, Pumas UNAM and Puebla were all victorious. Of course the sense of urgency to win exists with Santos and Puebla, particularly, as  both teams within the bottom five in the relegation standings. Of last season’s playoff teams, León and Club América were the only ones to start 2018 with a win. Defending champions Tigres were among the losing sides. Four of the nine encounters in the first matchday ended in draws.

The top 5: Santos (3), Pumas UNAM (3), León (3), Puebla (3), Club América (3)

MLS offseason

With only a few weeks to go before all teams are in preseason, transfers and rumors continue to be the talk of the league off the field. The biggest transfer this week coming from expansion team LAFC who acquired former U.S. men’s national team midfielder Benny Feilhaber from Sporting Kansas City.

The Houston Dynamo have been active in negotiations with several players this offseason but the biggest noise came from the potential departure of their highest-earning player, Erick “Cubo” Torres. The 25-year-old Mexican was rumored to return to Mexico after a deal between the Dynamo and Liga MX team Veracruz was all but done Monday, according to reports. The deal reportedly fell through because the Mexican side could not meet the player’s salary demands. The Dynamo did re-sign veteran MLS defender A.J. DeLaGarza, announced by the team Tuesday morning.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Dec. 26:

12:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Atletico Madrid vs. Lleida (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Manchester City vs. Bristol City (ESPN3)

Wednesday, Dec. 27:

2:00 p.m. - [EFL Cup] Chelsea vs. Arsenal (ESPN2)

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] Real Madrid vs. Numancia (beIN Sports)

Thursday, Dec. 28:

2:30 p.m. - [Copa del Rey] FC Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo (beIN Sports)

Friday, Dec. 29:

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Strasbourg vs. Guingamp (beIN Sports)

Saturday, Dec. 30:

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Werder Bremen vs. Hoffenheim (FS1)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Hamburg (FS2)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

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

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

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Eibar vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] RB Leipzig vs. Schalke (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Deportivo vs. Valencia (beIN Sports)

Sunday, Dec. 31:

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Koln vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (FS1)

10 a.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Man City (NBC Sports)

11 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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